The Raptor doesn’t have to be the only good way to take a Ford F-150 off-road.
Resting on its laurels is not something the Ford F-150 is capable of doing. Even though it has been the best selling vehicle in the country for 45 years, the F-Series continues to kick the collective ass of half-ton pickup class. With a different trim level and equipment sampling for all sorts of pickup drivers, the F-150 can satisfy any truck need. While the F-150 has been offered with an FX4 off-road package for some time, it isn’t great for more severe off-road work. For the past several years, F-150 drivers who wanted to take on the most demanding trails were left with one option, in the form of the Raptor. A hardcore pickup that was fitted with all the right kit for blasting any off-road park, the Raptor also carried a price tag to match.
Beating up your budget with its MSRP, and getting marked up wildly at dealers, the F-150 Raptor wasn’t the most approachable pickup to own. Knowing it had to provide something a little easier on the wallet, Ford has introduced the Tremor trim level across its Ranger and F-Series lineups, sporting some goodies for off-road fun, but not going wild with the most rugged gear. The F-150 being the latest to receive the Tremor treatment, it quickly caught my attention. After doing several off-road tests in hardcore vehicles, including the Ford Bronco Badlands I adore, I wanted to see how a full-size Blue Oval model got down.
The Big Stats
Ford offers a bunch of engine options for the F-150, including three different gas V6s, a turbo diesel V6, a 5.0-liter V8, and a hybrid version of the most popular F-Series 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. The F-150 Tremor I tested was fitted with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, so I’ll stick to its figures. In this F-150 Tremor, the EcoBoost V6 produces 400 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque. Also equipped to my tester was a 10-speed automatic and electronic shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive, with two-wheel-drive being the standard driveline for the F-150.
Built on a high-strength steel frame, all current F-150 models feature a high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy body. The F-150 has regular cab, super cab, and SuperCrew cabin options, and beds that can measure either 5.5, 6.5, or 8 feet. In the case of the Tremor, Ford ships it in SuperCrew configuration with a 5.5-foot box, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and the 10-speed automatic transmission plus standard four-wheel-drive. The F-150 Tremor’s exterior and interior show off a few details that quickly distinguish it next to its F-Series siblings, and underneath there is plenty of off-road ready equipment installed to brush off anyone calling it a mall-crawling poser. I’ll dive into the off-road parts and details later in this review.
The standard F-150 4×4 SuperCrew has a starting price of $49,505, and the Tremor package tacks on an extra $6,065. This Stone Gray Metallic tester also added Ford’s CoPilot 360 Assist 2.0, a power sliding rear window, the 2 kW Pro Power Onboard generator, interior work surface, trailer tow package, partitioned lockable cabin storage, front axle with the Torsen differential, tailgate step, 360º camera package, and Ford’s Toughbed spray-in bedliner to raise the total price to $63,120 after destination. For comparison’s sake, a base level Ford F-150 Raptor starts at just under $70,000.
A Practical Daily Driver
Off-road capabilities might be the emphasis of this Ford F-150’s setup, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a decent truck for your usual commuting and errand running. Even with rugged suspension components and all-terrain tires fitted, the Tremor’s ride quality is surprisingly compliant. Ford’s engineers do a great job of providing steering feel that is responsive yet not too heavy. I was shocked how nimble the Tremor was around the city.
Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine is the perfect option for its F-150, with plenty of power and torque across a wide rev range, even if old school truck guys scoff at it being a V6. I tested the 5.0-liter V8 last summer, and liked the noises it makes more than the EcoBoost, but frankly the V6 has better response and torque on-demand. My favorite F-150 engine is the PowerBoost hybrid option, which cranks out even more torque while adding a big bump in fuel economy and range.
Cabin design in the F-150 Tremor is fantastic. The F-150 seats, both front and rear, are massive yet supportive, allowing occupants to ride in complete comfort for several hours. The Tremor seat material has a certain urban camo look to it too. I also like how Ford designed smart storage bins under the rear seats that pop up 60/40. Cupholders are big and deep too, ready to secure your Whatasize drinks.
There isn’t a wasted inch of space inside the F-150, with no shortage of places to stuff away anything you’d want inside, and every single switch and control is right where you think it should be. Proper buttons are used on the steering wheel controls, in addition to the climate system. Ford’s Sync 4 infotainment system’s 12-inch touchscreen is intuitive too, and provides exceptional visibility when backing up and towing, thanks to the 360º camera system.
The Working Class Hero
Upholding the company’s long-running reputation as a pickup that can please any owner on any job site, the F-150 Tremor is a fantastic workhorse. Rather than a bunch of gimmick features, Ford loads the F-150 with tons of useful functions inside and out. Equipped with lockable tie-down points, and the optional Toughbed spray-in bedliner and tailgate step, Ford makes this F-150 Tremor’s bed ready for your gear. In this tester’s setup, the payload capacity is a respectable 1,885 pounds, which makes it ready to handle your dirt bikes, quad, or overlanding camping setup. With the capability of towing up to 10,900 pounds, the F-150 Tremor has no trouble pulling a family’s camper or boat.
