Behind the Wheel

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Review: Snow tested, off-roader approved

The Tremor package is newly offered on the Ranger for the 2021 model year.

Photo by Chad Kirchner

Science fiction planets are very one-dimensional. On Earth, there is dozens of different climate zones, but visiting any planet in the Star Wars universe is just the opposite. Dagobah is a swamp. Tatooine is a desert. Hoth is an ice planet. Off-road pickup trucks are similar. The Ford Raptor is for bombing around the desert, while the Ram Power Wagon is a rock crawler.

Is it possible to make a truck that's competent at a bunch of things without breaking the bank or losing something in the process? That's what Ford's Tremor package for the Ranger aims to do in a world of one-trick off-road midsize trucks.

It's important to know that Tremor is a package and not a trim level. That means if you want all the bells and whistles, you can load up a Ranger Lariat with the Tremor updates. If you don't want or need all of the extra features, Tremor can be added to XLT. In contrast, if you want a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro or a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, you have to go top spec. The package is also available on F-150 and Super Duty models.

The truck features Tremor graphics on the bed.Photo by Chad Kirchner

The $4,290 Tremor package replaces the stock suspension with a set of Fox high performance shocks with piggyback reservoirs in the rear. The leaf springs are upgraded to a multi-leaf design. The 17-inch wheels get 32-inch General Grabber A/TX tires. A rear locker is added. Trailer Control and Ford's Terrain Management System is also included. There's even a front steel bash plate.

These changes and upgrades improve approach and departure angles. On the Tremor it means 30.9 degrees up front, 25.5 degrees in the back, and a breakover angle of 24.2 degrees.

That's not all, though, as the package also adds hoop steps, frame-mounted tow hooks, Miko suede seats, Magnetic-painted body bits, Tremor graphics, and an upfitter switch panel.

When you combine that with the best-in-class powertrain of Ford's 2.3-liter EcoBoost and 10-speed automatic transmission, you get quite the little performer.

2021 Ford Ranger TremorThe Ford Ranger Tremor features the off-road goodies enthusiasts need sans the super high price tag.Photo by Chad Kirchner

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor

Test driving the truck for a week meant going from sunny skies to full-out blizzard conditions, and nearly everything in between thanks to Ohio's location in the path of Winter Storm Orlena.

A day spent at the Holly Oaks ORV park in Holly, Michigan made it feel like I was smack dab on in the middle of the ice planet for the opening sequence of "The Empire Strikes Back". Freezing rain, then snow, the night before created for a treacherous off-road park. Sub-zero wind chills made conditions inhospitable to say the least.

The General Grabber tires do an excellent job at finding grip in the snow. While nothing really grips on ice, some off-road tires tend to lose performance in the white stuff. Likely designed more for sand duty, the A/TX tires found the traction that was available and helped pull the truck through the deep stuff.

Snow does a fantastic job at messing with your depth perfection, so bumps that look small can end up being small hills. Hitting a bump at speed that is bigger than you expect is a good way to send a shock up your spine and blow a shock absorber. The Fox upgrade on the Tremor handled those unexpected undulations with ease.

2021 Ford Ranger TremorThe interior of the Ranger Tremor is standard fare. This model was built on the Lariat trim level.Photo by Chad Kirchner

While the LiveValve setup on Raptor is better, the piggyback reservoirs on Tremor help the shocks handle heat better, allowing for both better ride quality and traction off-road. While you can go to the aftermarket for these shocks, the Fox equipment matched with the retuned leaf springs make the upgrade to Tremor from the factory worth it.

For those who might be inexperienced off-roading, the Trail Control system is quite clever. It's basically off-road cruise control. All the driver has to do is set the speed and the truck figures out how to tackle the obstacles under its wheels while the driver concentrates on steering.

In these extreme conditions, the system was put to quite the test. And while it didn't work on every hill or obstacle – remember that whole Hoth thing – the system does an admirable job and figuring out what to do. In these snowy conditions, it's even easier to spot the system locking up an individual wheel, applying power at certain times, and figuring out to maintain momentum. In these conditions, the human brain is still better at sorting it out, but Trail Control is damn impressive.

