Maverick Gets Tougher

By Derek Price
For people who think giant trucks are overkill, Ford’s compact Maverick was a breath of fresh air when it was introduced as a 2022 model.
A year later, the Maverick remains in a class by itself as the only legitimately small, affordable pickup sold in America. The base model is priced at $22,595 and comes with a hybrid drivetrain rated for 40 mpg in city driving.
As a contrarian, I’m absolutely in love with it.
The Maverick is the opposite of most 2023 trucks. It reminds me of the old Ford Ranger, a basic, no-frills pickup designed to do little-truck jobs: hauling bags of mulch for gardening, using 4×4 to get to a remote campsite or picking up supplies for home-improvement projects.
The Ranger was a great little truck that left a void when it disappeared from America in 2012, only to be resurrected a few years later as portlier, pricier, almost F-150 sized vehicle that shared nothing with its simple namesake.
There’s a place for big, powerful, expensive trucks. But not all of us want them.

Ford’s Maverick pickup adds a new Tremor off-road package for 2023. It gives the compact truck a one-inch lift and some useful tech for the trails.

That’s why I’m in love with the Maverick. It’s not because it’s the best pickup in the world. It’s just the best for me and, surely, lots of people like me.

In its second model year, the Maverick — which should have been named the Ranger if Ford had better sense — adds some off-road capability with a new Tremor package.
Unfortunately, it negates one of the best reasons to buy a Maverick: its amazing gas mileage. The Tremor is rated for 20 mpg in city driving and 24 on the highway, which is better than big trucks but nowhere near as eye-popping as the cheaper hybrid model.
The Tremor package cost $4,490 on my XLT tester when paired with some appearance options. That’s a hefty uncharge over the XLT’s $24,455 base price, but it comes with some impressive off-road tech, including a new all-wheel-drive system with a locking rear differential and a heavy-duty transmission cooler.
Five drive modes — designed for pavement, mud, sand or snow, and towing — let you select automatic settings for each condition. It also comes with Trail Control, which works like cruise control for off-roading, and a unique suspension with a one-inch lift.

The Maverick’s cabin is designed for functionality, including storage in the door pockets and under the rear seat.

The higher position makes the Maverick Tremor look more purposeful than cute.

This truck’s downsides are, oddly enough, some of the same reasons I love it.
The Maverick won’t win any awards for refinement. Its engine makes more vibration and sounds rougher than most trucks, and there’s more hard plastic in the cabin than you’ll find on other 2023 vehicles. But to me, that just makes it feel unpretentious. It’s not trying to impress the neighbors. It’s trying to be a good new truck for an affordable price, something all too rare in 2023.
Granted, that’s assuming you can find one. I’ve heard anecdotal stories from people who had to endure long waits and greedy dealer markups to get their hands on a Maverick. Hopefully that will get better as supply-chain problems dissipate and car lots return to a post-pandemic normal.
Overall, though, I can’t blame buyers for clamoring for this truck. Now that it’s available with some extra off-road swagger, it’s only going to crank up the demand burners for what I see as the sole common-sense pickup on sale this year.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2023 Ford Maverick XLT Tremor AWD ($24,455). Options: Equipment Group 300A ($2,200), Tremor with Appearance Package ($4,490), Ford Co-Pilot360 ($650), WiFi hotspot removal (-$20), splash guards ($180), spray-in bed liner ($495). Price as tested (including $1,495 destination charge): $33,955
Wheelbase: 121.1 in.
Length: 200.7 in.
Width: 72.6 in.
Height: 69.5 in.
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder (250 hp, 277 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 20 city, 24 highway

Style: 8
Performance: 5
Price: 10
Handling: 5
Ride: 6
Comfort: 5
Quality: 6
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
It’s a right-size, common-sense truck for people who don’t need the size, thirst and price of a bigger pickup.

Posted in Ford

Trail-Blasting Speed

By Derek Price

For a brief moment, my driveway held two vehicles that are purpose built for totally different tasks.

