New SUV

Ford Explorer gets King Ranch-ified for 2021 model year

The King Ranch trim level has been added to the Ford Explorer lineup for 2021.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The 2021 Ford Explorer is getting a King Ranch trim level. The midsize SUV's new grade combines rugged appearance and premium appointments for a look befitting the Texas ranch's name. Ford currently sells King Ranch versions of the Expedition, F-150, and Super Duty as well.

"In 1853, Captain Richard King bootstrapped the King Ranch in the harsh landscape of southern Texas until it became a shining example of agricultural and livestock innovation and success," said Lee Newcombe, Ford Explorer marketing manager. "Ford Explorer families can now enjoy a piece of the King Ranch's renowned craftsmanship and the multi-generation legacy that still thrives 168 years after its founding."

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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The Explorer King Ranch gets a Stone Gray-painted mesh grille insert, 20-inch aluminum wheels with Running W center cap, liftgate scuff plate, King Ranch badging, and quad chrome exhaust tips.

It is powered by a 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine that delivers 365 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The new version of the Explorer adds a standard Class III Trailer Tow Package, which makes the SUV capable of towing up to 5,600 pounds.

The interior of the new model gets mahogany-colored Mesa Del Rio perforated leather seats. The leather extends to the armrest. Both areas wear the King Ranch Running W logo. Leather door trim rollovers, a leather-wrapped and stitched instrument panel, Sapele wood appliqués, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with Norias stitching and a Salepe wood insert add sophistication.

"Introducing King Ranch's specialty leather, genuine wood, crafted details and signature colors to Ford Explorer elevates the SUV's brand," said Janet Seymour, Ford color and materials manager. "The warm, earthy Norias colorway, natural open pore wood appliqués and rope perforation design on the seats are just a couple ways we were able to bring the King Ranch lifestyle to a whole new group of customers."

Introducing the 2021 Explorer King Ranch® Edition | Explorer | Ford www.youtube.com

Buyers can add the Premium Technology Package to the model, which will give them multi-contour seats with massage functionality, a 10.1-inch informant touch screen, and a 14-speaker B&O Sound System.

Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ is standard on the model.

The Explorer King Ranch edition will start at $52,350 for rear-wheel-drive configuration and $54,350 MSRP for four-wheel drive models. It will be available in dealerships this spring.

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New compact pickup truck

2022 Ford Maverick: A small truck with big ability

The Maverick can tow up to 4,000 pounds when properly equipped.

Ford

Pickup trucks are big. And, over the past two decades as sales have skyrocketed in this segment of the automotive market, mid-sized, full-sized and Super Duty-sized trucks have grown more popular and larger in nearly every dimension. Bigger was better. However, for Ford and many buyers now, the option of a pickup with tidy dimensions is . The 2022 Ford Maverick is the revitalization of the compact truck and this all-new model is filled with a host of surprises and appealing features. Among the surprises are clever design and storage solutions, with the built-in opportunity for DIY customization, as well as a long list of available accessories.

2022 Ford Maverick The Maverick's bed can swallow 4x8 sheets of plywood.Ford

The Maverick starts at $19,995 and comes standard with a hybrid powertrain. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine is available. Ford says over 100,000 customers have already ordered the entry-level pickup that comes with a 4.5-foot bed and a crew cab body style only. Both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions are available, although AWD can be optioned with the gasoline engine. The mini-truck comes in XL, XLT and Lariat trims, with an available FX4 package that adds toughness and technology for off-the-road terrain. The package adds different suspension tuning, underbody protection, all-terrain tires, and backcountry drive modes, like Mud/Ruts and Sand, as well as Hill Descent Control. A First Edition Package offered for the first model year only comes on the Lariat trim and brings unique graphics, trims, and wheels. Sized like Ford's Ranger and other compact trucks of the past, Maverick is the solo offering in this reborn segment, although some might cross-shop it with the all-new Hyundai Santa Cruz that has a truck bed, but is pitched as a sports activity vehicle.

The Maverick is built on the same unibody platform and high-strength steel subframe as the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport. In the right light, it even looks a bit like the "baby Bronco" from the front with an upright body style, an eye-attracting front face and Ford's drop-down side windows. Standard LED headlights flank the grille while bed rail caps are vertical and extend from the bed to the top of the back window. One of the most appealing features of the truck is Flexbed that offers many different ways to organize and stow cargo within the bed's box 54.4-inch back end that can accommodate 4 x 8 sheets of plywood and has low sides for easy access along with a multi-position tailgate. Of note, Maverick has standard built-in 12-volt electrical power prewired on both sides of the bed at the rear to help with DIY electrical projects, plus two available 110-volt 400-watt outlets (one in the bed and one in the cabin) to power phones, laptops, small TVs and small corded tools. Fun features are under-the-bed stowage and a tailgate cleat that serves as a bottle opener.