When the workplace goes remote, the F-150’s interior can be a mobile office. With a 4G LTE hotspot installed, a 120V/30A outlet next to the climate controls, and the optional interior work surface (which has a power folding feature for the gearshift while allowing the center armrest to fold over to a flat space over the shifter and cupholders) box ticked, the Tremor can be a comfortable place to hammer out some work on your laptop.
Like other F-150 models equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, Ford’s Pro Power Onboard is available with 2.0 kilowatts of exportable power (via a 120V outlet) in the bed for tools, an air compressor, electric chainsaw, or a good assortment of entertainment components at your football tailgate party. If you’re looking for even more power in the bed of the F-150, upgrade to the PowerBoost engine package to get access to the 2.4 kW and 7.2 kW (which upgrades to one 240V and two 120V outlets) onboard generator options. Feel free to take a deeper dive into the Pro Power Onboard specs and capabilities on Ford’s site if you want to know more.
Tackling The Trails
Looking the part of an off-road attacking pickup, Ford gives the F-150 Tremor plenty of kit to make it stand out next to its F-Series brethren. Unique gray matte-finish 18-inch wheels are wrapped with 33-inch General Grabber all-terrain tires which are great for hooking into rocks and gravel. The Tremor’s hood and front-end are redesigned to give a punchier look, while a Tremor-specific grille has a blacked-out Ford oval and details painted the signature Tremor color of Active Orange. The two front recovery hooks also get the Active Orange treatment, in case someone needs a little help along the trails.
Fixed running boards that look like those fitted to the Raptor are mounted close to the body to minimize damage, and a cutout rear bumper makes room for high-flow dual exhaust tips that flank its two rear recovery hooks. There are also Active Orange-highlighted badges on the F-150 Tremor’s fenders, bed side, and tailgate. The Tremor’s cabin gets a few unique treatments too, with seat trim that sports special stitching, and there are Tremor-specific materials and finishes for the instrument panel, center console, and doors. Not just a cool looking package, the Tremor is packing plenty of hardcore parts underneath.
The Tremor’s suspension features retuned springs to raise ground clearance to 9.4 inches. Revised front hub knuckles and upper control arms are accompanied by Tremor-specific monotube front and twin tube rear shocks which are tuned for softer damping at low speeds, with additional damping and control for more severe off-road sessions. There’s also a big bash plate under the front of the F-150 Tremor to minimize damage. The F-150 Tremor boasts an approach angle of 27.6º, a breakover angle of 21.2º, and a departure angle of 24.3º. There’s also an extra inch of front and 1.5 inches of rear suspension travel versus the normal F-150 4×4 giving more confidence over rougher terrain.
The F-150 Tremor may not have the G.O.A.T. modes (mostly cooler branding) that the Ford Bronco I tested possesses, but it still has smart drive modes for taking on any trail, including normal, sport, tow/haul, eco, slippery, deep snow/sand, and mud/rut modes. The rock crawl mode automatically engages the rear locking differential, turns off stability and traction control, reduces throttle response, adjusts shift points, and displays the available 360º camera view on the massive infotainment screen. This mode allowed this amateur off-road driver to do fun things on the trails with ease. Ford also planned for its Tremor drivers to add accessories, so there’s a six-position auxiliary power switch pack mounted in the overhead console so owners can easily add off-road winches, air compressors, and lighting (with several off-road lighting systems available as dealer-installed options).
Like in the Bronco, Ford gives the F-150 Tremor the one-pedal drive mode to allow for left foot braking and greater control over more challenging surfaces. I also appreciate Ford giving the F-150 Tremor the Trail Turn Assist system that I also liked in the Bronco, which made for making shorter turns around tight spaces in this full-size pickup. This system also made it easier to do silly donuts in the dirt. There’s also a locking rear differential and the option to upgrade to a Torsen limited-slip front diff. Upper trim level Tremors get upgraded with a torque-on-demand transfer case similar to the installed in the F-150 Raptor that merges all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive capabilities to better conquer more demanding off-road environments.
I like that the Tremor gets standard hill descent control, which made rolling down a gravel-covered dirt trail easier to navigate, but this Tremor I tested didn’t get the available Trail Control (which operates like cruise control for off-road use). At no point did I feel like I needed any extra off-road equipment installed on the F-150 Tremor to handle some reasonably challenging trails. If you really want a meaner-looking F-Series, the Raptor does boast a more pronounced grille and bigger tires, met with some more rugged suspension parts tucked under its wider fenders, but prepare to drop significantly more cash.
Ford’s Bargain Alternative To The Badass Raptor
Ford figured out that off-roading F-150 drivers needed a less expensive option in the lineup rather than having to spend over $70,000 on a Raptor. With the Tremor package, off-road enthusiasts get plenty of the hardware and software Ford provides to the more hardcore F-Series option at a much more attractive price.
