2021 Ford F-150 Tremor First Drive Review | Borrowing some of Bronco's party tricks

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Holly Oaks, Mich – The 2021 F-150 Tremor is Ford’s latest addition to its mid-tier off-roading family. Joining the Super Duty and Ranger models of the same name, the new half-ton slots in between the FX4 off-road package and its full-blown Raptor model(s), giving potential buyers access to increased capability without having to cough up the sort of money its halo trucks go for.

When Ford first announced the half-ton variant of the Tremor, we equated it to a Junior-Varsity Raptor. That comparison still stands, but to put it in a broader context, it’s meant to compete with the likes of the Chevy Silverado Trail Boss, GMC Sierra AT4, Ram 1500 Rebel and Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. It’s a little more capable than the FX4 package, but lacks the higher-performance powertrain and suspension upgrades of the Raptor.

Based on a short-bed Super Crew model, the Tremor’s standard upgrades include unique front hub knuckles and upper control arms, front monotube and rear twin-tube shocks, 33-inch all-terrain tires mounted on 18-inch wheels, a 1-inch wider stance, and a Raptor-inspired front skid plate. Compared to a standard F-150 4x4 of the same configuration, the Tremor gains 1.5 inches of ground clearance in the rear and 1 inch up front (listed ground clearance is 9.4 inches). It also comes with a standard locking differential in the rear and an optional Torsen limited-slip differential up front.

Ford says this is all good for an approach angle of 27.6 degrees, breakover angle of 21.2 degrees and departure angle of 24.3 degrees. Raptor checks in at 31.0 degrees, 23.9 degrees and 22.7 degrees, respectively, with the standard 35-inch tire. The Tremor also gets the FX4 off-road package's powertrain programming and drive modes, plus some new tricks of its own, including the one-pedal drive mode and Trail Turn Assist features we found so handy on the 2021 Ford Bronco.

It’s powered by a 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V6 good for 400 horsepower. That's 50 fewer ponies than Raptor's version of this engine (new or old), but it's still respectable. While the similarities may imbue the Tremor with a “Raptor Classic” vibe, Ford drew a hard line that it wouldn’t let the new mid-range offering cross (hence the lack of an available front locker or rear coil suspension). Ford says it’s open to expanding the Tremor’s powertrain suite if customers want different engines, but it has no plans to do so for the foreseeable future. Want a Tremor with the PowerBoost hybrid or V8? Make your voice heard at your dealership.

Ford brought out a trio of Tremors for media to sample at Holly Oaks ORV Park in southeast Michigan – your author’s unofficial off-road stomping ground. Coincidentally, the course mapped out for Tremor overlapped quite a bit with the one Jeep prescribed when we tested out the Wrangler Xtreme Recon package back in September, only this time, there was far less mud. Bummer. Mud is fun.

Let’s get this out of the way off the top: off-roading in a half-ton pickup is a far more cerebral process than doing so in a smaller, more purpose-built 4x4 like a Bronco or Wrangler. To note that they’re longer, taller and wider may seem like emphasizing the obvious, but these dimensional challenges actually help rationalize the utility of some of the Tremor’s features.

Ford was keen to demonstrate this, routing us through tight kinks where the Trail Turn Assist could really flex. If you’re not familiar, the basic idea of Trail Turn Assist is to over-drive the outside rear wheel and brake/under-drive the inside rear wheel to effectively pirouette around it, tightening the truck’s overall turning radius. This is especially helpful when your turning circle is compromised by four-wheel drive, and doubly so when you have a longer vehicle.

And it works. We knew that already, but what can seem like a novelty in the Bronco makes more sense here with 3.5 feet more vehicle to contend with. The ability to tighten a turn can make the difference between continuing on and having to reverse out – or even worse, simply remaining stuck. The Tremor’s camera package (optional on Base or Mid grades; standard with the High grade package) is especially helpful considering the massive blind spot out front resulting from the long hood and its upright nose. The front camera is an absolute life-saver when traversing blind crests or approaching pointy surface obstacles.

The other hand-me-down from Ford’s more-advanced 4x4s, its one-pedal-driving mode, isn’t quite as helpful here. It still functions the same way it does in Ford’s other off-roaders, but the heft of a half-ton pickup makes it a bit more difficult to finesse. While Trail Turn Assist gets more useful the bigger and longer your truck gets, one-pedal driving is more satisfying the smaller your vehicle is.

If you’ve ever driven a heavy car or truck with a manual transmission (or locked an automatic into first gear), you’re probably familiar with the lashing sensation that can result when you’re not smooth with your throttle inputs. Five-thousand pounds is a lot of weight to manage, and Ford’s calibration requires a pretty healthy shove of the accelerator to get things moving in one-pedal drive mode. Using it with the precision necessary to make it worthwhile for crawling over rocks and boulders will require some practice.

Our time with the Tremor was quite brief and we weren’t able to sample it on pavement, but we can confidently say that it does the job Ford wants it to: serve as an alternative to the middle-tier 4x4 models offered by the competition without cannibalizing Raptor sales. The cheapest Tremor will set you back $51,200 (including $1,695 for destination) and it comes loaded up for just a hair less than the approximately $65,000 base price of a new Raptor.

While a Silverado Trail Boss can be had in the low-$40,000 range, building the Chevy with an equivalent engine will get you into the same ballpark as the Tremor. By that metric, Ford's mid-range offering appears to be a good fit for a market that can’t seem to get enough off-road trucks, and between Raptor R and whatever GM has in store for its half-ton lineup, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

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