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Ford is having a banner year, hitting the mother lode of high-demand trucks, including the compact Maverick and all its derivatives, and the Bronco SUV, which starts out coming in two sizes, and has since proliferated so the point you could just about fill up the showroom with F-150s, Rangers, Mavericks and Broncos.
I have tested and written about several Broncos and Bronco Sport models, and they all have reason to exist, beginning with the lowly base model, which comes with a turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine, which may seem too small, but is turbocharged up to more than adequate power and performance.
The normal Bronco Sport — the smaller of the cousins, compared to the larger, boxier Bronco — all has a lot to offer. Then along came the Bronco Sport Raptor, loaded with powerful capabilities to offer a compact parallel to the F-150 Raptor, and that stood as my pick of the litter.
Until recently. The last Bronco Sport I got as a factory test vehicle was a vehicle with the longest name: “Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Limited 4 x 4.” It snuck up on me, and at first glance it seemed like a bit of a mild version of a tough and highly-sought off-roader, because it was “Yellowstone Metallic,” which sounds forceful enough, but it’s sort of a washed-out yellow, tending toward pastel compared to the vivid yellow available on, say, the Mustang.
On top of that, its roof was white, matching the 18-inch alloy wheels which are painted white, and the white-out treatment of the grille. Seemed to me it might have been aimed at females — meaning no disrespect, but women make a lot of the family car-buying decisions, and designing a compact SUV that would attract women might have been a great idea.
But examining the white grille gave me the first hint of the substance behind the Bronco Sport Heritage Limited. It was high off the driveway, and, sure enough, it is packed with Ford’s best off-road gadgety for suspension, steering, handling and ground clearance for those — men or women — who want to use their spare time to do some serious off-roading.
Closer examination also revealed that while Ford offers the Bronco Sport in a 2.0-liter upgrade from the 1.5, it also offers a beefed-up version of the 2.0 EcoBoost, turbocharged to 250 horsepower and 277 foot-pounds of torque. This is still a compact and comparatively light SUV, so that kind of power is over the top for sufficiency.
The transmission also is a strengthened 8-speed, and it puts that power to good use through the all-wheel-drive system that can be adjusted by a rotating knob on the console plate to specialize on normal driving, eco, snow and slippery surfaces, mud or sand or rock-climbing.
While power and performance are more than adequate, so is fuel economy. I was able to average 24.7 miles per gallon in city driving, up and down the steep hills of Duluth. That’s off EPA estimates of 21 city and 26 highway, and at 24.7, I’m guessing 26 would be easily attainable in warmer weather.
In its own concept of marketing, Ford offers a high-line version called the Heritage edition, and a Bronco Sport Heritage is a special vehicle in some ways, but it basically loads some luxury features into the base Bronco Sport to satisfy those who want the pampered feel of some luxury vehicles without going crazy on the price.
But the one I had wasn’t just the Heritage, but the Limited version of the Heritage edition, which fills the interior with meaningful features to go along with the upgraded capabilities of the vehicle. Models such as the one I tested for $46,400, are, indeed, rare, because Ford dealers got so many orders from eager customers that they couldn’t keep up with the demand for the Heritage Limited, so they stopped building them for the present time so they could catch up.
That makes it pretty easy to get the Bronco Sport Heritage, but if you want the full-blown Sport Heritage Limited, you’ll be waiting until deep into summertime. Is it worth the wait? You’ll have to decide for yourself.
You get a rich leather-trimmed bucket seat interior with seating for five if you put three across the second-row bench. The seats not only look good, they are supportive and comfortable in all on-road driving situations, which means they’ll undoubtedly be more than adequate if you decide to go off-roading, too, beyond the rutted road up to your favorite fishing lake.
Back to the original impression, I’ve had several friends and acquaintances express admiration for the test Bronco Sport, and they liked the stylish white roof, grill and wheels, and they didn’t mind the less-than-vivid yellow color.
Interesting that Ford builds the Heritage model in three colors, adding a pastel-ly robin’s-egg blue, and a bright, vivid medium blue to the choices. I happened to see a vivid blue Bronco Sport Heritage driving in Duluth while I had the Bronco Sport, and it is impressive. Now all you have to do is find one.