Off-Roading

Ford's new Tremor Package proves ready to play at the off-road playground

Ford's truck engineering team has taken the Super Duty to the next level.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Before test driving the 2020 Ford F-350, I climbed to the rim of the Custom Landscape Materials Big Horn Quarry near Wickenburg, Arizona to whet my appetite for what lay ahead. With the excitement of a child arriving at an amusement park and assessing the rides, I eyeballed the off-road playground with its snaking track that started with a climb over a stretch of jagged rocks that led to steep uphill and downhill grades; over patches of deep, gooey mud; through water crossings; and across off-camber sidehills at sharp angles. I was enthralled.

The track was designed by Ford Trucks engineer Bobby Keith to show off the prowess of the 2020 Ford Super Duty when equipped with its new Tremor Off-Road Package. The 1.1-mile-long test track is the most extreme course Keith has ever built.

2020 Ford Super Duty Tremor Journalists put the Ford Super Duty to the test on an trying off-road course.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

What is the Ford Super Duty Tremor Off-Road Package?

The Tremor Off-Road Package is a collection of off-road hardware, as well as unique tuning for the truck's steering and a smaller sway bar to provide greater maneuverability in tight turns and over uneven terrain. Elevating the truck are beefy Goodyear tires mounted on a set of unique 18-inch matte-finished black wheels, plus an extra two inches of lift giving the pickup a best-in-class 10.8 inches of ground clearance and the ability to ford nearly three feet of water. Aiding with the best approach and departure angles of any Super Duty ever is a 5-inch shorter air dam that provides impressive 31.65-degree and 24.51-degree angles, respectively.

Also unique to the package is rock-crawl mode; an upgraded suspension with different spring rates; off-road running boards for damage control; and skid plates from the FX4. Tremor uses a locking rear differential that engages with electronic shift-on-the-fly, and a new Dana limited-slip front differential. Trail Control, a crawl program that debuted on the Ford F-150 Raptor and Ranger operates like a cruise control for uphills and rough terrain.

The Tremor package ($3,975) can be ordered can be ordered on XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum trims for F-250 and F-350 models, powered by the all-new 7.3-liter gas V8 or the updated third-generation diesel engine. It can be specified for 4x4 single-rear-wheel SuperCrew trucks with a 6.75-foot box. Available as a factory-ordered or dealer-installed package is a $3,000 Warn winch add-on with synthetic line (rather than steel cable) that is integrated into the front bumper; it meets crash standards and is operated by a wireless remote.

Of note, towing and payload are similar to non-Tremor models that command best-in-class ratings.

2020 For DSuper Duty Tremor The already-capable truck is able to tackle tough terrain with ease.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

How does it stack up against the competition?

The Super Duty with the Tremor Off-Road Package takes Ford's FX4 models to a new level. Rock-crawl mode and Trail Control get traction to the ground and provide plenty of grunt (models equipped with a 7.3-liter gas engine have a 53:1 crawl ratio while trucks with the 6.7-liter diesel power plant have a 44:1 crawl ratio).

It gets high marks for its serious off-road cred and goes beyond similar offerings from Ram and GM. Ram's Power Wagon is available on 2500 models only. While the Power Wagon has many appealing attributes, such as a disconnecting sway bar and locking differentials for both the front and rear, Tremor's set-up works laudably. The Super Duty Tremor's smaller 24 mm sway bar and other engineering upgrades were effective for twist and articulation and gave a smooth, mannered ride with progressive-rate springs for duty on rugged terrain, as well as for heavy-duty towing performance.

General Motors' AT4 grade is available on Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and 2500, and GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500. It adds some similar attributes but the Tremor pulls ahead with greater towing capacity, payload capacity, ground clearance, and water-fording depth than the Ram and GM trucks.

The GMC, Ram, and Ford trucks have the best-appointed interiors of the lot. All have new camera technologies, with GM's 15-camera view being the best pick for towing tasks.

2020 Ford Super Duty Ford built the Tremor Off-Road Package to take on trails with ease.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

How did it do?

There's no doubting that the Tremor Off-Road Package is capable of doing exactly what it was designed for. In combination with the prowess of the F-350, as tested the Super Duty took on 33-inches of water fording with ease, smoothly held its own on a 15-degree off-camber hill, walked over 45-degree angled logs, and scooted up a 29-degree hill climb without hesitation. The Ford's camera system helped with low-sitting obstacles and peeking over hills, as advertised.

Ford Trucks engineers have made the package able to conquer some of the toughest terrain you're likely to find when you're on the farm, up a back road, or simply off the beaten path. The model isn't a Jeep competitor and it's not meant to be. This heavy-duty truck is able to get work and play done, son.