There’s little the F-150 Tremor can’t accomplish for a truck owner, and I think Ford hit a home run with this new off-road ready pickup. The F-150 Tremor packs plenty of off-road kit in a more subtle body package, making it look less like the brotastic pickup the Raptor is sometimes judged for being. For the better price point, and the sleeper appearance, I think the Ford F-150 Tremor is the right off-road full-size pickup to buy.
The most basic new truck you can buy is surprisingly good.
The mini truck used to be an exceptional option for plenty of drivers. A compact offering that carried a decent amount of stuff in the bed, had a little engine that got the job done while providing decent fuel economy, and a no-fuss cabin that did enough for making a commute or work trek barely comfortable. As pickups have become massive, thirsty, and wildly expensive, the world needs a basic compact truck that can get simple tasks done while providing more versatility than a crossover without breaking the bank. Ford has figured this out, and introduced the Maverick as a compact pickup to be reasonably functional, moderately powered, fuel efficient, and attractively priced.
A few months ago, I reviewed the Maverick’s middle XLT trim level, in all-wheel-drive form, with the punchier engine option, and thought it was the perfect small truck for anyone at around $31,000. What I wanted to learn more about was the most basic model Maverick Ford offers, its XL hybrid model. With front-wheel-drive in a pickup, real truck guys might scoff at it, but the entry level hybrid Maverick focuses on massive fuel economy at a starting price of $20,000. I had to see what was up with this budget pickup.
The Key Specs
Ford builds the new Maverick on a unibody platform, specific to the Maverick. In its standard form, the Ford Maverick is propelled by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid that produces a combined output of 191 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque. The Maverick’s optional engine is a new 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. A CVT with front-wheel-drive is the default drivetrain, with all-wheel-drive paired with an 8-speed automatic available as an option for either engine.
All Maverick models are SuperCrew four-door pickups, with a 54-inch bed. Dimensions include an overall length of 199.7 inches, a 68.7-inch height, 72.6-inch width, and 8.3 inches of ground clearance. The Maverick’s wheelbase is is 121 inches, with a front track measuring 63.4 inches, and a rear track of 62.8. Compared to the Hyundai Santa Cruz, the Maverick has a 4-inch advantage with its overall length and wheelbase, but gives up two inches in the overall width and track categories. I’ll dive into the towing and cargo capacities in a moment. The big draw to the Ford Maverick isn’t just its reasonable proportions, but also its price.
At a base price of $19,995, and a destination charge of $1,495, the total MSRP of this Maverick XL hybrid is $21,490. That figure makes it several thousand dollars cheaper than the Hyundai competition, which in all fairness starts with a bit more equipment. Opt for the XLT trim, and the base price is $22,360, with the range topping Lariat starting at $25,860. Adding the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine adds about $1,000 to any trim level, and upgrading to all-wheel-drive (which is only available with the 2.0L) will add another $2,000 to the ticket. Go wild on upgrading with a leather interior and heated seats, adaptive cruise control, improved towing capacity, and off-road capability, and the Maverick’s sticker price can shoot up to a still reasonable $35,000 (matching the loaded Santa Cruz’s figure).
Basic Daily Functionality
Budget packaging is clear with the XL trim level of the Ford Maverick, but that doesn’t make it unpleasant to drive. Ride quality is a bit on the firm side, thanks to spring rates designed to cope with cargo being tossed in the bed. Handling is still decent in the front-wheel-drive Maverick that has a basic twistbeam rear suspension rather than the independent multi-link trailing arm setup provided with the all-wheel-drive models. Surprisingly the Maverick is more agile than any truck I’ve driven, with dynamics that resemble a small sedan rather than a pickup. Crossovers I’ve reviewed in the past couple years don’t feel as nimble as the Maverick.
Instead of having a tachometer in the instrument cluster, Ford gives the Maverick hybrid a power consumption gauge to indicate how much you’re consuming when hitting the throttle and the amount being regenerated under braking. When coming to a stop, the digital display will show how much energy has been recaptured under braking and deceleration too. The hybrid engine has decent power on-tap, and the hybrid assistance provides a reasonably smooth torque curve. The 2.0-liter I tested in the Maverick XLT is noticeably quicker, but if power isn’t important, take advantage of the obscene fuel economy offered by the hybrid engine.
While the all-wheel-drive EcoBoost engine has EPA fuel economy estimates of 22/29/25, its front-wheel-drive variant gets a slight bump of an added mile per gallon in each condition. The hybrid Maverick increases the fuel savings dramatically, offering a whopping 42/33/37 (city/highway/combined) MPGs according to the EPA estimates. During my week-long test, I hit an average of 38 MPGs, which is fantastic for a truck of any size, and beats plenty of new compact cars currently on sale.
