Participate in any online club for Ford vehicles, and you won't get far before finding a clever member who wants you to know that the “Ford Bronco Sport is really just an Escape.” Or they may want you to know that the “Bronco Sport is based on the Escape.” Or perhaps that the Bronco Sport and Ford Escape “Share the same chassis.” Let’s look at these claims using facts rather than rumors and quips.
Platform Sharing - What It Is, Why It’s Used, and Who Uses It?
Decades ago, automakers began to create their products differently than they had in the past. While companies like GM had “Badge-engineered” copycat products like the Firebird and Camaro from the same vehicle decades ago, and the Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ are the modern equivalent of that, platform sharing is different. Automakers adopt platform sharing or architecture sharing so they can maximize the use of structural and drivetrain parts common to many vehicles of dissimilar styles. If you’ve ever seen a unit-body vehicle being assembled, you may have noticed that the bottom of the chassis, sometimes called the floorpan, is the starting point. The vehicle is built up from this basic “platform.”
With platform sharing, the engineers and designers work in advance of a generation of vehicles to ensure that they can assemble many different vehicles using similar methods and similar basic chassis components and do so on production lines that also have a lot of common elements. The idea is that the foundation of the company’s products will all be similar. Not the same. And they certainly don't look or feel the same when the final product is in the consumer’s hands.
All car companies do this today. Very few mainstream, high-volume sedans, hatchbacks, crossovers, and SUVs are “stand-alone” models. One that comes to mind is the Chevrolet Corvette. All crossovers produced in big numbers today are sharing their base architecture with other models in the family they are made by.
Toyota is perhaps the most devoted of the automakers today when it comes to sharing platforms. The current generation is called TNGA for Toyota New Global Architecture. It underpins a wide selection of models, many of which are the top sellers in their segments. Subaru also embraced the idea of platform sharing, as did Mazda. Here’s a fun fact: These three brands even share some production facilities. For these three brands, the concept of platform sharing can go deeper than even a single company.
Cost is the primary driver behind common architecture. However, Toyota claims that adopting TNGA “...has enabled a reduction in development resources and reinvestment of reserves to improve quality and product performance, leading to a timelier delivery of ever-better cars.” So the program yields better vehicles and a better flow of product to consumers in addition to lower costs. It is hard to argue that Toyota’s quality is not among the best in the industry, and the company also has the number-one-selling vehicle in a long list of segments.
Escape and the Relationship to Bronco Sport
If you compare the Ford Escape to a Bronco Sport, some facts quickly emerge. Here is a quick list:
-They don’t share any body panels.
-They don't share A, B, or C pillars.
-They have vastly different roof designs.
-They don’t share any glass (windshield etc.)
-They have different infotainment systems.
-They have very different rear hatch designs.
At this point, it makes sense to stop and think how a Bronco Sport could be considered “Just an Escape” or “Based on the Escape” if the two are so different from one another. But let’s look a bit deeper.
Structural Differences - Ford Escape vs. Bronco Sport
The Ford Bronco Sport and the Escape don't share the same exact chassis. The Escape’s front and rear axle centers are 106.7 inches from one another, and the Bronco Sport’s are 105 inches from one another. That means the wheels are not mounted in the same locations front to rear on the platform on which the two vehicles are built. So, the platform may be similar, but it is not the same. In addition, the track, or the span between the wheels side to side, is also different on the Escape vs. the Bronco Sport. The Bronco Sport is a bit shorter than the Escape, and its wheels are a bit wider apart. Therefore, its chassis is a bit different.
How the wheels are held to the vehicle is also different. The Escape and the Bronco Sport don't have the same suspension. In fact, the Bronco Sport Badlands, First Edition, and Heritage don't have the same suspension as the other Bronco Sport trims.
Powertrain/Drivetrain Similarities and Differences
Ford uses some of the same engines in its Bronco Sport and Escape. Every manufacturer does this today. It is not uncommon for an SUV to share an engine with a truck or for a sedan or coupe to use the same engine as a crossover or SUV. However, there is no Escape that uses the same powertrain as the Bronco Sport Badlands, and there is no Bronco Sport of any trim that uses the same powertrain as the Escape Hybrid or Escape Plug-in Hybrid. The Bronco Sport offers a unique rear differential not found on any Escape trim. And let’s remember that many Escape variations have no rear differential at all since they only power the front wheels. There are many Escape trims that are front-wheel drive, and the Bronco Sport only comes with AWD.
Different Manufacturing Lines
Ford’s Escape is built in Louisville, Kentucky. The Bronco Sport is built in Mexico. Different production lines in different countries.
Summary - Bronco Sport and Escape
Ford wisely leveraged its previous engineering and design work from the Escape and other vehicles when it created the Bronco Sport for release in 2021, just as every manufacturer of mainstream vehicles shares its architecture, engines, transmissions, and nondescript parts among many models. To do otherwise would make the brand uncompetitive and the Bronco Sport so expensive it would not be viable. However, the Escape and Bronco Sport could not be more different from one another. They don’t use an identical platform, wheelbase, or track. The two don’t have the wheels mounted in the same locations on their platforms. Above the slightly different platforms, the two models share little. None of the main unibody structural elements such as the A, B, C pillars and roof panels are the same. They share no body panels, and the front fascia and rear bumpers are entirely unique among each model. All the glass, the cargo area designs, and even the infotainment systems are different between the two models. The Bronco Sport uses a rear hatch design with rear glass that opens. The Escape does not.
Far from being built on a common production line, they are built in different countries. Even the workers belong to different unions and speak different languages. Although the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport are both five-passenger crossover SUVs, they share very little. It is hard to imagine how Ford could have created a Bronco Sport and had it turn out more different from the Escape.
Bronco Sport and Maverick
Unlike the Escape and Bronco Sport, the Maverick pickup truck and Bronco Sport SUV are basically twins with slightly different body styles. They have very similar specs, the powertrains overlap quite a bit, and they are made in the same plant by the same workers. The interiors are virtually identical, and the Bronco Sport and Maverick have identical infotainment systems. Right down to the same tire selections, these two are much closer siblings to one another than either is to the Escape. So is the Bronco Sport based on the Escape, or is it based on the Maverick?
Image of Ford Bronco Sport by John Goreham. Image of Ford maverick by John Goreham.
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.