1992 Ford Bronco

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1992 Ford Bronco

Available in 4 styles:  Bronco 4X4 2dr shown
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chicagotribune.com
A restless Nite can be a pleasant one.

Ford has seen to that with its Nite performance/appearance version of the full-size Bronco utility vehicle for 1992.

Nite refers to darkness, because you only can get this special Bronco in all black-including bumpers, grille and window trim. Nite doesn`t necessarily refer to Knight, especially when the bold-looking Bronco being tested sportsa pink tape stripe from stem to stern. Blue is an optional tape choice and-you may find this difficult to believe-but a dealer we asked about the two colors said pink is preferred by women, blue by men. How stereotypical!

The Nite we drove came with the pink decal, a color that somewhat emasculates this macho machine. It`s difficult to picture the four-wheel off- the-road crowd bouncing through creeks and tumbling over dunes in a buggy corseted in pink.

The four-wheel-drive Nite we test drove had ample muscle to travel those creeks or dunes or cruise the open highway. It came with the optional 5.8- liter, 200-horsepower V-8 teamed with automatic. A 5-liter, 185-h.p. V-8 with 3-speed automatic is standard.

What makes the Nite so restless is the quickness delivered by the 5.8- liter V-8. What makes the Nite so unusual is that it can be so quick, yet quiet. You`d think you were behind the wheel of a Continental sedan, not a Bronco four-wheeler. What makes Nite questionable as a daily commuter vehicle is that the 5.8 and automatic are rated at 12 miles per gallon city/16 m.p.g. highway.

The 32-gallon fuel tank extends driving range, but when you need to fill a tank that size, you better be carrying a credit card.

Nite also comes with a handling suspension package that includes heavy- duty springs and shocks. Heavy-duty didn`t mean harsh. The suspension and the p235 15-inch all-season radial tires combined to provide more car-like than truck-like ride, which is so un-Ford like. We`ve come to expect Ford trucks, utilities and vans to be a bit stiffer and harsher than the cars in the line. The Nite had exceptional road manners and was most polite to the bodies cradled in the captain`s chairs inside.

The four-wheel-drive Bronco sit stall to provide the height needed for off roading, though you can count the number taken off the blacktop or concrete on both hands. Usually this means you feel top heavy from the raised center of gravity. The feeling is most pronounced in corners and turns. It`s usually best to back off the accelerator in a sharp turn to reduce body swing or lean-both yours and the vehicle`s.

The Nite we drove didn`t feel antsy when the road became crooked. The body-the vehicle`s and ours-sat relatively flat when maneuvering. Wide and supportive cloth-covered captain`s chairs also helped.

Another plus was the optional $123 push-button four-wheel-drive feature. Press the button on the dash marked 4x4 and you switch from 2WD to 4WD without fooling wi th a transfer case. If you need to get into 4WD low for a tough pull, simply press another button.

The $123 is a good investment for those who don`t want reach down and fiddle with the lever on a transfer case, and those who appreciate the added leg room up front when the transfer case is removed.

Smokers and those who like ample circulation of air will appreciate the side vent windows on Bronco. They open so you can flick the ash or cool off the interior without having to open the big windows.

The Bronco has undergone a styling change for 1992, most notably up front. The look is cleaner and less bulky than on previous Broncos. Still, we wish Ford designers would have taken that extra step as long as they were changing the vehicle and added a step to help those of us with short inseams to get into the cab without having to make a running leap.

Chrysler has been experimenting with an automatic running board on some of its vans and trucks that w uld power out for usage when the door was open and power back under the body when the door was closed. This would be a nice feature for Ford to add to its Bronco.

Adding to the problem of getting in is the fact the carpeted mats on the Nite didn`t stay firmly secured to the carpeted floor underneath. The large vinyl foot plate under the pedals gave the plastic nipples on the mats nowhere to stick. So, we`d hop up on the mat, the mat would slide away, and on more than one occasion we nearly became volunteer spokesman for the national groin- pull foundation.

Slipping mats do present a serious problem because they tend to bunch up under the front pedals. A design change would be in order.

Another minor gripe is the huge stowage compartment between driver and front-seat passenger. It`s large enough to hold ample vacation goodies, from pop cans to sandwiches or small toys for the kids. But the top of the compartment features a coin/cassette holder that gets in the way when you`re trying to store items. The coin/cassette holder could be built into the wall of the compartment for easy use while still allowing for ample storage.

Our test vehicle came with power outside mirrors, but crank handle powerless windows.In a vehicle this size, you need power mirror and window controls so you don`t have to wait until you`re stopped to make adjustments.

In the good news/bad news department, Bronco comes with anti-lock brakes, which is good, but only on the rear wheels, which is two fewer than the rival Chevy Blazer.

As for a Bronco/Blazer (Cartalk, Sunday, Feb. 23) comparison, the edge goes to Bronco in ride and handling, though it`s built on a shorter wheelbase, and the larger Blazer gets the nod for room and comfort. Looks are a draw. Bronco scores for its optional 4WD push-button control, Blazer for four-wheel ABS as standard. Both have troublesome step in height.

Sizewise, the Bronco is built on a 104.7-inch wheelbase versus 111.5 inches on the Blazer. Overall length is 183.6 inches Bronco, 187.7 Blazer. The 5.8-liter, 200-h.p. V-8 in Bronco is 10 horses shy of the 5.7-liter, 210 h.p. V-8 in Blazer. Yet Bronco gets 1 m.p.g. less city and highway driving mileage than Blazer at 12/16 to 13/17. Blazer`s tank holds only 30 gallons versus Bronco`s 32.

Base price of the four-wheel-drive Bronco is $22,348. The Nite package added $1,326. In addition to black bumpers, grille and window trim, the package included cruise control, tilt wheel, rear-window defroster, AM/FM stereo with cassette and clock, tinted privacy glass, tachometer, outside spare-tire carrier and forged aluminum wheels.

Our test vehicle added the 5.8 V-8 at $221, 4-speed automatic at $924 and push-button 4WD at $123. The sticker ran $24,942 plus a $585 freight charge.

Name change

Nissan is replacing the Stanza for the 1993 model year with a redesigned model that looks li ke a cross between a Maxima and an Infiniti (and a wee bit like a Lexus), and in doing so will give the machine a new name-Altima.

Nissan says Altima suggests a ``higher order`` while sharing a resemblance to the Maxima name.

Altima will be built at Nissan`s Smyrna, Tenn., plant, which produces the Sentra car and compact pickup trucks. Once that plant`s expansion is completed, it will be able to produce 450,000 vehicles annually.

>> 1992 Bronco Nite
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches Length: 183.6 inches Engine: 5.8-liter, 200-h.p. V-8. Transmission: 4-speed automatic. Fuel economy: 12 m.p.g. city/16 m.p.g highway. Base price: $22,348. Strong point: Smooth ride and sure-footed handling without being top heavy despite its size. Availability of push-button-activated 4WD. Very good power from 5.8-liter V-8. The 32-gallon fuel tank ex ends driving range between fills. Weak point: Four-wheel ABS preferred over rear-wheel ABS only. For th e 5.8 V-8`s power you pay the price at the fuel pump; you need deep pockets when filling a 32-gallon tank. Could use step to help get up into the cab and less slippery floor mats to ensure you stay in the cab. >>

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