Automobile

Would You Rather: 2021 Bronco Sport Outer Banks or 1993 Bronco Eddie Bauer?

The other day, Ford issued a press release about the 2021 Bronco. It concerned the interior auxiliary switches—which we already knew about—and included fascinating new details, such as the amperage ratings of respective circuits and the things they might run (probably lights, possibly overhead bullhorn, most likely not fog machine).

Obviously Ford is running out of things to say about the Bronco until they actually, you know, start building it. So let’s turn our Bronco-starved minds to two Broncos that actually exist: the 2021 Bronco Sport Outer Banks and the 1993 Bronco Eddie Bauer … diesel. Which one of these would you rather drive?

It won’t hurt my feelings if you prefer the Bronco Sport, even though the older Bronco is mine. I can’t claim objectivity when, to borrow a term from my favorite local Battle of the Brews, I’ve already voted with my throat for the ’93. But the Sport does have much to recommend it, even if it includes frivolous trouble-prone items like air bags and rear doors. Let’s break it down—as opposed to break down, which one of these is more likely to do than the other.

While the 1993 Bronco was available with two V-8s, a 5.0-liter or a 5.8-liter, this one has neither. Back in 2012, the 5.8 and four-speed automatic were swapped for a 1995 7.3-liter Powerstroke, five-speed ZF and a manual transfer case. And I added a roll cage and removed the top more or less permanently. So this isn’t a strictly normal 1993 Bronco, but the basic flavor is there. You could buy any mangy driver, pry the top off and have a similar, if possibly less carcinogenic and torquey, driving experience.

The Bronco Sport Outer Banks uses a 1.5-liter three-cylinder that makes 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, sent through an eight-speed automatic. The Badlands and First Edition models get an extra cylinder (and 245 horsepower) along with a more robust all-wheel-drive system. Either of those would still get stomped off road by the wimpiest stock Bronco from 1980 to 1996, so we needn’t fret that the Outer Banks isn’t the best possible counterpart to the Eddie Bauer. It has other things going for it.

Like the interior. Not only are the seats a handsome mix of leather and cloth, not one of them looks like it was violently attacked by badgers sometime in 1998. The same cannot be said for Eddie’s front seats, which are hidden beneath seat covers because Ford leather from the 1990s offered all the robust durability of the parchment used for the Declaration of Independence. And I noticed that in the Bronco Sport, the cruise control worked. As did all the power windows and the air conditioning and power locks. Also, the steering wheel looked to actually contain an air bag. All of these are what’s known as “Ws” for the Sport. But if you want rear ashtrays, one of which contains authentic cigarette butts from the early 2000s, there’s only one choice. And it rhymes with Freddy Mauer.

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1993 bronco interior

Car and Driver

In the all-important spare tire category, I’m afraid the Sport will have to concede yet again. It’s commendable that it actually includes a spare tire—helpfully labeled “SPARE TIRE” on the sidewall—instead of a can of tire-inflation goop, but that stingy under-floor donut cannot compare to the mighty 1993 spare tire setup. The full-size Goodyear Duratrac spare, sized 31 x 10.5, hangs proud on a swing-away tailgate carrier and rides on a matching forged aluminum rim that I got on eBay or something. These setups often feature a spare tire cover emblazoned with the Bronco logo or a stylized eagle or beloved cartoon scamp Calvin peeing on a K5 Blazer, but I guess I’m just a showoff when it comes to matching wheel-and-tire combos. No cover here.

2021 bronco sport spare tire

What’s that, a big rubber hat? Oh, I see. It’s a spare tire.

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1993 bronco spare tire

Yeah, those are three locking lug nuts, so don’t try to steal this baby unless you have that key that everyone has.

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Out on the highway, I’ll concede that the Bronco Sport offers a little more civility than the 1993 Bronco. Ford’s twin-traction-beam front suspension was never the last word in consistent camber, and the 7.3 Powerstroke isn’t known for its hushed demeanor. The gigantic bus engine does quiet down a bit once its four gallons of oil—which it uses to power the fuel injectors—reaches operating temperature, but it’s still belting out clattery thunder at all times. The Sport, which also uses direct injection, is quiet and smooth. Passing power seems to be about equal when the 1993 is on the most aggressive fuel map (there’s a TS Performance six-position chip, controlled by a stubby knob poking out of the dash), and I’m not sure whether that’s an endorsement or an indictment for either vehicle. But both are reasonably strong, 50 mph to 70 mph. The difference is that the Eddie Bauer wouldn’t be much different if it were towing a small house. Stock, it made 215 horsepower and 425 lb-ft of torque. This one made 235 horsepower at the wheels when I dynoed it. They didn’t get torque, but I figure mid-500s? It’s a lot.

A Bronco Sport Outer Banks starts at $34,460, including the $645 “acquisition fee” that isn’t on the window sticker but Ford seems to be tacking onto everything these days. A big Bronco can certainly cost much less than that, or the same, or more. I don’t know. Ten years ago these were uniformly cheap, but now they’re getting Bring-a-Trailered into outer space. It all depends on the condition. I say, get one with some problems and then just fix it. It’s an old truck. Nothing is that expensive. A door handle snapped off in my hand, so I ordered a new one and it was $6. When I wanted to replace the heater core, that was $20 and took an hour. The old Bronco is a close relative of the F-150, literally the most common vehicle in this country, so parts aren’t hard to come by. Plus, old Broncos are appreciating, while Bronco Sports will begin a tragic depreciation trajectory pretty much the first minute the 2021 Bronco hits the streets.

dogs in the back of a 2021 bronco sport

Car and Driver

But you’re not in this for the money. You’re in it for the love of Broncos that are not the 2021 Bronco. You’re in it because you want your dogs to stick their heads out a back window, if there is one. You want to drive a vehicle that says “Bronco” on it, and more than once. So who you got?

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