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 TremorJournalists 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 TremorThe 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 DutyFord 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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The Ascent got updated styling and fresh tech.

Subaru

Subaru's lineup is full of useful, adventure-ready vehicles, but most are not accommodating for full-size families. The Ascent solved that issue for the automaker a few years ago, and has been a popular family option since. It got a mild update for 2023 with a facelift and new tech. The Ascent comes in five trims: Base, Premium, Onyx Edition, Limited, and Touring. It's expected to go on sale in fall 2022.

The Subaru comes with a new front fascia design that adds a new grille and aggressive styling up front. Lower air ducts help improve aerodynamics, and in higher trims the components come with chrome trim. The SUV's C-shaped taillights got a refresh as well, and now feature a sharper shape to better match the vehicle's overall styling.

2023 Subaru AscentThe new front fascia design is more aggressive than before. Subaru

The Ascent's powertrain remains in place, which is a turbocharged 2.54-liter four-cylinder making 260 horsepower. It sends power to all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission that offers a simulated eight-speed manual shifting mode. Subaru's X-Mode driving mode comes standard, which alters throttle response and other vehicle behavior to maintain traction in slippery conditions. Torque vectoring, which allows the vehicle to shift torque between wheels that need it most, also comes standard.

A new Onyx Edition trim joins the Ascent line for 2022. It brings a standard 11.6-inch touchscreen with navigation, a Harman Kardon sound system, power seats, and a panoramic sunroof. The base Ascent comes with features such as 18-inch wheels, USB inputs, tri-zone automatic climate controls, three rows of seating, and a whopping 19 cupholders. Subaru also offers an optional Cabin Connect system, which allows the driver or front passenger to communicate to people behind them through the stereo using a front-cabin-mounted microphone.

2023 Subaru AscentThe Ascent's interior is available with great tech, such as an 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Subaru

Subaru EyeSight safety equipment comes standard with every Ascent. The system is improved for 2023 with a wider field of vision and new software. A new wide-angle camera joins EyeSight's existing two-camera setup to provide better pedestrian and cyclist detection when approaching intersections. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and lane change assist are available.

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The 2023 Crosstrek starts at $23,645.

Subaru

Subaru is one of the best at listening to its customers' needs, and the Crosstrek is a great example of that mindset. It's a useful vehicle with plenty of interior space and enough ground clearance to take its passengers well of the beaten path. Today, Subaru announced pricing for the 2023 Crosstrek and Crosstrek Hybrid. The duo will go on sale this summer.

Subaru CrosstrekThe Crosstrek's cabin is adventure-ready and packed with great tech. Subaru

The standard Crosstrek starts at $23,645 before destination and the Crosstrek Hybrid starts at $36,845. Five trims are available for the standard model, including Base, Premium, a new Special Edition, Sport, and Limited. The Hybrid comes in a single trim level. All Crosstrek variants get all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring and 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

The Base, Premium, and Special Edition trims come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 152 horsepower. The Sport and Limited trims get a 2.5-liter four-cylinder making 182 horsepower. Most models come with a continuously variable transmission, but the Base and Premium trims come standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. The Crosstrek Hybrid comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired with two electric motors. The plug-in system can deliver 17 miles of electric range.

Subaru CrosstrekThe Crosstrek delivers 8.7 inches of ground clearance.Subaru

True to Subaru form, the Crosstrek comes with a full suite of advanced driver aids, including automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure alerts, adaptive cruise, and more. These features are only available for CVT-equipped models. The Limited trim and the Crosstrek Hybrid add automatic high beams, reverse automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alerts.

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