On one side was the car I reviewed last week, the Toyota Supra. On the other was this week’s subject, the Ford Bronco Raptor, one of the wildest 4×4 speed demons ever created.

While they look almost comically different when parked side-by-side — the tiny, sleek, low-riding, two-seat sports car next to the boxy, massive, lifted off-road beast — I couldn’t help but notice some weird similarities, starting with the bright blue paint they both shared.

They both have 3.0-liter, six-cylinder turbocharged engines. They both draw attention everywhere they go. And they both have some serious drawbacks that didn’t bother me a bit because, unlike most cars, they’re not meant to do every job under the sun.

They’re built to do one thing amazingly well.

In the Bronco Raptor’s case, that’s making high-speed runs over sand dunes, across cow pastures and up rocky trails.

With 418 horsepower, about 10 percent more than the exotic-looking Supra makes from the same size engine, this massive

Ford gallops away from stoplights faster than one would expect from something that looks like a cinder block with wheels. In Motor Trend’s testing, the Bronco Raptor sprinted from 0-60 in 6.3 seconds.

Nearly 10 inches wider than the standard Bronco, the powerful Raptor version has giant fender flares that house 37-inch all-terrain tires.

It looks wild and untamed, too, with extra-wide fender flares that barely contain its 37-inch all-terrain tires. It’s nearly 10 inches wider than the ordinary Bronco, which helps it appear aggressive and feel more planted when cornering but isn’t necessarily a good thing on narrow trails.

Ford did a good job visually differentiating the Raptor from other versions of the Bronco. It has unique quarter panels, fenders and door appliqués. Coupled with the massive vent in its furious-looking hood, it seems rebellious and intimidating.

If you want to be absolutely, 100-percent sure everyone knows you’re driving a Raptor, you can opt for a graphics package that adds flashy, modern-looking shapes and lettering to draw attention. It is a pricey checkbox, though, more than $1,000 on my tester.

I wish the Bronco Raptor’s exhaust sounded as crazy as it looks, though. It’s quieter and more muted than I was expecting.

You can adjust the exhaust sound at four different levels, including the Baja mode that Ford dutifully warns you is intended for “off-road use only” when you turn it on, but I couldn’t tell much difference between them. The adjustment seemed more for show than actually bursting anyone’s eardrums.

Every aspect of the Bronco Raptor’s rugged interior seems custom designed for off-roading. It’s built to be easy to clean after you remove the doors and top to play in the dirt.

Fortunately, the suspension is legit.

Like with the legendary F-150 Raptor, Ford’s engineers worked with FOX to create a suspension that can withstand the brutal beating of off-road racing. Wheels can travel up to 13 inches in front and 14 inches in back as it blasts over terrain, and sensors work in conjunction with the racing shocks to adjust the suspension response hundreds of times per second.

Overall, it’s hard not to love a vehicle this audacious. It’s not a sports car, but for me, it checked a lot of those same emotional boxes as last week’s Supra, even though it couldn’t look or feel more different from the little Toyota.

While my press-fleet tester was a 2022 model, the 2023 Bronco Raptor is priced at $86,080.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Ford Bronco 4-Door Advanced 4×4 ($68,500). Options: Raptor Series ($2,695), Raptor graphic ($1,075), keyless entry keypad ($110), 17-inch beadlock wheels ($1,995), code orange seat belt ($395), carbon fiber interior pack ($1,725), leather trim seats ($2,995). Price as tested (including $1,595 destination charge): $81,085
Wheelbase: 116.5 in.
Length: 191 in.
Width: 86.9 in.
Height: 77.8 in.
Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged six cylinder (418 hp, 440 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 15 city, 16 highway

Style: 10
Performance: 10
Price: 4
Handling: 4
Ride: 6
Comfort: 4
Quality: 7
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
A unique suspension, powerful engine and unmistakable attitude make this Bronco the baddest one yet. It’s a spectacular off-road toy for those who can afford it.

