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ROAD TEST | F-150 Tremor perfect for getting to deer hire

If you need a pickup truck that can haul hay bales or lumber during the week and climb mountain trails on the weekends, you’re probably already familiar with Ford’s Tremor packages.

Available on the full-size F-150, heavy-duty models, Expedition and mid-size Ranger, the packages increase towing and payload capacity and feature upgraded suspension and drivetrain hardware. They also make new off-road technologies available.

Vine insists Tremor is also coming for the Blue Oval’s latest commercial success, the Maverick compact pickup, but Ford has yet to confirm or deny that.

The plans are expensive, but in today’s market, where demand exceeds supply, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Tremor for the Rangers is $4,290. That adds $6,065 to the price of an F-150.

Either way, Ford is requiring owners to upgrade to upscale XLT or upscale Lariat models and SuperCrew cabs. A base F-150 starts at $30,495. Our 4×4 SuperCrew started at $49,505. The Tremor package included almost half of a list of options, and we don’t recommend removing any of them.

An on-board generator ($995) can power a campsite for days. Power sliding mirror ($350), tailgate step ($430), interior work surface ($165), lockable storage ($215), 360 degree camera package ($765), a spray-on bed liner ($595) and trailer towing package ($1,090) are nice to have.

Ford’s Co-pilot 360 Assist 2.0 package ($750) takes much of the stress out of highway driving and can save drivers from major wrecks and fender benders. A suite of driver assistance features helps avoid the main causes of frontal, rollover, rear-end and T-shaped crashes. It also monitors for impending collisions with poles and curbs and warns when is about to back away from oncoming traffic in parking lots.

He understands:

• Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking

• Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert

• Rear view camera

• Automatic high beams

• Adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go and lane centering

• Evasive steering assistance

• Braking after collision

You still have to be attentive and exercise good judgment, but it can save your life to have an always attentive co-pilot.

Add it all up, including $1,695 for delivery, and our pickup weighed in at $63,120, more than double the base price of an F-150. Hey, we know people who have paid more.

With money comes ability

Whether a pickup is worth that kind of money is purely subjective. An F-150 Raptor will cost $10,000 more and do more. On the other hand, not everyone needs the Raptor’s ability to hover in the air and land with the utmost of ease or the ability to fly dirt roads at triple-digit speeds.

However, most truck buyers will need some of the many off-road benefits of a factory-built truck. Improved suspension starts with retuned front and rear springs for increased ground clearance and to help keep the tires more firmly in contact with the terrain. The front hub joints and upper control arms are stronger. Tremor-specific monotube shocks up front and twin-tube shocks in the rear are tuned for softer low-speed damping, with added damping and control for more severe off-road events.

Surprisingly, all that lifting and strengthening civilizes the typically bouncy Ford pickup. The Tremor rides a bit better, but not as well as the Raptor, which this year borrowed a big idea from Ram by ditching the rear leaf springs for a car-like multi-link setup.

The Tremor’s superior acoustic engineering delivers a quiet cabin, despite running 33-inch General Grabber all-terrain tires on 18-inch wheels. The setup offers extra ground clearance and a 1-inch wider stance for more off-road confidence, but tire screech is non-existent inside.

A Raptor-style skid plate serves to protect the front-end components. All of these changes together result in an approach angle of 27.6 degrees, a rollover angle of 21.2 degrees and a departure angle of 24.3 degrees. Tremor has 1.5 inches more total travel in the rear and an extra inch of total travel up front than a standard F-150.

All of this pushed the ground clearance to 13.1 inches, which will get the truck through plenty of streams and rocks.

For entering and traversing tough, rocky trails, the standard undercarriage includes a locking rear differential. Our tester included an optional Torsen® limited-slip front end. Available is an on-demand torque transfer case like the Raptor’s high-performance unit. This state-of-the-art box merges all-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive capabilities and manages torque distribution.

When the going gets tough, the rugged Tremor doesn’t need watchers. The 360-degree camera array provides an in-cab view of obstacles around the truck and the front view camera provides a real-time tire track overlay to dynamically show the path of the wheels ahead. The 360-degree view and reverse cameras can be called up at higher speeds with a convenient dash-mounted hard button.

Selectable drive modes include Normal, Sport, Tow/Haul, Eco, Slippery and Deep Snow/Sand, and Mud/Rut modes. Tremor also features Rock Crawl mode, which automatically engages the rear locking differential, disables stability and traction control, reduces throttle response, adjusts shift points, and displays the camera view 360 degrees available on the central screen.

We rode a Tremor on rough off-road trails and found it to be surprisingly capable. A word of warning, though, the key ratio in off-road is not power-to-weight, it’s traction-to-weight. Lighter vehicles generally do better off the beaten path. The curb weight of an F-150 is around 5,000 pounds. A Jeep Wrangler weighs between 500 and 1,000 pounds. less.

Fuel economy suffers

Weighing Raptor vs Tremor, there is also fuel economy to consider. Both will average around 16 mpg, but the Tremor does it with regular unleaded. Thirsty Raptor wants the right things, shaken, not stirred. Both trucks we tested came with 3.5L Ecoboost V6 engines. With 400 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, it sits between work and play.

Still, we think Ford took a called third strike when it didn’t offer the 3.5L power boost with a full hybrid for the Tremor. Same power, more torque, better fuel economy, better reliability. Well, the all-electric Tremor is probably already on the drawing board.

Reliability is an issue

Of course, when you think of Ford, you have to think of reliability. Over the past five years, Ford has averaged more than $4 billion a year in warranty claims and has perhaps the highest unit rate of any manufacturer.

The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration has issued 11 recalls for the 2021 Ford F-150. The highest number of complaints relate to the electrical system, engine and powertrains. Our tester arrived with a low-speed drivetrain thrill. One wonders if this is not the result of a design flaw or life in the press fleet. My truck expert, Tim Esterdahl, notes that the transmission is a “learner,” adapting to driving styles and therefore needs time to rearrange things when an adult gets behind the wheel.

I tend to think that the problem, in this case, is life in the press fleet. A loudspeaker was also blown. How is it going ? Ford has used this 10-speed transmission for several years.

Under new CEO Jim Farley, cousin of the late comedian, Ford is making a concerted effort to reduce warranty costs. Farley, who came from Toyota, knows it will take time.

Do I think Ford and Farley will figure this out? Oh yeah. I recently bought added a small piece of Ford stock to my modest portfolio

In the meantime, the Blue Oval is making a ton of money off the pickups. In an age when dealerships of all brands load up on window decals, it’s not a bad time to look at one. Regional Ford dealerships offer low-interest financing and even cash bonuses on F-150 and Ranger pickups.

Test Drive is a self-review column written by Bill Owney.

Ford is expanding its family of off-road trucks with the all-new 2021 F-150 Tremor – a rugged 4×4 for work and play. (Ford Media Center)
photo Ford is expanding its off-road truck family with the all-new 2021 F-150 Tremor – a rugged 4×4 for work and play. (Ford Media Center)
photo Ford is expanding its off-road truck family with the all-new 2021 F-150 Tremor – a rugged 4×4 for work and play. (Ford Media Center)