Whoa! That was the first and lasting impression from an off-road driving romp littered with severely rutted hill climbs, outlandish descends, deep water crossings, and thick sand marshes at the 113-acre Holly Oaks ORV (off-road vehicle) Park in Holly, Michigan. This media reviewer’s excursion took place on an autumn afternoon in November 2020 inside the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands. (Other Bronco Sport models are the base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, and First Edition.) Th Badlands is billed as the pinnacle of Bronco Sport rugged off-road performers. Powered by the 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder with estimated 245 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 275 lbs-ft of torque at 3000 rpm, the Bronco Sport Badlands’ engine is paired with an 8-speed SelectShift automatic transmission providing manual shifting mode with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Standards on the Badlands edition include off-road suspension, advanced 4x4 with twin-clutch rear drive unit, 29-inch all terrain tires, and a Terrain Management System with 7 modes (normal, eco, sport, slippery, sand, mud/ruts, and rock crawl).

Even the novice off-roader will marvel at the Bronco Sport Badlandsí off-road capabilities. On a deeply rutted incline, the Badlands provided a visual assist via a 180-degree front camera. It was a mighty big help during an upward haul, essentially a driver blindspot, to have the dashboard display screen showing the on-the-ground landscape. Bronco Sport Badlandsí class-exclusive Trail Control technology was a quick set and select step (think cruise control) for a pedal-free 8 mph downhill trek. (System can be set up to 20 mph.) The subcompact SUV four-door provides an 18:1 crawl ratio. The Badlandsí edition with all-terrain tires has an 8.8-inch ground clearance, 30.4-degree approach angle, 33.1-degree departure angle, and maximum water fording of 23.6 inches. Stay tuned for an on-road review of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport.