2021 Bronco Sport Badlands Spied With Steelies, Rugged Tires: Exclusive

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In recent months, we’ve spotted a number of 2021 Bronco Sport test mules roaming around covered in various stage of camo. And despite Ford’s best efforts to cover them up, Ford Authority has able to exclusively uncover various details about the upcoming rugged crossover, including the Bronco Sport name, the vehicle’s interior layout, plus the fact that the Bronco Sport will be available with three different grille designs, and that it will share a suspension setup with the 2020 Ford Escape. But today, we have details on the offroad-oriented variant – the 2021 Bronco Sport Badlands.

A prototype of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands undergoing validation testing in May 2020
A prototype of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands undergoing validation testing in May 2020

In the latest spy photos, one of the prototypes particularly stood out for its wheels and rugged-looking tires, which didn’t seem all that strange at first. But as it turns out, there’s more to that particular Bronco Sport than first meets the eye.

Sources familiar with the product tell Ford Authority that the 2021 Bronco Sport model in question is actually the offroad-oriented trim level called “Badlands,” and that it will actually ship with those steel wheels wrapped in some rugged-looking tires.

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Bronco Sport Badlands prototype

Specifically, the rubber is the Falken Wildpeak A/T that’s designed specifically for crossovers. Combining both on-road comfort with off-road traction and all-weather capability, the tires are constructed with durable 2-ply polyester and feature a rugged upper sidewall. They’re are also stamped with USTMA’s Severe Snow Rating, which should appeal to buyers who live in icy and snowy climates.

Sources say that the 2021 Bronco Sport Badlands will feature all-wheel-drive and that it will be surprisingly good on milder trails, allowing owners to reach campsites and trailheads with ease.

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While the regular, body-on-frame Ford Bronco will be positioned as an off-road vehicle that might even come with a granny-gear equipped seven-speed manual, the unibody 2021 Bronco Sport will be more of a rugged on-road vehicle with some off-road/trail capability.

The two-vehicle strategy makes sense, since many of today’s utility buyers are increasingly looking for more rugged flavor for their crossovers, something that the Bronco Sport will deliver in spades. The baby Bronco’s upright and boxy styling will be a complete opposite compared to the sweeping, flowing, car-like lines of the Escape, and we think buyers who don’t need or want the added capability of the more hardcore Bronco will certainly appreciate it.

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The 2021 Bronco Sport will be available with two turbo-charged gasoline engines: the base Ford 1.5L EcoBoost I-3 or the optional Ford 2.0 EcoBoost I-4 GTDI. Both are expected to be mated to the new Ford new 8-speed automatic transmission.

Five trim levels will be available at launch, including base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, First Edition and the aforementioned Bronco Sport Badlands. Roughly 18 months later, a pickup variant will arrive that will be called the Ford Maverick, though that name could change.

A convoy of 2021 Ford Bronco Sport prototypes undergoing testing in May 2020
A convoy of 2021 Ford Bronco Sport prototypes undergoing testing in May 2020

Initial 2021 Bronco Sport production has already started at the Ford Hermosillo plant in Mexico and the first units are expected to begin arriving at U.S. Ford dealerships sometime in August or September following a delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ll have more on the forthcoming Bronco Sport very soon, so be sure to subscribe to Ford Authority for more Bronco Sport newsFord Bronco news and around-the-clock Ford news coverage.

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Written by Brett Foote

Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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7 Comments

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  1. I´ve doubts, that these are steel wheels. I thinkt, that are lightweight aluminium cast wheels in rugged steel wheel design. No matter, I like the Bronco Sport.

  2. The Bronco Sport production that has started at Hermosillo is likely low volume pre-production; few if any will b sold to the public. That process will continue until Fusion/MKZ production ends in July. After which there’ll likely b a few weeks of final plant rearrangement before “real” BS production commences.

  3. That’s excellent news if they are steel, aluminum wheels are one of the stupidest ideas in automotive. Aluminum has no fatigue limit, no matter how low of stress it’s subjected to it will fail if subjected to it enough times. Wheels are subject to million of loading cycles (every single crack, bump, and seam in the road). They are guaranteed to crack someday, replaced my truck wheels with steel after they crack past the bead and stranded us on a road trip.

  4. I give up and am done waiting for the Bronco.I am looking at the jeep line up . thanks ford.I was looking forward to it.

    • someone said this on bronco6g
      Dude, it’s literally still only been as long as Ford has said it was going to be. They NEVER ONCE said you’d be able to buy the car in 2020

      If you’re backing out now, then you were never really serious about buying it… you’re just looking for an excuse not to

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