Despite its compact intentions, the Maverick’s cabin is actually quite roomy. Seating position up front is somewhat low, allowing for a great amount of headroom. The width of the cockpit is reasonably spacious too. At 5’11” I’m not terribly tall, but even when sitting behind my driver seat position, the back seat of the Maverick didn’t feel too cramped. A couple friends had no trouble hopping in the back seat when we made a dinner run, but did mention the ride was a bit stiff for them.
Ford’s Sync infotainment system is installed within the somewhat small touchscreen, but it gets the job done. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, but in the most basic XL trim, the Maverick doesn’t have Sirius XM satellite radio. I have a hunch Ford has prepared the Maverick’s interior for future updates, as is clear when spotting the big storage hole next to the infotainment display. I appreciate the smart design of the door handles, that allow for easy grabs from any angle, while using an unconventional appearance. Same goes for the nicely separated compartments ahead of the cupholders and shifter, where anyone can pop their phone or other small items.
The Humble Worker Bee
A front-wheel-drive pickup isn’t going to attract big truck buyers, but the Ford Maverick is designed as a solution to drivers who need a hint more function than the sedan or crossover they’ve had for ages. Thankfully intelligent all-wheel-drive is available at a reasonable price, in addition to Ford’s FX4 off-road package with beefier tires than the Continental all-seasons fitted here, should you want to go places far from the city streets. Even as a basic pickup, I got the nod of respect from several construction and electrical workers I came across around downtown Austin (which is seemingly under constant construction), which was pleasantly surprising. When I was parked to take pictures of the Maverick, I had separate groups of people walk over to ask me about it and poke around. This truck has plenty of appeal.
One key advantage of the Ford Maverick is bringing simple versatility to the masses without trying too hard to appear rugged or functional. A 4.5-foot bed may not seem big enough, but for weekend warriors, mountain bikers, or casual campers, that bed will be more than enough to tote their belongings. Anyone who has paid attention to the fleet at an auto parts store will remember when small pickups were the ideal solution, and the Maverick will be appealing to them.
Ford designed smart Flexbed features from its larger trucks into the Maverick’s cargo area, with plenty of factory and dealer-installed accessory options to fit the bed however the owner needs. From tie-downs, power outlets, bike racks, and tool solutions, Ford really put some effort into planning the Maverick’s workhorse capabilities. Base payload capacity in the Maverick is only 1,500 pounds, but that’s not bad for the average person. Standard towing capacity is 2,000 pounds, which can increase to 4,000 pounds with an optional towing package. You won’t be pulling a massive boat with the Ford Maverick, but that’s not the focus of a pickup in this segment.
Cabin functionality is somewhat simple, but the rear seat does fold flat (once you drop the headrests), allowing for the interior to serve as an additional secure storage area. What’s really interesting is Ford’s crowdsourced 3D printing platform known as Ford Integrated Tethering System (FITS), which allows Maverick owners to design, produce, and install various storage and functional solutions that fasten into the cabin’s receiving points.
Simplistic At Its Core
Hitting a price target of $20,000 meant that Ford went truly spartan with its base XL trim. From the basic steel wheels wrapped in basic all-season tires to the black plastic body cladding and rear bumper, the Ford Maverick keeps costs low with simple features. The XLT and Lariat Maverick trims get cooler wheels wrapped with better tires, and are touched up with better exterior trim too, if the cheaper exterior is a breaking point. At least LED headlights are standard on all Maverick models. One funny feature is the practical beep tones emitted from the Maverick when reversing, as the hybrid model uses its silent electric power when backing up.
I can complain that Ford went with some seriously dated switchgear you’d recognize from a 10-year-old Focus, instrumentation that’s truly plain, and single-zone climate control components to hit the Maverick’s price target, but at least these details have the core functions they need to provide to drivers. The Maverick XL’s cockpit is really cost-cutting compared to the next level up XLT trim level, with bigger use of hard plastics and cheaper cloth seating surfaces, but Ford didn’t make this cabin sound too cheap. It surprised me how quiet this budget pickup was during my driving around a busy city, without any rattles or squeaks. Upper trim levels will carry over the touch points from the XL, but the seats, door trim, and center console will be treated to softer materials.
Basic Isn’t Bad In A Little Truck
Ford hit a home run with the new Maverick. With a massive gap in the pickup market, people needed an inexpensive model that offered good functionality versus the crossover they’ve been stuck with. Whether you’re an occasional camper, frequent cyclist, gardener, farmer’s market vendor, or skilled laborer, the Ford Maverick will tick several boxes for anyone who wants a pint-sized truck that gets the job done. The only challenge for Ford is keeping up with the immense demand for this new little truck, as dealer’s can’t keep them in stock. Pickup purists and manly men may scoff at the compact Maverick, but Ford makes plenty of trucks to satisfy any their needs.
If the Maverick is too small or too simple, there’s an all-new Ranger coming later this year, to meet the demands of the midsized truck driver. The daily drivability and massive fuel economy of the Maverick should impress anyone, especially when opting for the efficient hybrid model during a time of wildly high gas prices. For those who know exact what they need from a small truck, the Ford Maverick will meet their demands and go easy on the wallet both with monthly payments and at the gas pump. I think the Maverick is a great small pickup, and a massive hit for Ford.
