Ford’s new off-road package enhances the midsize Ranger pickup in the right ways.

Verdict

7.6 / 10

Off-road Ford discussions usually go in two directions – Bronco or Raptor – but there’s also a third name to that list. First introduced on the 2020 Super Duty, the Tremor off-road package is now available on every Blue Oval pickup, adding trail performance without sacrificing capability or on-road comfort. Keen to test that claim, I took a 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor into the ice and mud, but not before hitting the bricks for 150 miles.

The Blue Oval is forthright in saying the Ranger Tremor isn’t as hard-core as the F-150 Raptor, but the company is proud that its most off-roady midsizer doesn’t sacrifice towing capacity in its quest to tame the trail, offering a 7,500-pound trailer rating. Payload capacity drops compared to a regular 4x4 SuperCrew – the Tremor’s only available body style – from 1,560 to 1,430 pounds. But that might be an acceptable sacrifice for eight-tenths of an inch of extra ground clearance and improved high-performance shock absorbers. And there’s no denying that the Tremor looks fantastic.

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2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Exterior Front Quarter Snow
2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Exterior Rear Quarter
2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Exterior Side Profile

Red Hot Styling

The Tremor package, which is available on the Ranger XLT and Lariat, makes a few alterations to the pickup’s styling. A red-accented grille, dark-finished front and rear bumpers, and Magnetic-painted wheels look subtly sinister, while rear tow hooks improve off-road confidence. Inside, a six-switch binnacle resides at the top of the dashboard, giving owners pre-wired spots for winch and light controls. The Lariat Tremor I sampled had leather seats with Miko suede accents, which the XLT substitutes for a cheaper and harder-wearing vinyl/Miko combination. An embroidered Tremor logo on the seat matches the decal on the rear quarter panel.

Those details aren’t what make the Tremor so attractive, though. The Ranger is already a reasonably handsome and rugged truck, with class-exclusive front and rear steel bumpers and a trim, spartan design. But the Tremor’s lifted suspension, taller tires, and wider track (thanks to revised wheel offsets and tires) turn the unassuming Ranger into a boldly styled Tonka truck for the road. As soon as the keys were in my hand, I wanted to drive it – no, not drive it. I wanted to play with it. The Ranger Tremor has the stance of a toy, and I mean that in the best way. It looks like it just wants to go out and get dirty.

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Exterior Front Quarter Off-Road
2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Exterior Front Quarter Snow

Little Big Truck

The Tremor is not a distinct trim level, but it might as well be for the changes it brings to the truck – this isn’t merely a paint-and-tape special. Off-road–specific front coil springs and new multi-leaf rear spring packs improve suspension travel to 6.5 inches and 8.1 inches, respectively, with Fox 2.0 monotube dampers controlling wheel movement. Piggyback rear shock reservoirs improve performance thanks to added fluid capacity, reducing degradation as the dampers heat up, and at high off-road speeds, the Ranger settles into a well-tuned groove.

Tremor-specific 17-inch wheels roll on 32-inch General Grabber A/TX all-terrain tires, giving the Ranger 9.7 inches of ground clearance. That taller stance also enhances off-road maneuverability. Approach, departure, and breakover angles improve to 30.9, 25.5, and 24.2 degrees respectively, up from the standard SuperCrew’s 28.7, 25.4, and 21.5 degrees. Southern California’s snowy Cleghorn Trail afforded a few opportunities to test the Tremor’s geometry know-how, handling the trail’s scattered obstacles with no issues.

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Grip from the A/TX all-terrain tires is unsurprisingly abundant given General’s excellent reputation, and they self-clean very well. Even in two-wheel drive, the Tremor had enough grip to trudge through the slush and snow, and in four-wheel drive, it could sling mud around corners in a slow, controllable drift, aided by four-position off-road terrain management. My inner high schooler was dying to take the Tremor to an unplowed parking lot to do some donuts, but alas, the opportunity never presented itself.

That said, I didn’t love the standard (and removable) hoop-style side steps, which Ford says are tucked high enough to not interfere with ground clearance. And while they didn’t scrape on anything, every rocky outcrop on the side of the road made me nervous. Adding insult to injury, they collect and attract mud, leaving your pant legs dirty every time you step in or out.
If this were my personal truck, I’d undo the six bolts that hold each step on and leave both of them in the garage permanently.

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Interior Dashboard
2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Interior Front Seats
2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Interior Auxiliary Switch Panel

Ranger Virtues And Vices

The Cleghorn conquered and my stomach growling for some lunch, I began the trek home. On paved roads, the Tremor feels much like any other Ranger model, which means a pleasant turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four and 10-speed automatic transmission and intuitive infotainment and driver-assist technology. As in all other Ranger models, the engine makes 270 horsepower and a useful 310 pound-feet, the latter number best-in-class among gas-powered competitors. Abundant merging and passing power make the Ranger quicker than one might expect, thanks to a torque peak of just 3,000 rpm.

