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2021 Ford Bronco Sport Review – A name to live up to

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The new 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is not the new Ford Bronco, a faintly odd sentence you find yourself saying fairly frequently in parking lots and at traffic lights when you’re driving a bright red Badlands trim example. Blame until-now-untapped enthusiasm for the Bronco brand and the high profile resurrection of the nameplate this year – oh, and Ford’s massive “BRONCO” lettering across the grille – for that, and get used to some staring.

The “true” new 2021 Bronco arrives later this year, but to tide us over there’s the 2021 Bronco Sport with some of the styling, some of the cachet, and some of the off-road talent. At least, that’s Ford’s big pitch for what you could, cruelly, describe as an Escape crossover playing dress-up as a Weekend Warrior.

Certainly, the Bronco Sport and its Escape cousin share some guts. Ford’s C2 platform is underneath – meaning the baby-Bronco also has DNA in common with the Lincoln Corsair – and familiar engines are under the hood. You can have the Bronco Sport with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbo three-cylinder engine with 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque, or step up to the 2.0-liter four-cylinder version with 245 hp and 275 lb-ft. Either way there’s an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The bad news is that, unlike with the Escape, there’s no hybrid engine option. The good news is that 4×4 AWD is standard on the Bronco Sport, rather than optional as on the crossover.

In fact there are two 4×4 systems. Most Bronco Sport models get a version of the Escape’s AWD with programming nudged in an off-road direction. The Badlands trim – that I reviewed – gets a twin-clutch rear differential, with torque vectoring and a differential lock. That can push all of the engine power to one of the rear wheels, should you find yourself in a particularly tricky situation.

My colleague Vincent had already been left impressed by just how capable the Bronco Sport actually is in off-road situations (much to, quite frankly, his surprise). Badlands trim gets a suspension lift – raising ground clearance from 7.9- to 8.8-inches – and boosted dampers, too, and adds Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl to the five drive modes – Normal, Sand, Slippery, Sport, and Eco – in Ford’s G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) terrain management system.

You access that with an easily-twiddled knob in the center console, surrounded by chunky buttons for the 4WD lock and other features. The whole Bronco Sport cabin keeps to that burly, glove-friendly off-road feel too. Knurled rubber knobs, big HVAC controls, and a generally clean layout add up to a dashboard with some personality. Sure, not all of the plastics are the same soft-touch that Ford has used judiciously, but it works well both aesthetically and practically, with no shortage of cubbies (with grippy rubber linings).

Indeed, the Bronco Sport is full of thoughtful features. The separately hinged rear-glass was useful for dropping in bags of shopping in tight parking lots while the front 180-degree camera, though intended to help you squeeze through perilous mountain passes, proved just as handy at avoiding curbs. Ford Co-Pilot360 is standard across the board, with pre-collision assist with automatic braking, lane-keeping, blind spot warnings, and auto high-beams. Upper trims get Trail Control, which is basically low-speed cruise control for off-roading, and adaptive cruise control with lane centering for the highway.

SYNC 3 supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with a wireless charging pad as standard, but I do wish Ford had used its newer SYNC 4 on the 8-inch touchscreen as that looks and operates more cleanly. You also get the FordPass Connect smartphone app, which allows for optional remote start, unlock/lock, and other features from your phone. A 10-speaker B&O audio system with subwoofer is optional.

The front seats are comfortable and well-padded, though Badlands trim keeps dual-zone climate control as an option. You do get studier fabrics and materials on it than some of the other, plusher Bronco Sport trims: the Badlands has rubberized flooring, a matching cargo floor, and tough velour seats that feel like they’d be easier to clean.

In the back, the Bronco Sport’s height means headroom isn’t an issue, but legroom feels tight. Rivals offer more space for your knees, and the useful zippered pouches in the seat-backs only eat into what you do get if you stuff them full. The 60/40 split bench lifts to reveal more storage or alternatively folds down, expanding the 32.4 cu-ft trunk to 65 cu-ft. The high roofline makes it big, flexible space, and there are hooks integrated around the edge to lash things down. Ford also offers various lights and outlets, including some built into the tailgate itself for those early morning or late night loading and unloading sessions.

The 2.0-liter EcoBoost may be familiar, but that’s no bad thing generally. Torque arrives rapidly, and leaves the little off-roader feeling perky and urgent around town. Highway cruising isn’t short on grunt either, though you hear more of the drivetrain than in rival crossovers. As for the suspension, that’s dialed in with the wilderness in mind – to avoid shaking your teeth out should you venture off asphalt – and, combined with fairly strong power-assistance on the steering, means that cornering can feel a little more remote than in some sportier alternatives.