Not flashy nor powerful, but who says a simple SUV can’t be good for many families?
Since 1991, Ford has sold its Explorer SUV to families with modest budgets, and holds the title of the best selling SUV in America. Back when it was launched, the Ford Explorer was set to replace the Bronco II, and was built on a Ford Ranger light truck platform. As new generations launched, including 2-door and pickup variants decades ago, Ford has dedicated a new chassis platform for the Explorer, now slotting into its lineup between the Edge crossover and Expedition full-size SUV. While it has been around since George HW Bush was in the White House, its popularity hasn’t been as solid in the past couple of generations, as the marketplace for SUVs has gone wild with options.
Now in its sixth generation, the Ford Explorer sticks to its roots of providing good value and reasonable pricing in its three-row SUV package. Ford still gets to pad its balance sheet by providing plenty of law enforcement officers with its Police Interceptor models, now based on the current Explorer, rather than the Crown Victoria and Taurus in years past. For those families who want a practical and affordable midsized SUV, does the Explorer still get the job done?
The Useful Specs
The sixth generation Ford Explorer now boasts a plethora of trim levels of three-row midsized SUV to please nearly any family, whether the demands involve basic appointments, sporty looks, off-road capability, or somewhat nicer treatments inside. In a segment that includes the Chevrolet Traverse (with the GMC Acadia built on the same platform), Hyundai Palisade (and its Kia Telluride sibling), Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot, the Explorer has plenty of competitors to deal with.
Ford provides three engine options for the Explorer, starting with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder that produces 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 with 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque, and a hybrid variant that is fitted with a naturally-aspirated 3.3-liter V6 which puts out 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque. All new Explorers are delivered with a 10-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive, with intelligent four-wheel-drive as an available option.
The Explorer XLT I tested is the starting point for the seven trim levels Ford offers, with a base price of $37,075. At the top of the food chain is the King Ranch model, which starts at $53,995. The XLT tester was equipped with the 2.3-liter engine, and added all-wheel-drive, the XLT sport appearance package (with 20-inch wheels wrapped in self-sealing all-season tires), Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ Adaptive Cruise Control, a cargo management system in the back, and Infinite Blue Metallic paint to hit a total MSRP of $45,305.
A Practical Family Hauler
Because it’s now built on a crossover platform, the Ford Explorer is a composed daily driver, compared to its early generations that were more truck-like. Tipping the scales at around 4,300 pounds, the Explorer isn’t exactly light, but the base 2.3-liter engine doesn’t struggle to get the SUV moving, thanks to its wide powerband that I also appreciated in the Ford Ranger models I’ve tested over the past couple years. Drivers who crave more power will desire the ST or higher trim levels, with a seriously potent V6 that I enjoyed in the Lincoln Aviator I reviewed recently.
The 10-speed automatic shifts smoothly, and the four-wheel-drive system feels nicely sorted during any city driving. Ride quality is surprisingly refined, even without an adaptive suspension. Not boring, but not exciting, the Explorer XLT’s response in the corners is perfectly fine for a midsized SUV. Want a little tighter suspension and better handling? The ST is the way to go. Michelin Primacy all-season tires are competent enough for the task as a family SUV, and are remarkably quiet too. EPA fuel economy estimates are 20/27/23 (city/highway/combined), and I achieved 22 during my week-long test that was more focused on city driving.
There’s a full slate of drive modes easily selected with a knob mounted near the space-saving rotary gearshift, and while there isn’t an individual mode, there are a couple off-road options in addition to hill descent control for times when you take your Explorer… exploring. If your weekend and vacation excursions involve a boat or small camper, you’ll be happy to know the Explorer can tow up to 5,300 pounds when equipped with the 4-cylinder, and can bump up to 5,600 pounds if one opts for the EcoBoost V6.
Once inside the Explorer, the cabin is a no-fuss setup. Everything is intuitively designed, and touch points are placed throughout the cockpit. Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is installed in a reasonably-sized touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ready to supplement your user experience. The instrument cluster has a big tachometer and speedometer, flanking a multifunction digital display that shows extra data points while allowing the driver to configure additional settings. Ford also supplies USB-A and USB-C ports in the concealable storage pocket ahead of the shifter and cupholders.
Thanks to a 198-inch overall length and 119-inch wheelbase, the Explorer’s cabin is quite spacious. Shoulder, hip, and headroom are considerable for the front two rows, and the six-seat configuration made for quick access to the third row. Third row legroom is a decent 32 inches, so adults could make quick drives stuck back there, but the seat is mounted low to the floor, so adult knees will be bent tightly. Ideally kids are going to be the third row occupants, and they’ll be fine. Cargo space is more than sufficient in the back of the Ford Explorer, and increases significantly with the third row seats folded flat.