By comparison, the Jeep Gladiator forces you to wait until 4,400 rpm for its 260 lb-ft, while the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 makes its 275 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm (although the Chevy stands out with an available diesel engine). Having that much twist down low is a boon for the Ranger in every driving situation from low-speed rock crawling to passing on a two-lane road. The EcoBoost engine is far and away the best reason to pick a Ford over any of its competitors, performance-wise at least.

Unfortunately, the Tremor eats away at the EcoBoost engine’s other bragging point – fuel economy. While the regular Ranger 4x4 achieves 20 miles per gallon city, 24 highway, and 22 combined, the Tremor gets 19 mpg across the board, likely thanks to heavier, wider tires and a taller stance that saps aerodynamic efficiency. For my part, I saw an indicated 18 mpg over 200 miles of off-road–heavy driving; in similar conditions, I saw about 15 mpg from a Gladiator Mojave, which is EPA-rated at 17 city, 22 highway, and 19 combined. The Tremor also beats out the gas-powered Colorado ZR2’s 16 city, 18 highway, and 17 combined mpg.

The Tremor’s interior is consistent with the class average. There are padded materials on the armrests and door panels, and the Lariat trim’s leather steering wheel and shift lever feel premium, but overall, the cabin is a study in durable hard plastic. It’s also relatively comfortable, thanks to a supportive and height-adjustable driver’s seat and a tilt and telescoping wheel – don’t snicker at these now-expected virtues, which some of the Ranger’s competitors lack. The only issue is a lumpy floor in the driver’s footwell – exacerbated by this tester’s rubber liners – which force your feet to sit at odd angles and result in some leg fatigue.

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Exterior Front Quarter Off-Road

Spend A Lot, Get A Lot

The Ford Ranger isn’t known for its bargain-basement affordability, and the Tremor is no exception to that rule. The vehicle I drove, a Lariat SuperCrew 4x4, starts at $38,785, which includes Sync 3, automatic emergency braking, a leather interior, LED head- and taillights, and a proximity key. Adding Equipment Group 501A for $2,005 brings on additional features like adaptive cruise control, remote start, and a kickin’ B&O Play audio system. A $495 spray-in bedliner is probably a must-buy, and I’m a fan of the $95 code pad on the driver’s door, which allows you to safely lock your keys in the truck when you’re out hiking or hitting the beach.

The all-important $4,290 Tremor package adds Trail Control low-speed cruise control and an electronic locking rear differential (shared with the $1,295 FX4 off-road pack). It also includes Tremor-specific front and rear springs and Fox 2.0 shocks, 32-inch tires, contrast-painted flares, interior switch panel, seats with embroidered Miko inserts, floor liners, and more. The total damage for this Velocity Blue tester is $46,865 with destination.

The Ford Ranger isn’t known for its bargain-basement affordability, and the Tremor is no exception to that rule.

A Colorado ZR2 crew cab starts at $45,390 and offers more suspension travel and off-road capability, but much less towing and payload capacity. A Gladiator Willys starts at $39,505, while the Rubicon and Mojave ask $44,140 each – they’re billy goats off-road, but compromised on the highway. The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is the most likely competitor to the Ranger in capability and comfort, starting at $44,175. That said, the Ranger Lariat I drove is quite a bit better-equipped than its rivals, and those keen to save a few grand can option an XLT Tremor without sacrificing the off-road hardware.

Whether the Tremor is worth the extra money compared to an FX4 is a good question. The cheaper off-road package is more than enough for many off-road trails, but the Tremor’s added ground clearance and rockin’ styling make it a very tempting proposition nonetheless. I wish it were offered in SuperCab form since I’d rather have a longer bed than a larger rear seat, but otherwise, the 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor offers a compelling mix of traditional truck capability and all-around off-road prowess.

Ranger Tremor Competitor Reviews:

Gallery: 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor: First Drive

2021 Ford Ranger Lariat Tremor

Engine Turbocharged 2.3-Liter I4
Output 270 Horsepower / 310 Pound-Feet
Transmission 10-Speed Automatic
Drive Type Four-Wheel Drive
Efficiency 4,571 Pounds
Weight 19 City / 19 Highway / 19 Combined
Seating Capacity 5
Cargo Volume 43.3 Cubic Feet
Towing 7,500 Pounds
Payload 1,430 Pounds
Base Price $38,785
As-Tested Price $46,865