Modern pickup trucks have been exaggerated, literally. Full-size examples like today’s Ford F-150 can tow and haul like the heavy-duty trucks of yesteryear, while the Super Duty can tow up to 40,000 pounds—half the weight of a fully loaded 18-wheeler.
Meanwhile, mid-size trucks followed suit, expanding in size and price to fill the void, leaving room for far more affordable and far less cumbersome trucks. The Ford Maverick was the mini-truck that America needed to open up the highways and parking lots that were jam-packed with enormous four-by-fours. The Maverick is not only a great tool in its basic form, but it becomes really cool when equipped with the new-for-2023 Tremor off-road package.
Ford already sells Tremor versions of its midsize Ranger, F-150, and Super Duty trucks. Now, one model year after the company revived the Maverick moniker in compact unibody pickup form, its off-road-oriented treatment is slipping away. A $2995 Tremor package is available for the Maverick XLT and Lariat models with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. Trucks in kit are identified by their bedside graphics, smoked headlights and taillights, and orange body accents. Along with the orange trim on the grille and orange front tow hook, each of the dark-painted 17-inch wheels has an orange pocket. There’s also a special Tremor appearance package that adds some black exterior graphics and a gray painted roof, but we don’t think it’s worth the extra $1495.
Fortunately, Ford takes the Maverick Tremor further than that shallow part, starting with the front bumper. Unlike smaller models, its redesigned chin incorporates steel skid plates and allows for an approach angle of 30.7 degrees, more than nine degrees steeper than any other all-wheel-drive variant. The Tremor’s 1.0-inch lift increases ground clearance to 9.4 inches, which is 0.8 inches higher than the truck without the off-road package and half an inch higher than the mechanically similar Ford Bronco Sport Badlands.
Like its Badlands sibling, the Tremor is the only member of the Maverick family to feature an all-wheel drive system with a torque vectoring rear differential. With 30-inch aggressively treaded Falken WildPeak all-terrain tires, the Tremor is well-equipped to crawl up, over, or over rocky, sticky, or slippery surfaces. Helping him conquer various terrains are the ride modes to choose from, including Mud & Ruts, Rock Crawl, and Sand. The Trail Control feature automatically adjusts the accelerator and brakes to maintain a set speed—think of it like off-road cruise control.
Tough as the Road
Don’t confuse the Maverick for a dedicated off-roader like the Jeep Gladiator or even consider it on par with the Ranger, its body-on-frame relative. Ford’s smallest truck has limitations and won’t make it through the really tough road system. Still, it has the hardware to overcome the roadblocks that most owners will likely avoid.
While we didn’t have a chance to push entry-level Tremor to its limits, we took it off the beaten path and came out the other end pretty dirty. This flexes its suspension, which features unique dampers and realigned front and rear springs. We felt the all-wheel-drive setup effectively transferred power to the wheels with traction, which was even more evident when one of the rear halves was suspended helplessly in the air.
We enjoy riding the Maverick Tremor just as much as we love throwing it on the trail. That duality makes it an attractive package. Granted, the force-fed four pots hum rather loudly at idle, and a heavy dose of throttle causes a gruff engine sound to permeate the cabin. But with 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, the 2.0-liter packs a satisfying punch. Keeping the engine simmering is a dutiful eight-speed automatic transmission that oddly can’t be operated manually. We haven’t tested the Tremor-equipped Maverick yet, but the 2022 XLT model with the turbo four and the FX4 off-road package (featuring the same Falken WildPeaks) sprinted to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds.
Despite the noise, Maverick is comfortable driving at highway speeds. It doesn’t bounce or jitter, thanks in large part to its direct steering and impressive stability. Despite sharing the C2 platform with the Bronco Sport, the Maverick is 28 inches longer overall and has an additional 16 inches between its axles; it’s also a few inches lower than the baby Bronco. This little truck feels smoother than its SUV counterparts, and more like a car. Again, their accessibility and agility are one of the biggest reasons they are preferred over large trucks, especially in urban areas.
Some of the drawbacks of the Tremor package include the compromise of towing and transport. Its 1,200 pound payload rating is 300 lower than any other Mavericks, even front-wheel drive hybrids. Most all-wheel-drive models can tow up to 4,000 pounds with the 4K Tow package, but Ford doesn’t provide it on the Tremor, so it’s limited to 2,000 pounds.
The Perfect Pickup Package?
While we wish Tremor could pull off more, we’re still blown away by Maverick because it’s so useful in other ways. The 4.5-foot cargo bed has a volume of 33 cubic feet, enough to carry nine bags of compostable yard waste, and much easier to get on and off than a full-size truck. The Maverick also has more passenger space than expected, with comfortable rear seats for most adults, though we wish there was HVAC ventilation in the rear. Still, Ford manages to make its budget-friendly interior seem more expensive than it is with attractively textured plastic surfaces, and cleverly designed storage bins everywhere.
Of course, the Ford Maverick isn’t the only new little pickup on the market. That Hyundai Santa Cruz are its closest competitors, with the mid-range Honda Ridgeline hiding on the edges due to similar unibody construction. All three have their strong points, but Maverick’s mix of ability, practicality and values puts him over the top. Plus, it’s the only one that offers a legitimate off-road package.
While the least expensive Santa Cruz with a turbo engine and all-wheel drive has an MSRP of over $38K and no Ridgeline costs less than $40,000, the Maverick Tremor is a certified heist starting at $31,165. Our $39,075 Lariat example shows the upper hand of its price range, thanks to the $2610 Luxury package and a few other extras. With or without those options, the 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor improves on the fundamentals of the fantastic mini truck by providing even more fun for adventurous types.
2023 Ford Maverick Tremors
Vehicle Type: front engine, all wheel drive, 5 passengers, 4 door pickup
Base: XLT, $31,165; Tangle, $34,665
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 inches31992 cm3
Power: 250 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 277 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
8 speed automatic
Wheelbase: 121.1 in
Length: 200.7 inches
Width: 72.6 inches
Height: 69.5 inches
Passenger Volume, F/R: 57/47 ft3
bridle weight (CD estimate): £3900
SHOW (CD EST)
60 mph: 6.0 seconds
1/4-Mile: 14.6 sec
Top Speed: 110 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMICS (CD EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 24/22/28 mpg
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