2023 Ford Maverick Tremor
FORD’S MAVERICK GARNERS A TREMOR
For years – and years – Ford’s truck team didn’t want to discuss compact or midsize trucks. To be sure, they had allowed the compact Ranger to limp along, with almost no changes and virtually no marketing. But for this group of executives, there was one (and only one) God, and it was the full-size F-Series. That, of course, left midsize pickups to the Japanese, and trucks like a revived Ranger and recently introduced Maverick to our imaginations.
Fast forward to this model year and seemingly all the truck talk is focused on newly redesigned midsize offerings from almost everyone building midsize trucks. GM’s Colorado and Canyon will be new, Toyota’s Tacoma – still at the top from a sales standpoint – will be all new, and both Ford’s Ranger and Nissan’s Frontier will have enjoyed either an all-new design (Ford) or a host of updates, including sheetmetal (Nissan). Those liking the intown maneuverability of midsize relative to full-size, and don’t need 10,000 pounds of towing capability, won’t regard the move to midsize as much of a sacrifice; for the few times a year you need more capability, you can rent it.
Last out of the chute, and currently comprising one half (Hyundai’s Santa Cruz is that other half) of the compact unibody segment, is Ford’s Maverick, most recently reviewed in February of 2022. Using much of the Ford Escape underpinnings and sharing its available hybrid drivetrain, with an elongated roofline enclosing its bed the Maverick could be easily dubbed a station wagon. As it sits, its abbreviated bed is open, and the only way to get a longer bed is to open the tailgate. At the time of its introduction the headline was its hybrid drivetrain (then standard, now a $1500 option) and 42 City/33 Hwy/37 Combined EPA estimate. Just a few years ago that was Prius territory, and now those numbers come to a truck. But then, that $20K truck 18 months ago (plus predictably outlandish dealer markups) is now closer to $25K. Still a deal, and with gas prices up relative to last year, perhaps a better deal.
The standard drivetrain is now Ford’s 2.0 liter EcoBoost four paired with an auto trans and front-wheel drive, optional all-wheel drive or available 4WD. And with those variations comes an off-road trim, dubbed Tremor, which with our test vehicle’s all-wheel drive gives you all-season capability, and with the enhanced approach angle and better ground clearance, real capability to do anything offroad short of boulder hopping.
Although I like the utilitarian vibe of the Maverick’s lower trim XL, the Lariat Tremor used in this test was quite the looker, with its Atlas Blue metallic exterior offset with orange accents and meatier offroad-specific Falken Wildpeak all-terrain rubber. But don’t, for a minute, think of this as a direct replacement for the earlier, compact Ranger – now offered as a fully midsize Ranger. On a wheelbase of over 10 feet the Maverick stretches some 200 inches, and offers just over 100 cubic feet of interior volume. In short, within its 3,800 unladen pounds it can easily swallow your family of four, along with camping gear, lawn supplies and more (MORE!) within its abbreviated bed. There’s only the crew cab, while the truck lover in me wishes for an extended cab and a full five feet of stowage.
Getting inside, you’ll find access easy – no outside step required, so don’t order one – and outward visibility unrestricted. This is how passenger environments should be designed, and credit to Ford for designing one. Since you don’t sit up particularly high the Maverick doesn’t supply a commanding view of the road, but with connected steering and composed ride, you’ll feel in command of the road; as a truck, it’s very car-like – but then, with its longish wheelbase and almost 4 tons of curb weight, it should be composed.
For the driver and front seat passenger, the digital interface is reasonably intelligible, and (thankfully) HVAC and audio controls are there for the asking. I wish the plastics, while attractive, were less hard; they look completely appropriate to a truck costing less than $30K, but distinctly out of place in a Lariat Tremor approaching $40K.
The only available powertrain on the Tremor is the 2.0 liter EcoBoost four, which generously provides 250 horsepower, 277 lb-ft of torque and a 0-60 of six seconds (in Car and Driver testing). It also gives up any design on the 40+ miles per gallon of the hybrid, and instead settles for a very mediocre 21/20/24 EPA estimate. For me that would kill the deal, ‘cause from all appearances gas ain’t getting any cheaper.
If there’s a counterpoint to the Maverick proposition, it’s the number of real trucks – with real towing and hauling capability – for that same $40,000. If I liked the Maverick I’d be shopping for the lower trims with the optional ($1500) hybrid drivetrain, and probably front-wheel drive.
As my daughter Lauren – the Creative One – suggested, that Maverick would work well for those operating a lawn service. They could call it the Trimmer.