Finally, an equally enormous alternative to the Power Wagon.
The pickup truck market is all about more. Tow more. Haul more. Look more. Be more. With trucks, “more” ceases to be a mere adjective and becomes a state of mind. The Ford F-250 Tremor is one with The More. New for 2020, the Tremor package adds a huge dose of off-road ability to the F-250 and F-350 Super Duty pickups. But this is More than a Raptor in a Super Duty body. More, and far different.
Consider our day in and around Phoenix, Arizona, the site of the 2020 F-Series Super Duty's launch. We set out in a Tremor on a 90-minute freeway blast for a steep, twisting grade where we'd get a taste of the Tremor's 15,000-pound towing capacity, all before relocating to one of the most challenging artificial off-road trails your author has ever laid eyes on. There are vehicles that can tow and off-road and commute in a day, but few can do all three so effortlessly and in such extreme circumstances as the Tremor.
One of those is the Ram 2500 Power Wagon, the Tremor's most obvious competitor. But the Tremor package sets itself apart from the Power Wagon in short order with its optional 6.7-liter turbodiesel engine, four available trim levels rather than the two Ram offers, and it’s available on both F-250 and F-350 heavy duty models. The Power Wagon can't physically fit the Ram HD’s available Cummins turbodiesel in the engine bay and it’s only available with the Ram 2500 body, not the more capable 3500. The Ford is unquestionably more capable and configurable, but it’s not perfect either.
Fitted with the 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8, the F-250 packs 1,050 pound-feet of torque and, in the Tremor's case, can tow up to 15,000 pounds conventionally or 21,900 pounds with a gooseneck trailer. The Ram Power Wagon can handle just 10,350 pounds conventionally.
Towing, though, wasn't much of a challenge. Ford loaded only one of the F-Series Super Dutys at the launch to its maximum weight, and wouldn't let anyone without a commercial driver’s license behind the wheel. All the other Super Dutys were loaded down adequately, but hardly in a manner that was pushing the trucks. Unsurprisingly, then, the F-250s and F-350s surged up the hill with minimal effort.
But they excelled at lower speeds, too. The 2020 Super Duty gets Ford's excellent Pro Trailer Backup Assist for the first time, which makes reversing a trailer as easy as twisting a knob. It grants novice towers (your author is raising his hand) a degree of control and precision over backing up a trailer that usually takes years of experience to acquire. It's an intuitive and smart solution to an intimidating process.
We filled the gaps between towing and off-roading with plenty of time on Arizona's gently winding desert roads where we could take in the impressive performance of both the gas and diesel powertrains. That 6.7-liter Powerstroke is the headliner, packing the aforementioned 1,050 lb-ft of torque along with 475 horsepower. The single turbocharger spools quickly, with little lag off the line. But it's how the diesel-packing Super Duty accelerates at speed that drew the most wide-eyed admiration. Blasting from 40 to 60 miles per hour happens on one big, fat, effortless surge of torque, briefly interrupted by quick shifts from the lone gearbox, a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The Powerstroke sounds quite pleasant, too, with a workman-like gruffness that lacks unpleasant diesel noisiness. But for sheer acoustic enjoyment, the new 7.3-liter, gas-powered V8 is the way to go. The replacement for the ancient 6.8-liter Triton V10, the new setup packs 430 hp, 475 lb-ft of torque, and a bruising, muscle-car-like soundtrack. This is an excellent engine, both for everyday driving and for towing, where it matches the diesel-powered Tremor's 15,000-pound conventional tow rating.
It's the level of refinement that allows the new V8 to shine, though. Ram's 6.4-liter is a powerful engine to be sure (410 hp and 429 lb-ft), but the Power Wagon sounds like a work truck. Ford's new engine is smooth and sonorous, though, with a sound that fills the cabin but never seems to fall poorly on the ears. The F-Series Super Duty is the rare heavy duty truck that's just as good with a gas engine as it is with a diesel.
Blasting from 40 to 60 miles per hour happens on one big, fat, effortless surge of torque.
