August 01, 2022 4 min read 1 Comment
New for the 2023 model year, Ford’s popular Maverick mini-truck is gaining the Bronco Sport’s trick rear differential, the brand’s excellent Trail Control technology, and more driving modes. Wrapped into a package Ford is calling Tremor, the optional upgrades should significantly increase traction both off-road and in winter weather. But whether or not the package will be right for you is complicated by the Maverick’s frustrating separation of powertrain options.
This announcement also comes with news that Ford’s order books for the hitherto sold-out Maverick will be re-opening in September.
First, let’s briefly recap what the Maverick is, and why its two powertrain options are so different.
Based on the Bronco Sport, which was in turn based on the Escape, the unibody Maverick is split into two distinct models by its powertrains. Mavericks equipped with the 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder gasoline-electric hybrid start at $20,995 and return 40 MPG in the EPA’s combined test cycle. But, that configuration sends all of its 191bhp and 155lb-ft to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder version makes a much healthier 250bhp and 277lb-ft, and is equipped with both all-wheel drive and a traditional 8-speed automatic transmission. That setup starts at $21,430 and returns a combined 23 MPG.
On the Maverick, you cannot combine the hybrid motor and AWD. So, if you want the headline 40 MPG fuel economy, you sacrifice traction and safety on dirt roads and in winter weather.
Making matters more complicated, Ford also removed content from the Bronco Sport’s AWD system when it created the Maverick. Until now, all Mavericks have been less capable than the Bronco Sport. This new $3,000 Tremor off-road package is designed to fix that.
If it sounds like it’s hard to talk about the Maverick without first applying conditions, then you’ll have some sympathy for the headache involved in writing about this truck. Not only is the Tremor package only available on the 2.0-liter turbo four, AWD truck, but it will also only be available on the XLT and Lariat trim levels of that truck. So, you’re looking at $26,790 as the cheapest entry point to a Tremor.
The Tremor package brings traction-aiding features from the top-spec Bronco Sport Badlands over to the Maverick. That includes a sorta-locking rear differential, new-to-Maverick drive modes, and Trail Control. To handle harder use, there’s also heavier duty half shafts, and a transmission cooler. New suspension also adds an inch of ride height, while a re-profiled front bumper aids approach angle.
The AWD Maverick already includes a sorta-locking center differential, so in some conditions, the Tremor will be capable of operating in four-wheel drive, with a sorta-locked rear differential. That’s pretty impressive.
To recap, four-wheel drive locks the speeds of the front and rear axles together, leaving the wheel on each axle with the least traction only able to spin as fast as its counterpart on the other axle. Locking axle diffs can then match wheel speeds across those axles. A single axle diff can improve overall traction not only on the wheels it controls, but on a 4WD vehicle it will also improve total traction because the wheel with the least traction on the unlocked axle will only be able to spin as fast as the entire opposite axle.
Ignore talk of torque apportionment, it simply complicates this otherwise very simple way of looking at off-road traction, and is entirely dependent on external resistance applied by the terrain to the tires.
In addition to that mechanical configuration, wheel speed matching can also be achieved electronically, through the Antilock Brake System. This is where drive modes and Trail Control come in. Ford offers the most sophisticated electronic wheel speed matching system out there, and it’s accessed by putting the vehicle into one of its off-road drive modes. Trail Control is typically referred to only as low-speed off-road cruise control, but by taking over control of the throttle, brakes, sorta-locking diffs and that wheel-speed matching tech, it’s actually capable of finding traction that a driver would typically be unable to.
Altogether, all that new stuff offers a very convincing light-duty off-road solution. Like the Bronco Sport Badlands, the Maverick will now be the most capable AWD unibody crossover out there. Even if it will still fall far behind the articulation, and ability to withstand hard use offered by a genuine body-on-frame 4x4. Like the Bronco Sport, the duration and accessibility of the Maverick's traction features will be limited by heat, speed, and other factors.
Orange accents and a new front bumper lower boost the Tremor's looks.
Due to the new suspension, payload on Tremor-equipped Mavericks falls from 1,500 to 1,200lbs. Figure two adults at 150lbs each, a full 16.5 gallon fuel tank and 150lbs of assorted camping, recovery, or other gear, and that only leaves a safe load capacity of 651lbs. That’s better than a four-door, 4WD Tacoma, but still represents a significant limit for safe modification.
Weighing well under 250lbs, the Platform Camper GFC is currently developing for the Maverick will use up as little of that limited payload as possible, while conforming precisely to the dimension of the Maverick’s small 4.5-foot bed. Look for more details on that in the future. — Wes Siler
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