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New off-roader

Ford Bronco Production Officially Begins

The Ford Bronco is finally ready for primetime.

Ford

The time is finally here. After years of speculation and several months of pandemic-related delays, the Ford Bronco is starting to roll off the assembly line. The SUV marks the first new Bronco model in Ford's lineup in 15 years, not counting the Bronco Sport, and is one of the most hyped and sought-after vehicles to hit the market in quite some time. Ford's announcement that production has begun will be accompanied by a special YouTube presentation that Ford says will include interviews with the Bronco team and with reservation holders at the automaker's new Modification Center.


2021 Ford Bronco Ford added 2,700 jobs to support Bronco production.Ford


Bronco production has driven Ford to invest $750 million into its Michigan Assembly Plant, and the automaker says it has added 2,700 jobs to support the rollout. Ford's push to begin production can't come soon enough. Over 125,000 Bronco orders have been placed, and multiple delays have pushed the vehicle's arrival back, meaning there is considerable demand for the off-road legend.

Ford is ready to capitalize on the craze and will offer several ways to customize the new vehicle. At its 1.7 million square-foot Modification Center, The Blue Oval will factory-install several optional modifications that include equipment such as a front bumper safari bar, graphics packages, roof racks, and more. That's on top of more than 200 factory-backed accessories that can be installed at the dealer, either at or after the time of purchase.


2021 Ford Bronco Delays and production difficulties have pushed the Bronco back.Ford


If you are hoping to get behind the wheel of a new Bronco, it could be a while. Even buyers that have been in line for a while now might not see their new vehicle until late 2021 or 2022, and the vehicle's official rollout will almost certainly re-spike demand. Even so, many feel it's worth the wait, and Ford's vehicle configuration tool is live, so go check it out for yourself.

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The Nissan Pathfinder is just at home on the trial as it is on the road.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". The message is about making choices and, how the road taken made all the difference. Often in life and on the road, we have to make one choice. Take one road. No turning back. I thought of this poem on my recent test drive in the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder in the hinterlands of Montana, when I could take two different roads—paved and dirt—and that made all the difference!

Nissan has redesigned and retooled its fifth-generation Pathfinder instilling greater latitude for buyers who want to travel both types of roads and expand their adventure footprint. After seven decades of off-road development, 35 years in the business of selling Pathfinders, and with more than 1.8 million sold in the U.S., this Japanese automaker has moved the needle with a ground-up revision of the previous-gen model.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is a capable off-roader.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The full-sized sport utility is available in four trims (S, SV, SL and Platinum) and two- and four-wheel drive versions; Nissan expects that nearly 60 percent of buyers will choose four-wheel drive. The Pathfinder is in a segment that has grown larger each year as more families want a vehicle for around-town, school and playdate runs and for weekend getaways with traction technology that allows travel in the backcountry and good towing capability. Direct competitors are the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer.

A day-long drive of approximately 150 miles on tarmac and over a variety of dirt roads and tracks provided the opportunity to assess the Pathfinder's updates. A late-spring snowstorm added slickness to all the road surfaces in the region and allowed the Pathfinder to show off its traction capabilities at both slow and higher speeds and with lane change and emergency-braking maneuvers, when towing. I concentrated my evaluation on the augmented hardware and software designed to enhance the crossover's capabilities for backcountry travel and towing.

What I found most notable over every road surface was the comfortable ride and responsive handling that come from a collection of upgrades—and, in particular, as a result of the following: the gearing on the new nine-speed transmission, with paddle shifters for personal and more precise shifting for sport driving and slowing over rough terrain; the new terrain mode system that's engineered for different driving conditions; the four-wheel drive system that moves torque more quickly to avoid wheel slip; the improved suspension system; and new tires with a larger contact patch and more aggressive tread pattern, among other changes.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Pathfinder's drive modes are designed to inspire confidence. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Pathfinder provided sure-footed motoring and comfort over uneven surfaces. Its 7.1 inches of ground clearance easily maneuvered over the small obstacles on the trail and hill descent control took the reigns without hesitation for steeper and longer downhills on traction-compromised surfaces.

I was also impressed with the Pathfinder's towing competence and appreciated the standard trailer sway control onboard all trims. It offered notably strong, mannered acceleration from a standing start and excellent straight-line braking without porpoising for either exercise.

The new 2022 Pathfinder brings off-road and towing attributes that are important to families who are seeking to spend time in the backcountry for days trips and longer and for overlanding in terrain that doesn't require a true off-road vehicle with a low range. It's will appeal to buyers who want don't want to have to choose only one road.

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