That’s not to say the Bronco Sport is incapable of fun, it just comes in a different flavor. Treated to unpaved dirt roads it playfully flirts with traction, delivering smiles but not forcing you to hose down those velour seats afterwards. I suspect owners taking their Bronco Sport off-roading will be in the minority, despite Ford’s marketing pitch, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find some entertainment taking the back roads instead.

Ford’s packaging means you can carry a pair of mountain bikes in the back, which is impressive. The 2,200 pound tow rating is less so, and the 21 mpg city / 26 mpg highway / 23 mpg combined economy ratings aren’t going to win the crossover any awards.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Verdict

In the end, the 2021 Bronco Sport feels a lot more Bronco, and a lot less Escape. It’s also fairly competitive on price: the Base trim starts at $26,820 (plus $1,495 destination and $645 acquisition fee) which is more than an Escape S, but then again you get AWD as standard too. Badlands trim starts at $32,820 (plus destination and acquisition fee) though if you want adaptive cruise control you’ll need the Co-Pilot360 Assist+ package at $795.

It’s tougher to dislike the Bronco Sport than I expected, frankly. The boisterous styling, playful driving manners, and flexible cabin and cargo area add up to a little SUV that feels distinctly different to its crossover rivals. If the Mazda CX-30 nudges the segment in a sportier direction, then the Bronco Sport does the same in the off-road direction. That’s without too many of the compromises that a full-scale mud truck demands of you, and enough that even when the actual Bronco arrives this mini-version shouldn’t be completely overshadowed.

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Polestar 2 electric car reveals paid download to add horsepower

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Polestar has released a downloadable over-the-air (OTA) update for all long-range dual-motor versions of the Polestar 2. The electric automaker’s latest performance software upgrade unlocks more horsepower and nippier acceleration, good things to have in a premium electric performance car.

Polestar has already released numerous software updates for the 2, but most of them had something to do with convenience features and range/charging improvements. The latest software upgrade is the first time Polestar applies its tuning magic to an all-electric model. If you’re old enough to remember, Polestar started life in 1996 as Volvo’s tuning arm similar to BMW’s M division and Mercedes-AMG.

So, what does the performance update give you? It adds 67 more horsepower and around 15 torque, boosting the power output to 470 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. What’s more, the power boost has given the Polestar 4 nippier acceleration. According to the automaker, accelerating from zero to 60 mph now only takes 4.4-seconds, better than the outdated software’s 4.7-seconds.

Best of all, everything happens with a few taps on the screen. The Polestar 2 is not a slow car by any means. In stock form, the Polestar 2’s 408-horsepower translates to an “addictive wave of instant torque, combined with a satisfying thrum rather than the bordering-on-harsh electric shriek some EV motors produce,” said executive editor Chris Davies upon driving the Polestar 2 last year. But with 67 more horses, the software update has added more spice to the EV’s grand-touring potential.

Furthermore, Polestar claims the additional muscle has no penalties for range and energy consumption. Equipped with a 78 kWh battery, Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor achieves an EPA-rated 233 miles of range. It has an 11 kW onboard charger and supports up to 150 kW of DC fast charging. With the latter, you’re looking at zero to 80-percent in around 40 minutes.

However, the latest Polestar 2 performance software upgrade is not free of charge. It starts at around €1,000 ($1,130) and is currently available to download in Europe, including the UK, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, and Finland. Meanwhile, Canadian and US owners can avail of the OTA update starting early next year.

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EPA gives 2022 Ioniq 5 EV better range than Hyundai’s first claims

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South Korean automaker Hyundai has outdone itself with the 2022 Ioniq 5. Not only did Hyundai create an awesome-looking all-electric vehicle that won’t look out of place in the film set of Back to the Future 2, but the Ioniq 5 managed better range numbers than Hyundai initially suggested.

As Hyundai revealed today, the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 can achieve an EPA-rated 303 miles of driving range, and those numbers apply to the single-motor rear-wheel-drive variant equipped with a 77.4 kWh battery pack. Other markets get two battery options, including a smaller 58.2 kWh unit, but all U.S.-bound Hyundai Ioniq 5s will have the 77.4 kWh long-range battery option.

With a single electric motor, you’ll have 225 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque at your disposal, which is plenty enough for most driving applications. But if you want a zippier Ioniq 5, you’ll need to go for the dual-motor AWD variant with a combined 320 horsepower and 446 pound-feet of torque. Both configurations allow a top speed of 115 mph, while the maximum tow rating is 2,000 pounds. Hyundai claims zero to 60 mph in under five seconds, not bad for vintage-inspired EV.

