The snow is falling heavy as I idle in front of a sign that ominously reads, “Limited Use Roadway, No Maintenance.” I’ve never been to this particular mountain in upstate New York, and I’m hesitant to take a car I don’t outright own into unfamiliar terrain during likely the last real snowstorm of the season.
But then again, what’s the point of test-driving the new 2021 Bronco Sport (more specifically, the Outer Banks Edition), if you aren’t going to put it through the paces? The goal was to test it in a variety of scenarios, from snow to mud, and what better opportunity than this? I hit the gas and relax quickly as the all-terrain system makes easy work of the ungroomed route. I find out later that the vehicle can handle over two feet of snow effortlessly in its Slippery driving mode, so the act was far from throwing caution to the wind.
It’s early afternoon when I pull into the trailhead, and there are a few groups of morning hikers unloading into their respective SUVs. On my arrival, their heads turn and the inquiries begin. I find myself in a group debate outside — through masks — with two separate gentlemen who had been looking into picking up the new Bronco in one format or another.
Since being first announced in 2017, the revamped Bronco has been the object of as much debate, skepticism and genuine excitement as any car to have hit the American road in the last decade. Now, seeing it in real life, at least one of these interested parties has reached a resolution. “What version is that again?” he asks, pulling an iPhone out of his Patagonia. He opens his Notes app to jot down the info and tells me he plans on calling around to his local dealers.
Unlike the iconically boxy two-door and four-door models that are delayed due to the pandemic, the sleeker Sport is available now. I spare him fact that they are barely lasting a week on dealership floors, because no one likes to be the barer of bad news. But as production ramps up and more vehicles get into showrooms, there is no doubt a motivated buyer should be able to chase one down.
The chat makes me even more motivated to appreciate my time with the rugged crossover SUV. But first there is snow-dressed wilderness to explore. I pop open the tailgate for the new Arc’teryx gear I brought to road test and use the spacious cargo space to lace up my boots. I grab my backpack full of provisions, lock up the ride with a click of the key fob, and hit the trail. Since I am traveling solo, I take special care to fill out my information at the registration box. You can never be too safe.
The next four hours of hiking fly by. The combination of driving far outside city limits and a stiff chill in the air means I have virtually no human interaction. That is save one pair of older gents, followed closely by their golden retrievers, who tell me to, “Enjoy the quiet here — while it lasts.” Out of respect for them — and personal selfishness — I have left the precise location out of this story. I will share it took half a day’s journey north from New York City to get there.
By the time I return back to the trailhead, my Bronco is the only vehicle left. I make sure to print my return time in the register before allowing myself to slide in the driver’s side and turn on the heated seats. There may be no better reward for a long trek than an extended sit in a comfortable bucket seat while The 1975 plays over the speakers. Once the feeling begins to come back to all of my extremities, I swap out my boots, glad to have rubber flooring below so I don’t have to be precious with debris.
Since night is falling at this point, I decide to make way to my lodging, the Clear Creek Farm in Hudson. The sustainably operating farm recently built a tiny house on the property (available on AirBnB) with all the comforts you could ask for, including a desk for writing. The structure is completely autonomous from the rest of the home, making it easy to stay socially distant. The farm was recently renovated by a friend of mine, Todd Courtney, which meant it came with the added bonus of a few familiar faces outside after the long summer of isolation.
On my arrival, I see a large pile of wood in the field, left over from a construction project Todd is working on. I grew up in the country, so I know what that means: bonfire. I park the Bronco nearby and notice that there are a pair of lawn chairs sat adjacent one another and a few Modelos scattered about the ground. Propped up on another chair is a small portable television streaming ESPN. This must be what heaven looks like.
In exchange for the warm fire and brewskies, I let Todd check out the Bronco Sport. Despite being a longtime Range Rover owner, he shares his admiration for the build and the look. We kick back in the chairs and watch some games as the flickering light hits a grill proudly perched in the background. If only there were a boom mic and a pair of camera operators in view, you’d swear we’d stumbled into the next great American car commercial.
The next morning, after an easy sleep, I wake up to Todd’s goats foraging in the fields. They look just about as curious about the Bronco as everyone else, and I watch them sniff at it while I sip my coffee. I am sad to have to leave this little haven, but excited that now, with the snow clearing, I’ll be able to really check the capacity of the Outer Banks edition’s three-cylinder engine.
Given the fact it’s one cylinder less than I usually go for, the Outer Banks proved to have more than enough power for my needs. There is a good amount of bumpy unpaved road where I start my trip back, and the suspension system proves itself superior to any other crossover model I’ve piloted. According to Ford, the suspension travel is better than that of a Jeep Renegade, and I can’t dispute that.
By the time I make it to the interstate, the temperature outside is warming and the remainder of the snow from yesterday’s trip is melting off the hood. Spring is in the air. A few rock albums and podcasts later, I’m back in Manhattan getting head turns from outdoor diners on the Lower East Side. Thanks to the Sport’s more compact size, I snag the perfect parking spot with ease. In this moment I appreciate the Sport for what it is: a rugged vehicle that represents adventure but is just as fit for city survival.
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.