To my posterior at least, on-road ride quality is better on Tremor than on Ford's other off-road package - FX4. The tires are reasonably quiet for their performance, and potholed Michigan roads hardly ever flummox the Tremor. The truck's fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg combined, and even in the cold conditions it's easy to achieve those numbers in the day-to-day.

The Ranger Tremor comes with six centrally located upfitter switches.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The rest of the truck is standard Ranger fare. The tech is nice, but the interior feels a bit dated compared to the new F-150. The upfitter switches are a nice feature and mounted in a good spot, plus Ford placed the junction box at an easy-to-reach location under the hood to make installing accessories even easier.

Tremor is ultimately a good deal. If you're going to get an off-road type package on your Ranger, skip the FX4 and go Tremor. It rides better and the suspension is better. The price is right, too, even though you do have to get either the 301A or 501A package to make Tremor an option.

That puts the starting price of the XLT Tremor at $41,900 and for the Lariat Tremor it's $46,275. The truck still has a payload of 1,430 pounds and a max tow rating of 7,500 pounds. It's also thousands cheaper than the competition.

But what about the Ranger Raptor? It's likely on its way, but a few years out. If you want a solid mix of off-road performance and on-road comfort today, Tremor is the way to go. And when you go, may the force be with you.

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VW purchased the rights to the iconic Scout name and plans to make new EVs under the brand.

Volkswagen

Automakers bring back names and brands from the past all the time, but it's not every day that a major company purchases a brand name specifically for the purpose of reviving it. That's exactly what Volkswagen just did with Scout, the name of an ultra-popular off-road SUV that was built by International Harvester in the 1960s and 1970s.

As for the types of vehicles we'll see from the brand, we currently only have the renders to go on. The pickup truck and SUV both feature throwback styling that is reminiscent of the original Scout shapes. Beefy off-road tires and lifted suspension are the only other clues available in the drawings.

Volkswagen has its own EVs, and its other brands like Audi and Porsche have made significant progress with electric vehicles as well. That said, VW doesn't really have a solid off-road option from any of its brands at the moment, so the Scout purchase opens doors for the automaker in that arena.

The announcement sounds exciting, but we've still got plenty of time to wait before there's a Scout-branded EV on the roads. Volkswagen said the plan is to release vehicles by 2026, but it won't be sitting idle between now and then. The VW ID.4 is still very fresh and the automaker says it will launch a total of 25 new EVs in the U.S. by 2030.

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Lincoln will not make a performance variant to compete with Cadillac.

Lincoln

TheLincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade have been duking it out at the top of luxury SUV rankings for decades, but there’s one area of the Caddy’s development that Lincoln won’t touch. In a recent interview, a company executive told Ford Authority that it has no plans to create a performance variant of the Navigator to compete with the upcoming Escalade V from Cadillac.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe new Navigator features several upscale touches and excellent tech. Lincoln

That means the Navigator will stick with the powertrain it’s carried for years, which is a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a smooth ten-speed automatic and either rear- or four-wheel drive. While there’s more than enough power to get the hulking Lincoln moving, it’s not a powertrain that inspires excitement or engagement, and though beefy, it’s tuned much more for comfort and quietness than drama.

Though more than adequate, those specs are a far cry from the numbers we expect from the Escalade V. The full-size bruiser from Cadillac is expected to get a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, similar to the unit seen in the CT5-V Blackwing and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We don’t know power numbers yet, but the engine should deliver horsepower and torque numbers in the high 600s.

Cadillac Escalade VThe Escalade V will be massively powerful. Cadillac

That Lincoln is taking a different approach isn’t surprising. The automaker has already announced its intention to go all-electric, so pouring more time and resources into creating a performance gas-powered SUV isn’t in line with its goals. Company executives have also expressed a desire to avoid imitating rivals, so the decision to leave a performance Navigator behind is not surprising.

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