The Good Points
Ford gave the Explorer a positive facelift for the sixth generation, making the fascia more sleek, adjusting the shape of the taillights, and giving the front a wider look. Putting some thought into rear seat access, Ford installed a rugged step to the outside of each middle row seat, adding stability while making the transition to the third row easier for those of us who have struggled to hop into that space.
The Explorer benefits from tons of places to store items of any size, which is nice for big families. If there’s a space in the dash or console, Ford found a way to make it useful. Kids can stuff their belongings all over the Explorer’s cabin, with plenty of spots to have McDonald’s fries hide and stink up the interior. The rear cargo area has the usual sort of hidden compartment with an optional storage organizer, and I like the additional side pockets designed into the floor for medium sized items like battery cables or a first aid kit.
A Couple Deductions
The Ford Explorer isn’t an eye-catching package, commonly overlooked by buyers who want a more interesting SUV. While its exterior lines are tidy, the Explorer isn’t particularly interesting. Even in its upper trim levels, I don’t love its looks, and in this crowded class of SUVs, there are more attractive competitors. I chuckled when I realized the name “Explorer” is printed on the exterior five times, with a placement along the lower body cladding of each front door, inside each headlight housing, and in the center of the tailgate. Just in case anyone wondered what this SUV was.
That simple theme is continued inside, with some somewhat basic themes and materials used throughout the cabin. Even after being updated in the past two years, the switchgear and panels aren’t wonderful. The seats could use a bit more lateral support too. If you care about nicer materials, particularly on the seating surfaces, upgrade to a Platinum or King Ranch Explorer.
A Basic SUV Isn’t A Bad One
The Ford Explorer might be somewhat simple, but it’s a humble SUV that fits the needs of many American families. It can be as nice or as basic as they desire, and has adjusted to meet demands of SUV drivers. Toting the kids to school and soccer practice doesn’t have to be done with style and luxury features, and the average family can appreciate an SUV designed with them in mind.
The segment might be filled with nicer models or cooler names, but the Ford Explorer gets the job done. It’s practical, has a price that meets modest budgets, is decently built, and offers good enough reliability from a name people trust. It’s hard to knock Ford for continuing to offer the humble Explorer for over 30 years, and I imagine it will continue to sell reasonably well for years to come.
Wanna be a baller, shot caller, 33-inch meats on this rock crawler.
After several months in the wild, the all-new Ford Bronco has received plenty of praise from owners and motoring journalists alike. A properly sorted truck platform that can go damn near anywhere while being civil on the street, the Bronco got high marks from me, when I reviewed its more city-friendly Outer Banks trim level last summer. I made sure to give the new Ford Bronco a solid examination during that test, putting plenty of city miles in addition to loads of off-road hours on the truck.
By no means was the Outer Banks model a slouch in the rocky terrain of a favorite off-road park, but that setup is more focused on being the mall crawler that occasionally gets dirty. I wanted to see how the more hardcore Bronco performed where it mattered, so I rang up the people at Ford, and they sent the Badlands model my way for some proper analysis.
The Good Stats
The Bronco has two engine options no matter how many doors you prefer, with a base 2.3-liter turbocharged four cylinder and the manual transmission, and a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 as an upgrade. The bigger engine provides 330 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque if you ll the tank with premium unleaded, and offers 315 horses and 415 lb-ft if you opt for regular unleaded. While the V6 option is stout, the EcoBoost 4-banger is a bit more tame, offering a decent 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque when using 91 octane, and 275 horsepower and 315 lb-ft when using 87.
Ford oers the new Bronco in two- and four-door bodies, including soft or hard top options, with a full slate of trim levels to hit the sweet spot for any driver. Selectable four-wheel-drive comes standard on the Ford Bronco, with your choice between a 10-speed automatic or 7-speed manual (with a crawl gear) available in the four-cylinder model, and the V6 has the 10-speed auto as its only transmission (which was the setup in the Outer Banks model I reviewed earlier in the year). This two-door Badlands model was equipped with the smaller 2.3-liter engine, hooked up to the 7-speed manual.
The 2-door Ford Bronco has a base price of $29,995, with 4-door models starting at $34,695, with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder as the standard engine. Add a couple thousand to the sticker price if you want the V6. In rugged Badlands trim, this Antimatter Blue tester didn’t add the seriously hardcore Sasquatch off-road package, but opted for the 3,500-pound towing package while adding an accessory cargo protector, keyless access keypad, roof rack and cross rails above the removable hardtop, and partial leather and vinyl black seats to hit a total MSRP of $52,060. That figure is nearly identical to the more powerful and more nicely equipped four-door Outer Banks model I reviewed this summer, and is level with the starting price of the luxurious and capable Land Rover Defender 90 I had last month.
