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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Larger tires headline the upgrades.

Jeep

The off-road wars are heating up. This year alone, we've seen the new Ford Bronco, Rivian's R1T electric pickup truck, new off-road models of the Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon, and Chevrolet Silverado, and more rugged versions of the Subaru Outback and Forester. Jeep, already deep in the game, doesn't need to do much to bolster its off-road offering, but the brand is doing just that for 2022. The automaker is offering a new Xtreme Recon Package for the Wrangler Willys SUV, which brings more capability and style to the boxy off-roader.

Jeep Wrangler Willys Xtreme Recon Package The package can be ordered for Wrangler Willys models later this year. Jeep Wrangler Willys Xtreme Recon Package

Beyond beefy 35-inch tires tires, the Wrangler Willys with Xtreme Recon Package gets a 1.5-inch factory lift, a 4.56:1 axle ratio, 17-inch wheels and swing gate reinforcement. Jeep says those improvements give the Willys best-in-class approach and departure angles, ground clearance, and water fording capability. Approach angle improves to 47.4 degrees, breakover angle improves to 26.7 degrees, and departure angle jumps to 40.4 degrees. The extra ride height also pushes ground clearance to 12.9 inches and the water fording depth to 33.6 inches.

The package's 35-inch tires make the Willys Jeep's third Wrangler model with hardcore rolling stock. It joins the Wrangler Rubicon and Wrangler Rubicon 392 in the 35-inch club, all of which can be equipped with the tires directly from the factory.

Jeep Wrangler Willys Xtreme Recon Package A factory lift helps improve ground clearance and capability.Jeep

The Xtreme Recon Package can be ordered starting in October and will be available for the Jeep Wrangler Willys with 3.6-liter eTorque engine. The package adds $3,995 to the Wrangler Willys' price tag, which brings the total starting price to $40,930, including a $1,495 destination charge.

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New American pickup truck

The new 2021 Ford F-150 is an all-around performer

The Ford F-150 got a complete overhaul for 2021.

Chris Teague

The Ford F-150 is one of the most popular vehicles of all time, coming in second only to the Toyota Corolla in lifetime sales. That makes the F-150 a vitally important model for The Blue Oval, so it's not surprising that it takes updates to the truck very seriously. That was absolutely the case with the all-new 2021 F-150, which sees a load of new tech, evolutionary styling changes, and an impressive new PowerBoost hybrid engine option.

2021 Ford F-150 A new hybrid powertrain option is a headline feature for the new F-150.Chris Teague

Ford offers the F-150 in a staggering number of trim, bed lengths, and powertrain options. Trims include XL, XLT, Lariat, Tremor, King Ranch, Platinum, Raptor, and Limited. Powertrain configurations include:

  • 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 with 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid V6 with 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 with 400 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque
  • 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque

I spent a week testing the F-150 King Ranch with a SuperCrew cab and the new hybrid powertrain. Pricing for the base F-150 XL starts at just under $31,000, but my King Ranch test truck checked in at $77,125 after a $1,695 destination charge. That bottom line price includes almost $16,000 in options, such as a $1,995 King Ranch chrome package, a $1,495 twin-panel moonroof (worth it), a $1,005 FX4 off-road package, and more.

To find out if the new F-150 justifies its price tag, let's take a closer look at what makes it tick.

2021 Ford F-150 Though new, the 2021 F-150 sports familiar styling.Chris Teague

Powerful, efficient hybrid engine

Don't let the word "hybrid" fool you here – this is a serious powertrain. The PowerBoost twin turbocharged V6 and 35 kW electric motor produce a combined 430 horsepower and a whopping 570 pound-feet of torque, while a ten-speed automatic transmission pairs seamlessly with the engine and delivers smooth, almost imperceptible shifts. The hybrid setup feels a little clunky at low speeds, as the gas engine and electric motors trade off propulsion duties, but it's not a constant issue and does not detract from the truck's overall driving experience.

Depending on the configuration, the F-150 can extend to over 20 feet in length. It's also around eight feet wide, so there's no getting around the fact that it's not ideal as an urban commuter. Even so, the truck's quick, responsive steering makes it feel slightly smaller than it reads on paper, and it offers excellent outward visibility, which makes it less likely that you'll bump into, or run over, an unseen obstacle.

When equipped with the hybrid powertrain, the F-150 also comes standard with a generator built into the bed. A 2.4 kW Pro Power generator is standard, but the system can be upgraded to a 7.2 kW unit for just $750, which is a tremendous bargain in the world of generators. During the winter storms that ravaged Texas earlier this year, there were several reports of people using their new F-150s to power heaters, refrigerators, and other vital household systems while much of the state's power grid was down. Thankfully, my time with the truck was far less dangerous and dramatic, but the generator did get put to use charging my battery-powered chainsaw and tiller while helping a friend clear a small plot of land.

2021 Ford F-150 The new F-150 can be had with a giant 12.0-inch touchscreen.Chris Teague

User-friendly tech and an ultra-plush interior

I've always felt that Ford SYNC 3 was one of the best infotainment systems on the market, and the latest SYNC 4 software improves on that already successful formula. The base F-150 XL runs the system on an 8-inch touchscreen, but my King Ranch test truck came with an available 12-inch display. The screen itself is bright and responsive, and the software's simple, intuitive menu structure makes the whole package less distracting to use while driving. The system offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio, HD radio, wireless smartphone charging, and the King Ranch I tested came with an options package that included an upgraded "B&O Sound System Unleashed."

If you had even a slight doubt that pickup trucks are really just lifted luxury cars with towing capabilities, the new F-150 will change your mind. The King Ranch trim comes with soft, exceptionally comfortable leather upholstery, and the front seats offer 10-way adjustability that allows the driver to dial in a near-perfect seating position. At this trim level, the front buckets come with heating and ventilation, but my truck came equipped with the $4,650 601A High package, which brings a massage function with a handful of different programs. It also adds a power tailgate, power-deployable running boards, a better B&O stereo, and 20-inch wheels. The options group is far from cheap, but after a few minutes spent being massaged at a traffic light, the price tag will likely feel like much less of an issue.

Ford stepped up the safety game with the F-150 for 2021. The truck now comes standard with the Co-Pilot360 package, which includes automatic headlights and high beams, a lane-keeping system, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and a rearview camera with hitch assist. The XLT trim and above come with blind spot monitoring and a reverse sensing system, and the King Ranch trim adds adaptive steering, adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, intersection assist, and navigation.

2021 Ford F-150 The King Ranch trim features an over-the-top interior with soft leather and premium finishes throughout. Chris Teague

Pricey, but worth the money

Full-size pickup trucks are excessive in many ways, but there's no denying that they are some of the most useful vehicles on the road today. My need for a pickup truck is limited, as I don't tow and rarely haul anything that a midsize SUV can't carry. The cost of a full-size pickup truck, both to buy and operate, is hard to justify for me, but for someone who truly needs a full-size pickup, the PowerBoost-equipped F-150 is a compelling option.

At 24 mpg all around, fuel economy is solid, and the refinement of the powertrain means that there's no operational penalty for choosing the hybrid. On top of that, towing capability climbs to 12,700 pounds when the truck is equipped with an optional trailering package. All of that adds up to an F-150 that earns its price tag and looks good while doing it.

2021 Ford F-150 In case you forgot which F-150 trim you bought.Chris Teague

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