The signs are right there in front of you: the 2022 Ford Maverick compact pickup has some latent performance potential. With its available turbocharged 2.0-liter “EcoBoost” engine and optional all-wheel-drive, the little Maverick should already be a solid performer. Credit the fact the 250 hp four-pot only has to move around 3,700 pounds of truck. But there are spicier powertrain options that, in theory, can find a home under the Maverick’s hood, and that inspired us to imagine what a Maverick ST might look like.

Let’s deal with the plausible tangibles before we get into our speculative Maverick ST. The unibody Maverick rides on the C2 platform, which it shares with the Bronco Sport, the Escape, the European-market Focus, and—most importantly—the Lincoln Corsair. The little Lincoln SUV offers the Blue Oval’s small-bore performance engine under its hood: a turbocharged 2.3-liter I-4 that produces 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.

But the Corsair is merely proof the 2.3-liter works with the C2 platform. This engine comes in a variety of tunes (and several longitudinal applications), making as much as 345 hp in the departed Ford Focus RS and as little as 269 ponies in the Ranger.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, Ford goes the conservative route and gives our hypothetical Maverick ST a variant of the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that produces 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Such performance would represent a 30-hp and 33 lb-ft bump over the 2.0-liter unit Ford plans to offer in the Maverick out of the gate. These figures would also be roughly on par with those of the European-market Focus ST.

But the Focus ST might be able to lend some handling and performance hardware to the Maverick ST (remember the FWD Maverick already benefits from the Euro-market Fiesta ST’s nifty “Force Vectoring Spring” design). Maybe the Focus ST’s electronic limited-slip differential could help a front-drive Maverick ST put down some power? The hot hatch’s fun anti-lag system in Sport and Track drive modes could provide an extra bit of thrill.

Moreover, the time has arrived for a truly street-focused performance truck. The Maverick already embodies the sort of clever compromises that allow it to be an entry-level compact sedan replacement, particularly in its fuel-sipping gasoline-electric hybrid form. Its stiff, lightweight unibody design means it doesn’t suffer the weight and rigidity compromises that were inherent in its spiritual ancestor, the compact Ranger of yore.

The little Maverick also looks good lowered on dark performance wheels, with a dark grille and the red pop of Ford’s ST badge. The lip on the top of the tailgate, unchanged in our render, even vaguely suggests a decklid spoiler.

Other small trucks have tried to pull this formula off. The GMC Syclone, a cousin to the Typhoon SUV, shocked the establishment and overshadowed its contemporary full-size sport truck competition with its sheer audacity. But it was also expensive, and definitely not mainstream. The old Toyota Tacoma X-Runner was less ambitious, with its truckish 4.0-liter V-6 engine but still impressive road-holding ability. The fact it’s not around anymore tells you what you need to know about how buyers responded to the formula.

The Maverick ST seems, to us, a more plausible offering. The appropriate powertrain fits in the application, it’s already cribbing performance parts from the company’s overseas hatchbacks, and the Explorer ST and Edge ST need some companionship in the brand’s lineup. A lower-cost, fun-to-drive Maverick that pairs legitimate street performance with unbeatable utility might be just what Ford needs to raise the Maverick’s profile.

The post A Ford Maverick ST Could Be Lightning in a Compact Truck Bottle appeared first on MotorTrend.

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