Reasonably Civil In The City
The Ford Bronco won’t try to disguise the fact that it’s a proper truck underneath its attractive rugged body, but it’s surprisingly comfortable for cruising around town. The standard four-cylinder engine has punchy low-end torque, met with some close-ratio gears in the manual transmission, but the power isn’t fantastic if you’re covering more freeway than city miles. Not as composed as the ride provided by the Land Rover Defender 90’s air suspension, the traditional shocks and independent front suspension in the Bronco provides a remarkably compliant ride when dealing with bumpy concrete streets in the city.
Even with 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A K02 rubber fitted to its 17-inch wheels, the Bronco Badlands doesn’t dish out a beating during your commute or on errand runs. If you’re rarely traveling off the safety of pavement, you may want to opt for an Outer Banks model that gets more city-friendly Bridgestone Dueler tires. Turning corners in the Bronco is simple, thanks to a steering and suspension setup that manages dynamics much better than I expect in something so ready to be a blast off-road.
Considering it’s more focused on being rugged and cool, Ford gives the Bronco a moderately-appointed interior, that delicately balances cost-saving materials with a design that provides decent cabin comfort and cool looks. The Badlands model’s partial leather and vinyl seats aren’t as nice as the Outer Banks trim I enjoyed this summer, but they aren’t too spartan. Heated front seats and steering wheel are a nice touch when it’s chilly outside. If you want to get a seriously refined and trimmed cockpit in your off-roader, you’ll have to spend a bit more to upgrade to a Land Rover Defender.
Thankfully Ford carries over the switchgear and center controls you’ll recognize from the full-size F-150 pickup, which also utilizes the new Sync 4 infotainment system in a big 12-inch touchscreen that has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto installed. I appreciate the rubber-coated buttons throughout the interior, which keep dirt and sand from getting trapped under the controls when you take the Bronco off-road.
The Confident Explorer
Bringing the Bronco back to the market was a big risk for Ford, knowing it had to provide enthusiasts with an exceptional off-road machine. Thankfully the Bronco Badlands is fantastic when you leave the comfort of paved roads in search of less stable terrain. Cool branding makes Ford’s G.O.A.T (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) Modes exciting on paper, but the setups make guring out how to dial in the Bronco foolproof. Each mode will correctly pick whether the Bronco needs to be in two- or four-wheel-drive, locks the dierentials accordingly, enables the hill descent control, and allows the right amount of slip if you’re playing on sand, rocks, or mud. Equip the Bronco with the 2.7-liter V6 and its automatic transmission, and Ford also provides one-pedal driving (which I enjoyed using when I tested the Bronco Outer Banks).
Buy a First Edition or Badlands trim level, and the Bronco comes standard with front and rear locking dierentials that are optional on all trim levels. Ford’s advanced 4×4 system is standard on all but the base model Bronco, coupled with a 3.06:1 low ratio, allowing easier engagement of the 2-way transfer case that gives more competent grip when the surface isn’t so grippy. In Badlands trim, the 7-speed manual flexes a 94.75:1 crawl ratio in addition to a proper crawl gear below 1st gear, and the 10-speed automatic still has a healthy 67.80:1 crawl ratio. The Badlands equipment also includes steel bash plates under the front and rear of the Bronco, keeping its vital parts safe from rocks you encounter on the trails. Trail turn assist is a cool feature that works with the locking diff to make tighter turns a breeze.
A Dana AdvanTEK M190 independent front suspension is standard up front with a Dana 44TM AdvanTEK M220 solid differential out back. The front suspension also includes twin forged A-arms with long-travel coil-over springs with HOSS-tuned heavy-duty dampers, and the rear suspension has a 220 mm solid rear axle with long-travel, variable rate coilovers with HOSS-tuned heavy-duty dampers. The Bronco Badlands also gets upgraded with a detachable front sway bar, allowing for even greater articulation in demanding conditions. Opt for the Sasquatch package, and Ford will upgrade the durable suspension with Bilstein position-sensitive dampers with end-stop control valves.
Approach, breakover, and departure angles are 35.5º, 21.1º, and 29.8º respectively, which bump up significantly if the Bronco is optioned with the Sasquatch package’s 35-inch bead lock capable wheels and tires. All Broncos sport a 33.5-inch fording depth, in case you need to cross a bit of water, and boast 8.4 inches of ground clearance in standard trim, which bumps up to 11.6 inches with the 35-inch rubber tted. All of these figures are marginally less than the Land Rover Defender 90 I took off-road offers. The gures and equipment sheet might be impressive, but I had to nd out just how much more capable the Bronco Badlands was o-road compared to its nicer Bronco Outer Banks sibling and the legendary Land Rover Defender 90.
To keep the playing field level, I took the Bronco Badlands to Hidden Falls Adventure Park, which is located about an hour northwest of Austin. In this environment, I found out where the extra off-road kit in the Badlands setup went to work. Covering the same stack of trails I did previously, the Badlands kicked ass with ease. Around most of the paths covered, I simply picked the Baja G.O.A.T. Mode, which selected the 4H drivetrain, turned on the front camera that converts the infotainment screen into a massive front view, and tapped the button atop the dash to disconnect the front sway bar. If speeds exceed 20 MPH, the Bronco will automatically reconnect the front sway bar, but will unhook it again once you’re back down to slower speeds. This feature came in extra helpful when I was driving faster on smoother trails between more demanding stretches when having that extra flex allowed came in handy.
