Ford wants to position the new 2023 Maverick Tremor as a baby off-roader, a tool for tight trail work and slinging the type of mud we in Maine call “field bombing.” As such, you can lock the four-wheel drive system from front to rear, and there’s also an electronically locking rear differential. The Tremor package also brings a one-inch suspension lift, all-terrain tires and a steel skid plate. So, yes, this is an off-road truck script small. That’s one way to look at it. Beyond? I see the Maverick Tremor in a light that Ford apparently didn’t consider: as a bargain rally car.
Because, proto-Raptor aside, the Tremor has the hardware you’d expect for a solid entry-level rally rocket: a 250-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder hooked to all-wheel drive with torque vectoring. That’s right—the Tremor’s rear differential is a GKN dual-clutch unit that can send almost all of the torque to either side. You know what else used a GKN torque vectoring rear end? The Ford Focus RS. And also several Buicks. But hey, the Ford Focus RS! With a base price of $29,450, the Tremor looks like a rally bargain. So go ahead and flaunt the $180 mud flaps to enhance the special stage vibe.
But to make the most of this promising setup, the Tremor will have to allow for the left-foot gravel-slinging shin-gans that make rallying so much fun. Essentially: When you’re cornering on dirt, you need to be in the right gear and you need to be able to slide around without the car killing the fun. To find out if he likes to party I take the Tremor to a dirt road that goes from nowhere to nowhere else and ends in a washout. The Acropolis Rally wasn’t it, but it would do.
Before I even got there, though, I experimented with the Tremor’s drive mode settings in an attempt to liven up the eight-speed transmission’s sleepy responses. Ford didn’t see fit to give the Tremor a sport mode, which seems a shame for a truck that, in 2.0 FX4 trim, hit 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. But I think there are engineers on the inside who see things my way, because Tow/Haul is like an undercover sport mode: the transmission holds lower gears longer, downshifts more aggressively, and the turbo four stays ready to go on the moment to move to peak power. you flatten your right foot. If only there was an equivalent solution for the stability control system.
I regret to inform you that after much experimentation, followed by some whining from Ford, I have confirmed that you just cannot completely disable the Maverick Tremor’s stability control system. In fact, repeated attempts to do so (by holding down the traction control off button) will cause the Tremor to put you in stability control jail, with the system fully activated until you restart the truck. The best you can do is turn off traction control, which allows for some sideways action but is the electronic equivalent of your parents coming home early from vacation just as the keg is tapped.
You can throw the Maverick into a slide with a decent slip angle, but just when you’re hoping that torque-vectoring rear end starts shooting rooster tails of gravel, there’s a weary groan as stability control kicks in to straighten things out and cut the nonsense. I’m pretty sure the Maverick Tremor put me in detention, so scolded was I for my antics. And the shame of it is, it was almost there!
If the babysitters could be banished, however temporarily, the Maverick Tremor could be a surprise hit with a crowd Ford never considered courting. Less expensive than a WRX, with a pickup bed and a 2000-pound tow rating, a rally-ready Maverick Tremor would be a cult hit. Tell me there are at least five of you who agree with this. Any tuners out there looking to jailbreak a Tremor ECU? Ford Performance, are you listening?
The Maverick Tremor already has the right hardware to start its own rally truck niche. Now all it needs is the software.