Mountain Wheels: Pint-sized off-road fun in Ford Maverick’s Tremor edition

The 2023 Ford Maverick Laramie Tremor AWD. Yep, that’s a lot of names for a mighty tiny truck. And, with all of those wordy add-ons, a reasonably hefty, nearly $37,500 package price for what’s broadly advertised as a miraculously $22,595 truck — which you still have to wait for, as they’re nearly impossible to get.

But, given the Tremor off-road package’s remarkable dirt capability, the little truck might be considered a wildly affordable alternative to the wildly expensive off-road renditions of the Bronco, F-150/Raptor and even Explorer.

In Maverick’s case, it still has the multi-mode terrain selector (sand, snow, etc.), a locking rear differential, lockable all-wheel drive and a thumb-adjustable hill descent control system, as well as an extra inch of road clearance and a set of road-comfortable, ultra-chunky Falken WildPeak tires. Oh, and skid plates, too. All for the price of a set of seatcovers in an F-150 Platinum.

On the road and in town, Maverick’s petite size — 200 inches long, 121-inch wheelbase and 69 inches tall — is both a blessing for parking and sort of terrifying, given how large everyone else’s mid- and full-sized trucks look from Maverick’s perspective. With the Tremor package’s Avalanche grey paint color, you might mistake it for a super-shrunk Rivian electric truck.

And if you tool around at the speed limit, even this Maverick’s upgraded 2.0-liter, 250-horsepower EcoBoost engine can get you about 31 mpg and then deliver fantastic bursts of uphill power. 

I would love to test out the apparent 500-mile-a-tank capability of the Maverick’s standard 162-horsepower, 2.5-liter hybrid engine and front-wheel drive, but this was the first time I’d ever even sat inside one of the trucks, much less driven one, so that can wait.

Like the equally rare, super-base versions of the new full-sized Bronco, Maverick’s relative affordability means even $15,000 extra doesn’t do much for the truck’s utilitarian interior. It’s basic, but comfortable, with a low and slightly awkward rotating shift knob for the eight-speed automatic transmission (making it additionally awkward to reach down and hit the single low-gear setting on highway hills — no paddles or gear lever here). 

It had six mixed terrain and safety buttons, a teeny 8-inch touchscreen and not much else, minus the truck’s cool open door pulls. There’s also a slightly precarious-sounding automatic rear window slider. But it’ll seat five, in a very different way than an F-150 will, and the rear seat flips up for covered storage.

The utility of Maverick’s Hyundai Santa Cruz-ish 54-inch bed seems negligible, but photos show it carrying a dirt bike. The tailgate supports 500 pounds, can be fixed at various positions and, of course, has bottle openers built in — so who knows. It also has wired connections for both 12-volt and 120-volt power and access boxes to plug in Ford’s utility rack system to expand the truck’s capabilities.

Ride and overall power, with the EcoBoost, are decent during pavement use. On a washboard gravel hill and a steep incline, the Tremor’s extra-tuned suspension was quite competent, with the truck only a little jumpy given its light weight and short wheelbase. On complex trails with tight trees and precarious rocks, hitting a combination sand setting, AWD lock and rear diff lock gave the truck the ability to navigate obstacles, clamber over rocks and behave with the grace of any of its full-sized relatives.

I also appreciated the hill descent control, which allowed you to take your foot off the brake and concentrate on not running into objects, all of which seemed larger than Maverick itself. Even better, all-wheel drive means no sludgy wheel locking when turned on.

Sure, the Tremor package (and that long, long name) is maybe a little gaudy, what with the accent fingernail-styled single copper wheel insert and the chintzy hood decals, but it’s nowhere near as audacious as a Raptor or Bronco Something-Something-Something. And as Ford says on their website, all the 2023s are sold out. Better get on that waiting list.

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