The Bronco Badlands’ upgraded suspension, more aggressive tires, and tighter gears made crawling rocks ridiculously simple. The crawl gear is awesome, but it’s not as if using the normal 1st or 2nd gears won’t provide enough confidence when ascending up somewhat demanding rocky hills. While driving a stick is cool in many conditions, I actually prefer having the automatic take away one complication when my average-at-best off-roading skillset is put to the test. The extra power and torque from the Bronco’s optional V6 is a welcome upgrade too. Even with the lesser engine and manual gearbox selected, the Bronco Badlands kicked ass all over these rocky Texas Hill Country trails. Not once did I come across a situation where the Bronco couldn’t dominate the rocks, and I gave it some seriously challenging off-road action. An amateur off-road driver will be astounded by how the Bronco makes having a blast so simple.
Some Notable Highlights
Ford nailed the styling of the new Bronco, and the two-door body is my choice. The rugged look is perfectly proportioned, and the rear occupants and cargo volume aren’t terribly compromised by only getting two doors. The rear passengers may gripe about getting in and out of the Bronco’s back seats, but if you aren’t often taking friends or kids along for a ride, ditch the four-door Bronco. I also like how the new Bronco has a modern take on a classic look, better executing that idea than Land Rover did with the new Defender (which also looks quite good).
To give outdoorsy types more functionality, Ford was smart to set up the Bronco’s exterior with plenty of hookups. The top of the front fenders have useful hooks that not only function as tie-downs, but double as indications for the corners of the Bronco’s body when you’re wandering off-road. To capitalize on the massive aftermarket supply of off-road parts, Ford has hundreds of factory and dealer-installed accessory options at your disposal, and was smart to set up tons of pre-drilled mounting points that all use one of two or three fasteners all over the Bronco. Even the interior has pre-amped accessory switches above the rearview mirror, so that you don’t have to damage the interior when adding more lights and features outside the Bronco. Those who want to record their adventures will appreciate the GoPro mount and extra charging ports atop the dash.
Ride quality on the street is the biggest advantage the Bronco holds over the Jeep Wrangler, and it’s obvious Ford took its time engineering this new off-roader to address nearly any gripe a Jeep driver has. An independent suspension up front pairs nicely with a modern rack-and-pinion steering system, and it pains me that Jeep refuses to spend the money to engineer and install these in the Wrangler. I don’t want to hear a single Jeep driver talk about off-road capabilities over an independent setup, as the Bronco had zero issues attacking demanding trails alongside modded Jeeps during my tests. Ford also gives the Bronco frameless doors that allow drivers to quickly detach and store the doors on-board, rather than ditching them on the trails. Side mirrors are mounted to the cowl, rather than the doors, so that Bronco owners can see clearly all along the sides when storming off-road.
A Few Point Deductions
Cool, tough looks have some trade-offs. Because of the boxy shape, the Bronco is an aerodynamic challenge, sacricing fuel economy and cabin composure. At just 21 MPGs, the 2.3-liter Bronco could be more economical, and the wind noise from the hardtop and roof rack is intrusive at speeds over 60 MPH. A new roof design is being rolled out, but a bit more interior insulation would do the Bronco some favors too.
The cargo area does employ a split tailgate feature, but you have to open the lower door half completely to allow the trim edge of the glass top to lift up. I wish Ford allowed the glass to open independently from the door part, for easier loading of smaller items. I like that Ford allows the driver to toggle between several views and data layouts in the instrument cluster, depending on what sort of driving conditions you’re exposing the Bronco to, but I wish it was bigger with better resolution.
The Best On- And Off-Road Experience For Your Money
Ford rolled out one seriously good o-road machine with the new Bronco, and did so while addressing all sorts of demands the o-road driver has in addition to making it respectable to drive on the street. With a nice enough interior, the Bronco can serve nicely as a daily driver, but if you’re not wandering along the trails more than a couple times per year, opt for the nicer setup in the Bronco Outer Banks trim level. If the fit and finish isn’t enough to satisfy a luxury off-road driver, a few grand more will put a nicely equipped Land Rover Defender in your driveway.
I think the Badlands two-door hardtop model with the 2.7-liter V6 and the 10-speed automatic is the perfect setup, thanks to hardware that improves off-road capabilities without sacricing too much as a city car. Those who want even more terrain-conquering features will likely spend about $5,000 more to opt for the Sasquatch package. Thankfully Ford has a handful of trim levels to choose from, and there’s a perfect Bronco for nearly any budget and driver. Even if you’re a total newbie, make sure to take the Bronco on off-road adventures often, rather than wasting all the of its potential.