The 2023 Ford Maverick XLT Shakes The World
Ford cuts up the truck market in precise slices. The F-150, for example, is offered in eight separate trim levels not including the all-electric Lightning, or the various cab and drivetrain options. That starts with the base XL work truck at $35,590 up to the $76,775 Raptor and goes through the Limited at a gut-pain-inducing $87,450 before any options. And that's not even the top, because there's the ludicrous 700-hp Raptor R, which starts at $109,245. It seems that the company will be applying that same multi-tiered strategy to the already wildly popular Maverick small pickup, too.
Evidence of this is the 2023 Maverick Tremor. It’s engineered almost wholly unlike its bigger Ranger, F-150, and F-250 Super Duty brothers, but all of those offer Tremor models, too. And at least in market philosophy, the Maverick Tremor is consistent with them. It’s off-roadie, but short of a brute. Not a full earthquake, but the suggestion of an earthquake. But it’s not merely a décor package.
Forget getting the Tremor as a hybrid (at least for now); it comes only with the all-wheel drive system that comes lashed to the turbocharged, 2.0-liter “EcoBoost” four-cylinder engine. That 250-hp engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. A $2995 option atop either the XLT or Lariat models, the Tremor is a step beyond the FX4 Off-Road model and has its own, trick all-wheel drive system.
That trick is a torque vectoring rear differential. Swiped from its SUV brother—the Bronco Sport Badlands—it’s a twin-clutch unit from Britain’s GKN that can fully lock up when the going gets gooey and the gooey is getting seriously mucked up. It’s like the diff once used in the dearly departed Focus RS. Yeah, the Maverick Tremor has rally car heritage built into it.
Beyond the spiff diff, the Tremor package adds an inch of altitude to the suspension, skid plates, a new front bumper for improved approach angles, some red tow hooks and good-looking bronze-accented trim. Alas, there are also dorky “Tremor” decals on the trucklet’s flanks that ought to come off with a hair dryer and patience. But if graphic overkill is a thing of passion, there’s also a $1500 supplementary graphics package that should placate the most visually addicted soul.
Just realize that in five years, all those stickers are going to be fading and peeling and making the truck look a thousand times older.
Though car-based crossovers have a bad rap when it comes to actually going off-road, most are capable of handling the light trail hopping many buyers consider hardcore trail busting. And the Maverick is, of course, a car-based crossover with a bed. That in mind, the Mav will be fine getting to, say, a good ice fishing spot on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. Or crawling up to Beaver Creek in Colorado with a load of snowboards. It’ll even do okay spelunking down into California’s Death Valley. But even as a Tremor, with a modest 9.4-inches of total clearance, forget rock crawling or traversing the Rubicon.
The least satisfying thing about the TreMav is its powertrain. Good low-end torque production is a given with modern turbo engines, and that the EcoBoost four delivers. But the transmission shifts a bit lazily and the engine never rises to the level of eagerness. It’s competent, but always less than inspiring. And it sounds anonymous most of the time, and like it has sleep apnea the rest of the time.
But in the slick mud of (newly) rainy southern California, the TreMav is almost inspiring in its sure-footedness. The 30-inch diameter 235/65R17 Falken Wildpeak tires aren’t incredibly aggressive, but they resist caking up with mud and communicate well what’s going on at the surface. They’re also (usually – surface qualities matter) quiet on a dry road and don’t send up much of a spray when it’s wet. And Wildpeak sounds like the name of a mid-Eighties Dokken cover band.
Come to think of it, all current off-road tire names could be fronting hair metal bands. “We’re going to see the General Grabbers at Shark House on Saturday. The Nexen Roadian MTs are opening. Wanna come?”
There are different drive modes for different situations. Situations diverse enough that they’re not all going to occur during one week-long test encounter with this modestly sized beastie. As with the FX4, the Tremor drive modes are Normal, Tow Haul, Slippery, Sand and Mud & Ruts. The ones that mattered during this exposure were Normal (easygoing), Slippery (cornering was secure even during downpours) and Mud & Ruts (it got bouncy on fire roads, but progress never stopped).
Besides its unibody construction, the main thing holding the Maverick back is that it’s relatively large. At 200.7-inches long over a 121.1-inch wheelbase, it’s 27.4-inches longer overall than a Bronco Sport with a 16.0-inch longer wheelbase. That restricts approach angles and agility in the backcountry. The Maverick is a small truck, but that’s only because other trucks have grown humongous.
Some of the interior materials can feel stark and as an XLT things like power seat adjustment are missing. Really, how often does anyone adjust their seat that they need an electric motor to help out? There’s a simplicity about the Maverick’s interior that’s refreshing, but it would be great if the steering wheel could be adjusted so that every driver could see all of the instrumentation without craning their collective necks.
Of all the various Maverick models—more surely to come—the Tremor is currently the most attractive. Yeah, it’s the most expensive too, but the XLT Tremor driven here still came in at under $35,000. And at a time when the average new vehicle price is approaching $50,000 it’s a screaming bargain.
Right now, on the Ford's web site, there’s this note on the home page for the Maverick: “Due to high demand, the current model year is no longer available for retail order. Contact your dealer for more information.” That’s a testament to both the inherent goodness of the entire Maverick range and to how smartly Ford has tuned to models within the line to meet what customer expectations.
So get on the list.
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