In many vehicles, the “Eco Mode” is a buzz kill. It can make a so-so car feel sluggish and blah. However, in EVs, hybrids, and turbocharged vehicles, the Eco mode isn’t always bad. When the vehicle already offers an abundance of torque, hitting Eco Mode can actually make the vehicle enjoyable in a chill sort of way. The Ford Bronco Sport Badlands is a good example of a vehicle in which Eco Mode is not a bummer.
Bronco Sport Eco Mode - What Does It Do?
In all vehicles, Eco Modes will change the power delivery programming of your vehicle. In gas-only vehicles, the main way that Eco Mode is able to save you gas and reduce emissions is by changing how your gas pedal feels when you use it. The pedal will feel duller, or you may sense it takes more of a push to deliver the same resulting acceleration.
The second and most important way that the vehicle will change how power and torque are delivered is by changing the transmission settings. You will find that the engine uses a taller (higher) gear when you drive, and it shifts to taller gearing quicker. The rpms are lower as a result. Some vehicles will also change HVAC settings and alter how much electric input is provided if the vehicle is a hybrid. The Bronco Sport being conventionally powered, you mainly detect the vehicle as being a bit sluggish in its response for the first few miles you use it.
Bronco Sport Eco Mode - Why Bother?
The primary objectives of using Eco mode are to increase fuel economy and to decrease emissions. In some vehicles that don't offer a Snow or Slippery mode, it also works well when the tires lack grip. However, the Bronco Sport Badlands we own generally does not lack grip and has a dedicated Slippery Mode.
Bronco Sport Eco Mode - Our MPG Testing Results
The type of driving you do and how you operate your vehicle are the main determinants of your resulting fuel efficiency. In our long-term testing of the Bronco Sport we primarily drive in rural and suburban settings, with a bit of highway mixed in now and then. Over more than 1,000 miles, we recorded a fuel efficiency of 25.3 mpg.
When we operated our Bronco Sport using Eco mode in these same scenarios, we recorded a fuel efficiency of 28.5 mpg. That is approximately a 13% increase in fuel economy. Pretty significant, in our opinion.
Bronco Sport Eco Mode - What If You Need Full Power?
One commonly asked question about Eco Modes is, “What if I need full power?” The answer for the Bronco Sport is the same as for any vehicle; You get full power if you depress the gas pedal fully. The vehicle will wake up from its slumber, downshift, and deliver the power you are asking for from your throttle push.
Bronco Sport Eco Mode - The Suprise Benefit
We had toyed with Eco Mode a bit when the vehicle was first purchased. We’d turn it on for a few moments and then set it back to Normal or Sport. However, in this test, we left it on for the entire ride over many trips (it needs to be turned on again every time you restart the vehicle). We also didn’t turn off auto stop-start, which we sometimes do when in Normal Mode.
After five or ten minutes of Eco Mode, the Bronco Sport Badlands feels just fine. You adjust to its different feel, and the trip seems quite normal. Much of our driving is up and down the hills and mountains in New Hampshire, and one can sense the slower response time and the reluctance of the transmission to kick down to a lower gear, but you quickly become accustomed to it.
We’d describe the feeling in prolonged Eco Mode as “chill.” It is a bit more relaxing and serene than Normal Mode, and much more so than when using Sport. More Joni Mitchell than Joan Jett if you get my drift. Oddly, I liked it.
During the use, there were a few steep hill climbs and a few situations where I knew I would need the engine’s normal gusto, so I simply switched to Normal or Sport, but then quickly back to Eco. The rotary knob is simple to use without looking with a bit of practice.
Bronco Sport Eco Mode - Our Conclusion
My surprise conclusion is that I actually came to like Eco Mode. I also like to use Sport now and again. However, Sport’s silly fabricated noise soundtrack is annoying to me, so I only use Sport for short periods of time. Eco, by contrast, can be used for long trips. I used it for over two hours at a stretch more than once.
If you have not tried Eco Mode, give it a try. You may be surprised to find that gas savings are not the only benefit.
John Goreham is an experienced New England Motor Press Association member and expert vehicle tester. John completed an engineering program with a focus on electric vehicles, followed by two decades of work in high-tech, biopharma, and the automotive supply chain before becoming a news contributor. In addition to his eleven years of work at Torque News, John has published thousands of articles and reviews at American news outlets. He is known for offering unfiltered opinions on vehicle topics. You can follow John on Twitter, and connect with him at Linkedin.