The price of all vehicles seems to be on an endless upward trajectory and there are few segments more affected than pickup trucks. I can recall when pickups were for work or for kids who couldn’t afford a car: They started out as the least expensive of any vehicle you could buy. Nowadays, however, the pickup trucks I’ve been checking out have started at $50K and topped out at just under $100K. $90K for a pickup truck? Easily. There are lower starting prices, but even the super popular Toyota Tacoma ends up $50K or more out the door (as we learned when my son bought one last year).
But just as not every SUV driver is prepared to spend $60K or more on their next vehicle, so are there a world of casual pickup truck fans who like the form factor and convenience of a short truckbed and comfortable interior cabin, but aren’t eager to have $700+ monthly payments on a loan for the next five years. Ford’s solution to the entry-level pickup truck is the Maverick, which gets the engineering benefit of the expertise Ford has built through its F-series trucks, the most popular vehicle in the USA, but without the size or premium price.
When Ford offered me a chance to drive a not-for-sale 2023 Ford Maverick Lariat Tremor AWD I was definitely interested in checking it out, particularly as a comparison to my son’s 2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. To explain, the “Lariat” is a trim package and “Tremor” is a smart off-road drive system that works in addition to the AWD featured in the truck. Perhaps most impressively, its base starting price (without the Tremor package or equipment group 500A) is $27,955.00. The truck I drove was painted “Avalanche” color (sand? khaki? what color is an avalanche?) with a Black Onyx Trim interior:
To test it out, my daughter and I drove up to Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and a beautiful little mountain town at 7500 feet, a elevation gain of about 2100 feet from our starting point in Lyons, Colorado. Powered by a 2.0L EcoBoost and 8-speed automatic, the drive experience was excellent; this truck had plenty of power to zoom up the inclines and zip around in the altitude and frigid air.
The front grill trim around the lights gives it a bit of a Q-Tip appearance, but in the dark, the light pattern is definitely pleasing. It’s hard to see in the photo, but each of the Tremor wheels has a single notch where it matches the tow hook orange, a subtle touch that was very attractive. It’s also a “crew cab”, ostensibly with space for five, but since it is designed to be a small vehicle, there’s not really much room in the back seat until the driver and front passenger are both short and can pull up their seats. You can see that in this legroom picture:
The minimal legroom shown is with the passenger seat pulled forward (it’s a manual seat control, whereas the driver’s seat controls are automatic). This is definitely enough space for a young, growing family, but four or five adults? It might be a pretty cozy fit, and not a great vehicle for an all-day trek over the state line.
Climbing back into the driver’s seat, the Maverick Lariat has a nice, straightforward, and very utilitarian dash layout:
Unlike other entry-level vehicles I’ve reviewed, the Maverick has a dual display setup, though the navigational screen is pretty small with a modest 8-inch display. It also had no navigational system, but since it supports (wired only) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, I had no problems at all with this setup, preferring the opportunity to drop a few thousand on the vehicle cost by relying on the phone’s navigational software.
The center portion was simple and easy to understand, allowing drivers to get on the road instantly without having to learn much of any new function or control layout:
The climate control temperatures are displayed along the top of the navscreen: 70º is the target interior temperature and 45º is the exterior temperature. A surprise is that the sound system was impressive, richer, and with more soundstage than I expected in a vehicle that doesn’t list an expensive audio upgrade on the Monroney.
The center console offers a somewhat disappointing dial rather than a gearshift, along with a grid of buttons including access to the very useful “Tremor” drive system:
So what is the Tremor system? To explain that, it’s important to know that the front and rear axles generally operate autonomously in regular AWD mode. Engage a Tremor drive mode and they sync, allowing drivers to easily change between Pavement, Mud, Sand/Snow, and Tow modes. The feedback is on the main gauge display:
This truck has a rated bed capacity of 1500 pounds and towing limit of 2000 pounds (the towing package, not included in the vehicle I drove adds capacity if needed). Notice in the above that it includes a tachometer, something that older drivers will appreciate but that still leaves me scratching my head: with an automatic, why do you need a tach? The gear display along the bottom hasn’t changed in Ford cars forever. The truck also offered surprisingly good fuel efficiency, an average of about 25.1mpg across our drive.
The Maverick Lariat has some interesting design personality too, a rather modern industrial aesthetic. This is best illustrated with the doors of the vehicle:
The bolts are really just for show and it turns out that they work well, offering a bit of that utilitarian edge that helps give the Maverick its distinctive personality. Also notice the planes and angles of the plate above the armrest; very attractive in person.
Stepping back out of the truck, the truckbed is definitely small. 4.5-feet. That’s barely big enough for a bicycle corner to corner. The model I drove included a spray-in bedliner, an option, but it seems like a must-have if you’re going to have a truck and use it to haul anything tougher than a few bags of groceries. Still, that exterior definitely is a crew cab + truck bed view, even if it’s a bit smaller than you may expect:
Fact is, I was surprised just how much I enjoyed driving the 2023 Ford Maverick Lariat Tremor AWD. It handled the mountain roads, slippery surfaces, and steep hills with ease, offers a quiet, comfortable ride with a premium sound system, and a cool industrial design that includes attractive ambient lighting, and much more. It’s small, but there’s a definite market for trucks that aren’t monsters on the road but can be tucked into a typical suburban parking spot with enough capacity to help move a friend into a new apartment or pick up some gear from the sporting goods store. It also compared very favorably to the tired interior of my son’s Tacoma, even with the TRD Pro trim and options. All in all, this is a solid option for someone in the market for a modest truck with a modest price tag.
2023 Ford Maverick Lariat Tremor AWD, powered by a 2.0L EcoBoost engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. BASE PRICE: $27,955.00. Options included: Equipment Group 500A, Tremor Off-Road Plus App Package, Splash Guards, Ford Pilot360, Bedliner Spray In. AS DRIVEN: $37,485.00.
Disclosure: Ford loaned me the Maverick for a week in return for this candid and honest review. Thanks, Ford!