There's been no better time for Ford off-road fans than 2022. There's a new V8-powered F-150 Raptor R, and the first Bronco Raptor. The broader Bronco family is becoming an increasingly common sight on roads, while the Bronco Sport has been so popular, I think even Ford is a bit surprised at the response. And if a Raptor or Bronco is a bit too hardcore, Ford's Tremor line has quadrupled in size over the two years.
What was once the sole domain of the Super Duty, the Tremor package now extends to the F-150, Ranger, and most recently, the adorable Maverick. This is now the cutest off-road truck there ever has been, but the Maverick Tremor also overlaps considerably with its sibling, the Bronco Sport Badlands.
For customers that value towing capacity and a bed – neither of which the Bronquito can touch – the off-road-lite Maverick is easy to recommend. For all other consumers, though, this truck overlaps uncomfortably with the nicer, better equipped Badlands. Honestly, though, picking between Ford's petite pickup truck or its tiny off-roader is hardly a case of Sophie's Choice.
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|Quick Stats||2023 Ford Maverick Tremor Limited|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter I4|
|Output:||250 Horsepower / 277 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||22 City / 29 Highway / 25 Combined (est)|
|Trim Base Price:||$31,165|
Gallery: 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor: First Drive
Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On
The Tremor package is available on the Maverick's XLT or Lariat grades with the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine (sorry to fans of Motor1.com's Best Value winner, the Maverick Hybrid) and adds a fine mix of functional and aesthetic upgrades. On the latter front, the grille, wheels, and side grilles adopt Tremor orange and dark gray accents, while an option group grays out the roof, door handles, and mirror caps. The wheels are especially good – a twin five-spoke design with one segment in orange. The front fascia improves approach angles and underbody shielding protects the 2.0-liter engine's vital bits.
Under the cutesy sheetmetal are the bones of the FX4 package, which works alongside a new twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system that includes a rear differential lock. The Tremor adds trim-specific springs and shocks at all four corners, which boost the ride height by an inch and, along with Falken all-terrain tires, give a far more sporting stance. In fact, with 9.4 inches of ground clearance, the Maverick Tremor can skip over obstacles that the Bronco Sport Badland's 8.8 inches couldn't manage. Ford added an additional transmission cooler and reinforced the half-shafts for added durability and the electronics see some changes, too.
On the dirt roads of rural Michigan, the Maverick Tremor felt right at home. The upgraded suspension and tires manage the high-frequency, low-amplitude washboard roads of the countryside with ease. Steering isolation is excellent, and the body's reactions are predictable and composed, much as on the Bronco Sport Badlands, so carrying speed along the rutted tracks pretending to be a WRC ace is a viable option with this wee truck. And when it comes time to slow down and tackle more technical terrain, the Tremor's standard Trail Control system is on hand to reduce the driver's off-road workload.
Beyond the suspension changes, this Maverick remains a likable thing. The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and eight-speed automatic are able partners, with 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque from the former and snappy behavior from the latter. The Tremor may not be as thrifty as the Hybrid – and I remain hopeful Ford will offer an all-wheel-drive gas-electric – but the turbocharged engine makes up for that deficiency with up to 4,000 pounds of towing capacity.
By all accounts, then, the Maverick Tremor takes a good thing and makes it better, cooler, and a bit more functional. But there are a couple of notable shortcomings and the first was a surprise: the cabin feels cheap. Now, yes, plastic has always dominated the Maverick's cabin, but I gave it a pass in my last review because the colors, textures, and shapes of that plastic – not to mention solid build quality – made for an entertaining and interesting environment.
The Tremor package does away with orange or anodized gold accents and flashy upholstery choices in favor of a drab, borderline-depressing combo of black, gray, and navy blue. Aside from some orange contrast stitching on the seats and “TREMOR” embroidery in the backrests, there is no literal or figurative bright spot in this interior. It feels like in butching up the Maverick for Tremor duty, Ford stripped away the fun, playful cabin that was a big part of why we named it our 2022 Best Value. Looking tough is not mutually exclusive with visual charm, Ford.
Customers cross-shopping the Maverick Tremor with the Bronco Sport will also face some value-focused dilemmas. While a Maverick Tremor starts at $31,165 (including a $1,595 destination charge), that's for the stripped-out XLT grade. My Maverick Tremor Lariat demands $34,665, before adding on the $1,495 Tremor Off-Road Plus Appearance Pack (little more than Carbonized Gray accents and a hood graphic) and the $650 Co-Pilot 360 pack (blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist). Out the door, the trucklet shown above would cost $37,455.
Compare that with the Bronco Sport Badlands, which starts at $38,935, but includes a dramatically better cabin with a more diverse array of colors, as well as comfort features like navigation and heated seats standard. Getting either feature in the Maverick requires the $2,610 Lariat Luxury package (XLT shoppers are straight out of luck and will have to live with cold buttocks), although nothing on the Tremor's option sheet will save the drab cabin. Is that enough to overshadow the Maverick having twice the towing capacity (when properly equipped) and a useful-enough bed?
Were I in the market, the answer would be a “no.” The Maverick Tremor is a likable package, and it really does improve on the Bronco in a few specific ways – towing capacity, ground clearance, and (for disciplined consumers) price. But I can't get over the dull and cheap-feeling interior or the lack of standard equipment relative to the Bronco Sport. When talking about $32,000 to $40,000 off-roaders, the Maverick Tremor doesn't quite go far enough to distance itself from its cousin or to justify its price tag.
2023 Ford Maverick Tremor Lariat