2024 Bronco Sport Free Wheeling, a modern Bronco with a throwback "paint" scheme.


Way back in the antediluvian period I was an auto mechanic at a couple of Lincoln Mercury dealers. I have nightmares about some of the exterior, stick-on designs of that era. Back then (I don't know about now) the cars were delivered to the dealer with things like roof racks and decals in the trunk, and some poor schmuck had to put them on the car. Usually it was the new guy because their installation did not pay very well. It took a lot of layout and patience to get stripes like these on the Bronco perfect. Too much for me; I hated the job. 

That was in the '70s. I don't know why Ford decided to resurrect a geometric graphic style that they call a "Free Wheeling Graphic Pack." At least the Bronco was easy to find in a parking lot and most likely there are a few potential buyers who like the style. Me not so much. (I had one neighbor who said he liked the stripes.)

Under those in your face graphics is a standard Bronco, if there is such a thing. There are so many permutations that it can get confusing. Across the Bronco range there are five engines - the base 1.5-liter 3-cylinder, 2 four-cylinders, and two V6s. 

The Bronco Sport Free Wheeling I drove had the 181 h.p., 190 lb.-ft. 3-cylinder. It is a very competent engine, capable of 0-60 times of 8.2 seconds, and it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 29-mpg highway and 25-mpg city. I saw 28.6-mpg on a short highway jaunt. If fuel economy is your main concern the 3-cylinder is the way to go.

I find 3-cylinder engines, any 3-cylinder, an odd choice. There is just something about them that rubs me the wrong way. There is a certain harshness to their sound that gets on my nerves. Not quite fingernails on a blackboard but close. But that's just me. 

Connected to the engine is an 8-speed automatic transmission that worked just fine. I generally set it in either Normal or Eco mode. I tried Sport a few times and it definitely made the sifts crisper but the downside is it hangs in any given gear unless you reach a predetermined speed. I like the crisp shifts but I don't like driving around town in 3rd gear just because I'm not going fast enough.

Surprisingly the 3-cylinder will tow the same weight trailer as the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder - 2,000 lbs.

The outside design is carried over to the seats. I didn't mind the red accent but the bright red-to-yellow design just wasn't my thing. The Bronco Sport is a 4-door (odd that the "Sport" is a 4-door, I think of "Sport" cars as being 2-doors) and it allegedly will seat five. We know who will get stuck in the middle of the rear seat - the youngest or smallest right?

The instrument cluster is thankfully straightforward - tachometer and speedo, with fuel and coolant temperature. The big center screen isn't too busy, and below it there are dials, DIALS, for the sound system volume and tuning, and under that is an easy to use climate control system. 

I like route guidance systems and I use them when I'm in unfamiliar territory. I do not like being forced to use my smart phone as the basis of the system but it seems to be more common every day. I realize that a huge majority of people have a smart phone but after decades of the auto makers providing route guidance it is now on us. Cut content and increase price? Thanks. On the plus side my smart phone seems to be more reliable. So it's a toss up.

The Bronco Sport, and the 2-door Bronco are popular small SUVs. Almost 130,000 were sold in 2023. I think people like the retro style combined with modern conveniences, and fuel efficiency. Some off-roaders are even taking a shine to them.

For the ultimate, pure off-road, desert racers Ford has introduce the Bronco DR powered by a 5.0-liter Coyote V8! Of course it is race car expensive, around $250,000. It is not street legal.

Back to the test Bronco Sport. It is a SUV for the times; it's relatively compact, fuel efficient, competent in foul weather, and has enough storage with up to 65.2 cubic feet behind the front seats and up to 32.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats.

One little snag that was not specific to the Bronco (it happens with our Kia as well) was that when putting the key fob in my pocket the alarm was set off. This happened twice so I stopped putting it in my pocket. I guess some fobs are more sensitive than others.

The Bronco Sport Free Wheeling starts at $32,395 (ford.com). There were some options that push the price up to around $38,000. If you're interested go to the web site and you can "build your own" version. 

I'd opt for a 2-door Bronco with more power but a Bronco Sport is more family friendly.


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