Ford continues to channel the rich history of its iconic Bronco 4×4 with the introduction of two new retro-inspired special editions of its compact Bronco Sport SUV.
The 2023 Bronco Sport Heritage Edition and Bronco Sport Heritage Limited Edition celebrate the birth of the Bronco brand with a classic-themed appearance package that takes styling cues from the original 1966 truck. Both variants have a white roof, white rear badging, white 17-inch aluminum wheels and a white grille with red BRONCO lettering.
Built on the Big Bend trim level, the Bronco Sport Heritage Edition uses Ford’s 181 hp turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-three, which is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Suspension features include hydraulic front bump stops and specially tuned springs included in Ford’s High Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (HOSS) system package, plus five user-selectable “GOAT” off-road terrain modes.
The Heritage Edition’s interior styling includes white trim accents, checkered cloth seats, blue-and-red accent stitching, a microsuede center console armrest, and Navy Pier Blue accents on the door panels and dashboard. Buyers have a choice of seven paint options, including Robin’s Egg Blue, a throwback color based on one that was available on the original Bronco.
The more expensive Heritage Limited Edition is derived from the Bronco Sport series’ more off-road-focused Badlands package, which adds the larger turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, two additional GOAT modes, a torque-vectoring rear differential and ‘ A lockable center clutch contains pack for the four wheel drive system. Our Peak Blue sample is one of three paint shades available, the others being the lighter Robin’s Egg Blue and the intense Yellowstone Metallic.
Heritage Limited Edition-specific features include larger 29-inch all-terrain tires, leather-trimmed seats and white door inserts. A retro-style plaque adorns the center console, while metal Bronco door badges in classic ’60s script are satisfyingly eye-catching.
Despite its base in the humble C2 unibody platform used in the Escape SUV and Maverick pickup truck, the Bronco Sport proves unexpectedly capable off-road, with the 2.0-liter’s 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque making light work of the steep ravines, embedded rocks, and deep sands that make up the Johnson Valley region of the Mojave Desert. (So much of the model’s off-road development was done here that Ford chose to include a geographic coordinate of the area as an Easter egg hidden in the shape of the rear hatch trim.)
An aluminum skid plate, part of the standard Badlands equipment package, alleviates the worry of poking the Bronco Sport’s underbody with spiky terrain elements. Despite the Sport’s modest ride height, its 8.8-inches of ground clearance (on 235/65R-17 tires, the model’s largest available) proved perfectly adequate for comfortable brisk desert driving as we followed the dusty trail of our guide, Melissa . She is well-acquainted with the Bronco Sport’s capabilities, having taken a stock Bronco Sport Badlands to first place in the 1,500-mile, off-road Rebel Rally in both 2021 and 2022.
It’s the suspension that makes the Bronco Sport, and despite the plethora of off-road modes available, this SUV handles even soft trail running in its standard drive mode. The inclusion of the four-wheel drive system and the rear differential is more than sufficient for confident hitting in deeper sand.
However, all of this would be equally true for the less retro-tasteful Badlands model. At $46,250, the Heritage Limited Edition is fully equipped, with nearly $5000 worth of features optional on the Badlands. Lay it out, and you see that the retro look carries a premium of around $2000. One rung down, the $34,245 Heritage Edition represents a roughly $1500 lift over the equivalent Big Bend model.
Is it worth it? Well, several miles east of where we drove this Bronco Sport, classic Broncos, stock and modified, are swarming the viewing areas of this year’s King of the Hammers desert road race competition. For off-road enthusiasts, the appeal of those classic Broncos, the reborn Bronco, and this offshoot Bronco Sport is wrapped in the combination of capability and aesthetics. The Bronco Sport Heritage Editions lean more towards the latter, but to no detriment of the former.
2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Edition
Vehicle type: front engine, four-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Basis: Inheritance, $34,245; Heritage Limited, $46,250
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 12-valve 1.5-liter inline-3, 181 hp, 190 lb-ft; turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inine-4, 250 hp, 277 lb-ft
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 172.7 inches
Width: 74.3 inches
Height: 70.2–71.4 inches
Passenger volume, L/H: 53–56/50 ft3
Combat weight (C/D east): 3600–3800 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (C/D EAST)
60 mph: 5.9–8.2 sec
1/4-mile: 14.5–16.3 sec
Top speed: 125 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 23–26/21–25/26–28 mpg