2021 Ford F-150 Tremor First Drive Review: Trail Toolbox

Subbrands are where it’s at nowadays. GMC has Denali and now AT4; Buick is trying to get Avenir off the ground; and Ford is joining the marketing fun with its Tremor subbrand for pickup trucks. The off-road-oriented Tremors all get a smattering of interior and exterior spiffs plus some helpful rock-climbing hardware. In the 2021 F-150 Tremor’s case, that includes new monotube front shocks, retuned springs that lift the truck 1.2 inches, a Raptor-style front skidplate, and a suite of new off-road technologies like a trail-oriented one-pedal driving mode.

We described all of this last December, and now we’ve had a chance to shake the Tremor down at a local off-road park. So does this iteration of the Tremor subbrand stand tall as a Raptor-Lite, or is it more of a paper tiger up on its tiptoes? And more important—how well might it fare in a forthcoming Ram Rebel/Chevy Silverado ZR2 three-way showdown?

Ford F-150 Tremor Mimics an EV with Trail One-Pedal Driving

Climbing tricky, technical rock courses often demands full concentration and minute applications of throttle and braking—just the sort of thing the Rivian R1T proved great at doing on our Trans-America Trail adventure. So Ford is emulating that capability with Trail One-Pedal Drive, which comes bundled with Trail Control (an off-road cruise control that can be set in half-mph increments up to 12 mph).

Press a button mounted above the info screen marked with a truck on a bumpy road once, and a note flashes on the screen: “Trail 1-Pedal Drive Active, Use SET Button for Trail Control.” Activating it with the transfer case in 4Lo permits very fine applications of torque when you tip into the throttle, followed by careful application of the brakes when you lift, attended by some noise from the ABS solenoids mounted to the firewall. All these sounds and vibrations kind of spoil the illusion of electric one-pedal driving, but the system worked well, and it allowed us to climb the toughest rock trail with minimal engine revving and wheelspin. Simply letting Trail Control walk the truck up and over daunting rocks and other obstacles at 1 mph or so gets the job done with even less drama and makes you look like a pro.

Trail Turn Assist

This feature works just like Toyota’s Off-Road Turn Assist feature and others, and it recently appeared on the Bronco SUV. On loose surfaces, it tightens the turning radius by locking the inside rear tire and overdriving the outside tires (so obviously it doesn’t work with the rear differential locked).

To activate it on the Ford F-150 Tremor, press the Features icon on the home screen. (If an off-road terrain mode is active that automatically switches on the front camera, you may have to press the camera button to find this screen.) Then just touch the virtual slider to activate Off-Road Turn Assist. While you’re off-roading, the easiest way to toggle it on and off is just by switching the rear diff lock on and off (via the button centered in the drive mode knob). The feature required considerable throttle input on some hard-packed surfaces we sampled, even with our feet off the pedals and Trail Control set to 1 mph.

How the Ford F-150 Tremor Stacks Up

Color us impressed with the general capability of this package. The 33-inch General Grabber all-terrain tires deliver reasonable grip, the 3.73:1 axle ratio and 2.64:1 low-range ratio combine for a decent 46.2:1 crawl ratio, and the locking rear and optional ($500) Torsen front diff ensure this Ford makes the most of the available traction. The ground clearance and angles seem reasonable for a full-size pickup.

This Tremor represents a reasonable midpoint, biased closer to Raptor than to FX4 in terms of capability, that should be a reasonable match for a similarly configured Ram 1500 Rebel with a Hemi ($55,340). Chevy’s Silverado ZR2 may hold an off-road performance advantage with its Multimatic spool-valve dampers, though likely at a higher price point and certainly with a lower capacity for towing and hauling, at 8,900 and 1,440 pounds respectively versus the Tremor’s 10,900 and 1,885.

F-150 Tremor Availability: One Trim Grade, Three Packages

Ranger buyers can order the Tremor trim as a $4,290 package on 4WD SuperCrew versions of the XLT and Lariat models, and Super Duty buyers pay $3,975 for the package on XLT, Lariat, and King Ranch grades of 4WD single-rear-wheel models. But on the F-150, the Tremor is its own stand-alone trim level, offered only with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, 4WD, a SuperCrew cab, and a 5.5-foot box for $51,200. That’s $2,755 more than an equivalent XLT and $2,725 less than a similar Lariat.

This price includes cloth seats, a plastic steering wheel, incandescent headlamps, and other more basic trim, but it can be upgraded in two big steps. You definitely need to order the 401A Mid package ($6,065) to get the aforementioned Trail Control, Trail One-Pedal Drive, and trail turn assist features. But you’ll be sorely tempted by the $13,445 402A High pack’s Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0 smart cruise with lane centering, black leather with orange accents, towing tech, B&O Play sound system, and other niceties. The 2021 Ford F-150 Tremor is on sale now; the clash of the three midlevel off-road half-ton pickups will have to wait for the Silverado ZR2’s release in early 2022.

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