However, the AWD model achieves lower EPA numbers: 256 miles on a single full charge. If the batteries go flat, the Ioniq 5 offers what Hyundai claims is the world’s first multi-charging system that supports both 400V and 800V charging infrastructures. A standard Level 2 10.9 kW onboard charger replenishes the batteries in around 6.5 hours. But if you have access to a 350 kW DC fast charger, the Ioniq 5 can juice up from ten to 80-percent in under 20 minutes.

Furthermore, Hyundai has partnered with Electrify America to give Ioniq 5 owners total access to the latter’s network of over 700 charging stations across America. Each Ioniq 5 comes with free and unlimited 30-minute charging sessions for two years from the purchase date. Suddenly, the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 has become a top choice in the EV category. With over 300 miles of range and free unlimited charging, the stakes have gone higher, and we have yet to discuss the Ioniq 5’s tasteful yet purposeful retro design.

Starting life as the Hyundai 45 EV Concept at the 2019 IAA auto show in Germany, the production Ioniq 5 is essentially a concept in production guise. The angular styling is a throwback to yesteryears, but there’s genuine substance behind its quirky design. The Ioniq 5 has a four-inch longer wheelbase than a Hyundai Palisade (measuring a lengthy 118.1-inches, the longest wheelbase in a Hyundai production vehicle) despite measuring a full 14-inches shorter in length.

Combined with shorter front and rear overhangs, Hyundai claims Ioniq 5 has a greater passenger volume than the Ford Mustang Mach E and VW ID.4. In addition, Ioniq 5 has 27.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats. Meanwhile, folding the rear seats reveal 59.3 cubic feet of storage space.

Other neat features include Hyundai’s V2L function that essentially turns the Ioniq 5 into a humongous power bank. Best of all, it can even charge a stranded EV. “Ioniq 5 introduces the Hyundai brand to a whole new set of buyers,” said Jose Munoz, president and CEO, Hyundai North America. “Owning one is going to be a new experience and lifestyle that only the Iooniq brand can provide.”

The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 will sell this winter in three trims: SE, SEL, and Limited. Hyundai has yet to disclose the MSRP, but we’re expecting base prices to start under $45,000.

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2022 Honda Passport goes upmarket with one monster price hike

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This winter, the redesigned 2022 Honda Passport is arriving at dealerships with a significant price hike. The base Sport trim from the outgoing model is gone for 2022, making way for the new base EX-L trim with standard front-wheel drive (AWD remains a $2,100 option).

With base prices starting at $39,095 (including $1,225 destination fees), the 2022 Passport is about $5k more than last year. What’s more, it now costs thousands of dollars more than its nearest competitors like the VW Atlas Cross Sport, Toyota Venza (which is a hybrid), and Hyundai Santa Fe.

For the money, you get an array of premium equipment like perforated leather seats with contrasting stitching, a remote power tailgate, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, wireless charging, and remote engine start. Also standard are 20-inch alloy wheels and a one-touch power moonroof.

All Honda Passports have a 3.5-liter V6 engine pumping out 280 horsepower to the front wheels or all four wheels using the brand’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. Both drivetrains have and a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Honda Sensing is also standard across the lineup and includes hi-tech safety aids like lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, collision mitigating braking, and road departure mitigation.

The all-new Passport Trailsport has standard AWD and is the most off-road ready of the bunch. It starts at $43,695 and gets machined 18-inch wheels, chunkier off-road tires, and silver skid plates. It also has bespoke logos, rugged front/rear bumpers, heated wipers, and a 10mm wider track. All 2022 Passports with AWD feature up to 8.1-inches of ground clearance and a 5,000-pound towing capacity.

“The new Passport and Passport Trailsport don’t just look rugged; they’re ready, willing, and able to get dirty tackling trails,” said Michael Kistemaker, assistant vice president of Honda National Sales at American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Meanwhile, the range-topping 2022 Passport Elite starts at $46,665. It has trim-specific 20-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated tiller, heated rear outboard seats, and a hands-free power tailgate.

Honda’s 2022 Passport is an attractive proposition for adventurous lifestyles despite the price hike. The Passport entered rallying a few months ago will continuously see action in the American Rally Association (ARA) series throughout 2022, so we have no question about the Passport Trailsport’s off-road pedigree. But is it $5,000 better than the competition? We’re itching to find out.

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