Posted in Ford

Stunningly Perfect

By Derek Price

Whatever you’re doing right now, stop it. Then go straight to a Toyota dealer and buy a new Supra.

As much as a professional critic should at least try to feign impartiality, that’s how I feel after spending a week driving Toyota’s two-seat sports car designed for people exactly like me.

I want to run to the dealer and give them all my money because everything about the Supra turns my sports car fantasies into reality.

It looks gorgeous, perhaps the prettiest Toyota-badged car ever created thanks to its voluptuous curves and classic proportions. It’s just stunning in person, sharp enough to make friends and neighbors knock on the door and ask for a ride.

And you better believe I took them.

How could I resist any excuse to wring out the Supra around suburban traffic circles and highway on-ramps? It sounds and feels happy to be pushed hard, whether on the track or during spirited driving on public streets, always delivering a gleeful wail from its turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine.

A lot of performance cars sound angry when you rev them. This one sounds euphoric, bordering on orgasmic.

The handling is also spot-on perfect.

The Supra only comes in rear-wheel drive, like any proper sports car, and is easy to control with the throttle to make that rear end slide around.

Changes for 2023 make the Toyota Supra an even better car for driving enthusiasts, including offering a manual transmission for the first time.

A distinct lack of body roll makes it feel extra fun in corners, yet it still manages to be compliant enough to make for a comfortable daily driver after revisions to the suspension this year.

One reason I’m so enthusiastic about this Supra is that my tester came configured exactly how it should, with the six-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission, a new offering for 2023. The last one I tested back in 2021 was a four-cylinder with an automatic, and it felt like a huge disappointment at the time.

With the turbocharged 3.0-liter six, though, the Supra actually lives up to the body’s visual hype. It’s spectacularly fast with 382 horsepower pushing a cozy 3,400-pound car, lightweight by modern standards.

Heck, even the things the Supra gets wrong still feel right. Every great sports car I’ve ever driven shares three downsides, and the Supra’s got all three.

One, there’s a lack of storage and cabin space because it’s built for light weight, not practicality.

Two, the cupholders are located in awkward places because the cockpit is designed for driving, not for sipping. When you lay out the shifter and driver’s arm rest in the most natural positions, that eliminates the best spots for cups to go. They’re relegated to second-class status, as they should be in cars like this.

The Supra’s cabin is designed around a natural and comfortable position for the driver, making it a great place to experience the sports car’s sensory delights.

Three, the rear visibility is terrible. If you design a car to be gorgeous, first and foremost, you’re going to sacrifice its visibility because gorgeous cars never have giant windows. Those are for office buildings and buses, not sports cars.

Some people criticize the Supra for borrowing too liberally from the BMW parts bin — it was a joint project between the two giant companies, after all — but I don’t even see how that’s a downside. If you’re going to steal parts for a sports car, a BMW warehouse is one of the best places on the planet to do it.

If it shared DNA with a Ferrari, complainers would probably say it’s “too Maranello.” People can be the worst.

The people who green-lighted this car, though, are automotive saints. It’s a Toyota with personality, style, speed, sophistication and stunning good looks, now available with a manual transmission as God intended.

Pricing starts at $44,640 for the four-cylinder Supra 2.0, but the one you really want — the 3.0 — starts at $53,600.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2023 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Premium MT ($55,650). Options: Driver assist package ($1,195). Price as tested (including $1,095 destination charge): $57,940
Wheelbase: 97.2 in.
Length: 172.5 in.
Width: 73 in.
Height: 50.9 in.
Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six cylinder (382 hp, 368 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy: 19 city, 27 highway

Style: 10
Performance: 9
Price: 7
Handling: 10
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 8
Overall: 9

Why buy it?
It’s a case study in exactly how modern sports cars should be built: beautiful, fast, light and fitted with a manual transmission.

Posted in Toyota