The Raptor for Grown Ups

Kristin

What is a tremor anyhow? Is it a symptom of a nerve disorder? A smallish earthquake? No matter, Ford has used the name on off-road versions of the Ranger and F-250 and now there’s an F-150 Tremor too. Think of it as a Raptor for people who want to cover trails instead of deserts. Or maybe it’s a Raptor for people who are wary of that truck’s vibe. Whatever the marketing justification, it’s another slice of F-150 in Ford’s never-ending quest to leave no market sliver unserved.

Also, it’s dang good.

Tremor is, pretty much, to Ford what TRD Pro is to Toyota. It’s branding for trim levels that pack in tech optimized for covering ground carefully. It’s a high-tech land crawler. The kind of truck perfect for someone who wants to make it to the remote fishing site with their dignity attached carrying everything they need to get some great hook ups. It’s not something for barking along Ocean Drive in Miami or the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood trawling for the other kind of hook ups.

Toward that end, the Tremor gets a revised suspension with specific springs, beefed up front hubs and upper control arms, and an additional inch of ground clearance. The 18-inch wheels are Raptor-like (though not Raptor wheels) and thanks to specific offsets, increase the track by an inch. Those matte black wheels are inside 33-inch tall P275/70R18 General Grabber all-terrain tires. There are also “bash plates” (Ford’s term) swiped from the Raptor that protect things.

Beyond that, the sampled truck included an optional ($1000) Torsen limited slip front differential. The usual four-wheel drive stuff is also along including an automatically selectable dual-range, torque-on-demand transfer case (which Ford describes as “similar to the high-performance unit in the F-150 Raptor) and a locking rear diff. It’s an admixture of full-time all-wheel drive and off-road optimized four-wheel drive.

2021 ford f 150 tremor

Ford

Then there’s the electronic wonders beyond that. There are selectable drive modes for most any terrain short of the Martian surface, hill descent control, “Trail Control” which holds the truck at driver-chosen speed, and an “One Pedal” system that modulate the throttle and braking in tough situations so that steering is the only thing the driver needs to worry about. And then, beyond even that, there’s a turn-assist system that facilitates tighter turning radiuses in tough situations. Or even in easy situations.

It’s not as if the F-150 FX4 isn’t already a capable off-roader. In fact, it’s way more capable than most owners will ever need. But the Tremor gives an extra measure of ability, a bit better approach and departure angles, for anyone who needs it. Well “need” is a big word. “Want” however is another thing altogether. And it’s “want” that sells trucks.

2021 ford f 150 tremor

Ford

The Tremor package is a $13,445 option atop the $49,505 base price of a 2021 F-150 4×4 pickup. Throw in a few more choice options like a $995 on board power generator, a $695 power tailgate and a $595 spray-in bedliner and the total chit for this truck was $68,400… plus a thrilling $1695 destination charge. That puts this as a $70,095 half-ton pickup truck.

Get past all the Tremor things however, and what’s most impressive about this beast is the F-150 part. Ford has been tweaking the 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V-6 over the more than a decade it’s been in production. In the 2021 F-150 (this truck is a 2021) it’s rated at 400-horseower at 6000 rpm and a stout 500-pound feet of peak torque at just 3100 rpm.

Those numbers, however, only hint at how sweet the 3.5 EcoBoost works. The torque is abundant from off-idle to redline, it’s perfectly paired to the 10-speed automatic transmission (itself a sweetly evolving thing) and now even makes a decent exhaust note. With competitors like the 3.5-liter twin turbo six now offered in the 2022 Toyota Tundra, it will take a back-to-back comparison to evaluate which is best. But, at least in behavior if not in testable durability, the EcoBoost is beguiling. Yes, it works better than Ford’s available 400-horsepower, 5.0-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V8 and with a massive 90-pound foot advantage in torque production.

It’s also a great looking truck. Ford has cleanly developed this F-150 body since it was introduced with all sorts of fanfare about its all-aluminum construction back in 2015. The big update that came with 2021 model includes a neat reworking of the grille, slick multi-part headlights and a better integrated front bumper.

2021 ford f 150 tremor

Ford

The Tremor pack pushes the attractiveness further with “Active Orange” trim inside and out. It’s a vibrant accent color, even if it still comes across as much more subdued than the flared fender Raptor.

Inside the interior was also thoroughly thumped for 2021. There’s a massive center screen as the whole world is in love with big screens, and loads of cubbyholes for stuff. While other trucks (Tundra again) have moved more functions to the big screen, Ford has stayed with separate buttons. So many buttons and digital displays – there are no real instruments any more – that the F-150 is approaching the intimidation of commercial aircraft.

The seats are fantastic, the quality of the materials seems to be excellent, and there’s plenty of room in the cab. Come on, the thing is huge. There’s ought to be room inside.

2021 ford f 150 tremor

Ford

There’s so much ability here, so many ways to tune the truck to particular conditions, that it would take literally months to evaluate it under every circumstance. After all snow and sand don’t often co-exist with one another, and rocks come in hundreds of shapes. But in this limited exposure, no terrain was beyond it.

Where the Tremor is compromised is on road where it will likely spend most of its time. The Grabber tires seem to be tenacious off-road, but they make a humming racket on some surfaces and the leaf-sprung rear suspension isn’t as settled as the coil springs used on the Ram 1500 and Tundra. It’s nothing terrible, but trucks have become such insanely well-developed products that the slight differences in how they ride and handle is noticeable. The Ford’s steering is kind of numb, but no more so than its competitors while its precision seems better. Slightly better.

2021 ford f 150 tremor

Ford

The other criticism is the 5.5-foot bed length. On a truck this massive, that can simply not be enough length for someone hauling, say, dirt bikes along with fuel tanks and camping gear. A longer bed version would result in an even more massive truck, and likely require a move up from the 145.6-inch wheelbase to something like the 157.2-inch wheelbase used on SuperCrew F-150s with the 6.5-foot box. That’s too unwieldy for a lot of trail work.

At a time when gas is approaching six bucks a gallon even at the cheap stations here in California, a truck like this one may have become harder to justify. The EPA rating of 16 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway, however, counts as impressive achievement. This thing, after all, has a massive frontal area, is always running in all-wheel drive, has a 400-horsepower engine, and weighs about 5000 pounds. Stay in the turbos and fuel economy drops off precipitously. But driven gently those EPA numbers are at least possible. Not probable, but possible.

While $70K is a big ticket for this big truck, it’s at least easy to see where the value is. It’s more truck than most anyone will ever need. But it sure is easy to want. No nervous order is necessary.

2021 ford f 150 tremor

Ford

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