While Ford hit a home run with the Super Duty's powertrain, it's come up short in other ways. Particularly on rougher roads, the F-250's ride (much like its F-150 counterpart) lacks the poise and polish of its Ram counterpart. The bulk of the bad manners came from the Super Duty's tail, where a solid-rear axle and leaf springs fail to live up to the standard set by the Ram's more modern coil-sprung, five-link solid-rear axle. The tail is stable enough as it bounds about, but the ride here is far from composed on undulating or imperfect roads.
The Super Duty's cabin also falls short. Kind of.
On the one hand, Ford's decision to offer the Tremor package on such a wide variety of trims means that even high-end customers can access its blend of off-road performance and towing capability. On the other, though, the King Ranch and Platinum – the two priciest trims the Tremor package is available with – lack the impressive interior detailing and inspired material choices that allow high-end Ram models to stand out from the pack. Then again, Ram's best interiors aren't available on the Power Wagon, which has a relatively staid cabin. Enjoy the truck edition of Sophie's Choice!
Off the beaten path seems to be where the Tremor is happiest. Not only does the ride, weirdly, seem to thrive while bounding down dirt trails, but when presented with seriously difficult obstacles, the amped-up Tremor shows its chops. This isn't a Raptor, but bigger. At the same time, it's not some simple Brodozer that's all shirt and no trousers. The Tremor is impressively capable and introduces a degree of rock-crawling capability the Blue Oval hasn’t offered since the Bronco went away.
That means a dedicated drive mode for rock crawling, in addition to the Towing, Slippery, Deep Sand and Snow, and (hilariously) Eco drive modes. The Tremor is also the first vehicle besides the Raptor to get Ford’s Trail Control system, which is essentially cruise control for off-roading.
Present the Tremor with an incline, and it eagerly attacks, thanks to impressive approach and departure angles (31.7 and 24.5 degrees, respectively). A 33-inch fording depth means water is barely a challenge, too. On rocks, its 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires, 10.8 inches of ground clearance, low-range gearbox, and locking rear diff mean the Tremor essentially waltzes across tricky terrain. Equipped with the diesel, the Super Duty has the torque to ascend impressively steep grades despite it’s shocking 7,262-pound curb weight. And if you do happen to get stuck, there’s an available 12,000-pound winch with a wireless controller.
It's easy to say Ford designed the off-road course for the Super Duty so the truck couldn't fail, but realistically, there are only a handful of factory vehicles we'd be comfortable attacking this route with: the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, and (probably) the new Land Rover Defender. The Tremor is that good.
That doesn't mean it's perfect off road, though. This vehicle is absolutely enormous. If the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is a spritely mountain goat that scampers over rocks, the Tremor is a Clydesdale doing its best impression of a spritely mountain goat that scampers over rocks. That makes it difficult in tight circumstances, and in the case of our off-road test, forced us to rely on the suite of camera systems. The throttle on our diesel-powered tester was also too sensitive, causing us to lurch ahead unintentionally, particularly over the tricky rock crawl. Swapping drive modes didn't solve the problem, either.
This blend of capability does not come cheap. The Tremor package is available as a $3,975 option on the XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum versions of the F-250 and F-350 Super Duty, but that only tells part of the story. The F-250 XLT starts at $42,980, but the XLT Tremor costs at least $53,390. The package isn't available with two-wheel drive – which, duh – but it also requires customers upgrade from the base 6.2-liter V8 (which wasn't available at our test) to the 7.3-liter V8. If you want the diesel engine, plan on spending a whopping $10,495 more. In other words, the cheapest diesel-powered Tremor will cost $62,400. That's a nearly $20,000 jump without additional options.
Dip into the options and you may end up with something like our main tester, a diesel-powered $87,630 F-250 Platinum Tremor. Having one vehicle that can tow 15,000 pounds and tackle trails with the best true off-roaders is great, but that's an unbelievably lofty price tag. For that figure, you can have both a dedicated tow vehicle and an equally capable off-roader better sized for trail work. When it comes to the philosophy of more, though, there’s no shortage of ways to embrace it.
Correction: A previous version of this review referred to the 6.7-liter Powerstroke V8 as having two turbochargers. This engine only uses a single turbo. The review has been updated to reflect that fact. We regret the error.
Gallery: 2020 Ford F-250 Tremor: First Drive
2020 Ford F-250 Platinum Tremor