We have yet another Ford mystery mule on our hands. This Ford Maverick was spotted on the company’s proving grounds sporting an odd combination of camouflage and mix-and-match body elements, leading us to believe that Ford is testing either a new or upgraded powertrain.
Let’s start with the exhaust outlets, because they’re certainly a departure from what we’ve seen on production trucks. Rather than a single, under-bed outlet on the driver’s side, this prototype appears to have outlets exiting from what are currently rear bumper inserts. Our spy included an old photo of the EcoBoost turbo engine’s current single exhaust setup, which we’ve modified for the purposes of this
The red circles highlight the inserts where the bushings for the exhaust hangers go. Since the EcoBoost has only one outlet, it would stand to reason that the one on the right (passenger side) in this photo, which doesn’t currently have anything inserted, was engineered for that purpose. The current outlet exits just beneath the inserts in the bumper (just out of frame; follow the yellow arrow), which is what appear to have been cut out for this mule:
But wait, there’s more. The grille and front fascia have been modified too. Normally, an EcoBoost Maverick has a lower bumper fascia with a grille insert behind which the intercooler lives. That in turn is flanked by tow hook recesses and small fog lamps or inserts. This bumper appears to be from the base (hybrid) model, but there still appears to be some sort of heat exchanger in that center section. Whether that’s an intercooler for the turbo, part of the air conditioning system, an oil cooler or just an optical illusion is difficult to say from this distance.
We can see another heat exchanger juuuust peeking out above the lower grille insert, but note that behind it Ford has used its camo tape to cover up the remainder of the opening leading to the engine bay. Taken together with what we noted above, this seems backwards for a high-performance application, which we’d expect to require more cooling, not less. Especially considering this is a pickup truck.
It seems odd that Ford would go to any lengths at all to disguise what are likely unfinished wheel well openings. The wheel design itself being disguised is also strange; Ford could have simply used a wheel from another model of Maverick if they were just going to cover them up.
Is high performance the wrong read here? Is Ford instead working on another hybrid variant? Perhaps a PHEV? The exhaust routing could be necessary to clear a larger under-bed battery pack. So, where does that leave us? Puzzled, for sure, but equally intrigued.