2022 Ford Maverick An eight-inch touchscreen is standard. Ford

The base powertrain's hybrid is motivated by a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder that is shifted through Ford's PowerSplit CVT transmission; the internal combustion engine joins with an electric motor to improve fuel economy and bring a power boost. This Maverick version has 191 combined horsepower sent to the front wheels and 155 lb.-ft of torque while the 2.0-liter EcoBoost directs 250 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft of torque to either the front wheels or all (for the AWD) and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Drive modes include Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Tow/Haul. The hybrid has a payload of 1,500 pounds that can accommodate an ATV in back and a tow rating of 2,000 pounds, which will allow the truck to tow a pair of personal watercraft or small camper. The EcoBoost-powered truck equipped with the optional 4,000-pound Tow Package can tug a 21-foot boat.

We sampled a few different trucks and performed some towing and hauling exercises on roadways in the Nashville, TN environs. Top of our "likes" list is the hybrid powertrain that garnered great fuel economy and moves quickly when motivated by the throttle, as a result of good torque-on-tap. We were impressed by the backcountry prowess of the FX4 model that we motored on a dirt tow track that included a modest uphill climb and a section with a small rock ledge. The truck performed well with no slippage or drama. Of note, the AWD set-up has a more sophisticated rear suspension, a multi-link configuration in place of the front-driver's torsion-beam design.

2022 Ford Maverick Two powertrains are offered, including an incredibly efficient hybrid.Ford

The Maverick interior is somewhat simple and utilitarian, with materials and surfaces that favor function over form. The doors have large pockets that can hold a one-liter water bottle, and there are cupholders to hold up to 18 beverages, plus store a tablet or notebook. Base trucks are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-ready with a 8.0-inch touch screen for infotainment and ride on painted 17-inch steel wheels. Uplevel trucks get a few extra goodies, with wheel options that include 18-inchers. The five-passenger, four-door truck has a clever and deep stowage well under the rear seat that can even hold a fully-inflated basketball. The compact truck is projected to get better fuel economy than a Honda Civic; Ford says the hybrid can achieve up to 40 mpg city and has a 500-mile-long range on a single tank of gas. During our day-long drive exercises, we actually had a slightly higher rating.

There are a number of standard safety features onboard with Ford Co-Pilot 360, such as Pre-Collision Assist with Emergency Braking and Automatic High Beams Headlights and a list of optional safety technologies that includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Blind Spot Information with Cross Traffic Alert and more.

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Custom SUVs

Ford Bronco to rule SEMA this year

The Bronco RTR features a fun livery and several off-road upgrades.

Ford

The annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show is an opportunity for the aftermarket and manufacturers to come together on wildly customized vehicles and to show off the latest parts and tech in the space. Now that the Ford Bronco has finally made its way to the public, it's not surprising to see several wild SEMA takes on the hottest SUV to hit the market in some time.

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods The tracks are said to improve the Bronco's abilities in deep snow and ice.Ford

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods

The new Bronco is capable and rugged on its own, but Tucci Hot Rods felt it needed more. The shop gave it that boost with a set of tracks in place of wheels, which are said to be great for deep snow and ice. This Bronco features a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed manual transmission to go with its Mattracks 88-Series quad tracks.

2021 Bronco RTR Fun-Runner by RTR Vehicles

Vaghn Gittin Jr's RTR Vehicles imagined a Bronco package that could be installed at the dealer. The result is the Fun-Runner, which features several Ford Performance and Ford Licensed Accessories parts. It's based on a 2021 two-door Bronco Badlands, and comes with an eye-catching wrap, an Ultimate Dana 44 front axle, Ultimate Dana 60 semi-float rear axle, RCV Performance CV axles, and a performance intake for its four-cylinder engine.

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions SEMA presents an excellent opportunity for shops to show off their skill and imagination.Ford

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions

BDS is a subsidiary of Fox Shocks and has worked with Ford for quite some time. The results of that long-running relationship are on display with the BDS Bronco, which features Fox 2.5 PES coilovers, BDS rear adjustable control arms and track bar, swaybar disconnect, and 37-inch BFGoodrich KM3 tires. The Bronco's bumpers have been replaced with CrawlTek Revolution units that feature a recessed winch mount, recovery hooks and more.

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