The big, exciting news surrounding the Ford Ranger is the arrival of a new off-road-ready Tremor trim for the 2021 model year. Spoiler alert: it's good. But if you're a current Ranger owner, maybe don't scramble to your dealer for a trade-up right away, because Ford Performance has you covered.
Launched in June of 2020, the Ranger Performance Packs cover three price points. The $2,495 Level 1 is a simple suspension update, new wheels, and a graphics pack. The $4,495 Level 2 expands on that with an ECU tune, BFGoodrich KO2 tires, Rigid lighting, and neat blue tow hooks. What we have here, though, is the $8,995 Level 3 package.
Featuring a cat-back exhaust, a 40-inch Rigid lightbar, a winch-capable steel bumper, a chase rack, and red tow hooks (in addition to all the aforementioned gear), the Level 3 Range Performance Pack is an intriguing alternative to the Ranger Tremor and a better, more economical choice than similar packages from other aftermarket companies.
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This truck looks the business. Much like the Roush Ranger we tested late last year, this Ford Performance model benefits from a 2.0-inch lift on the front end (technically part of the included Performance Pack 1), which balances out the ride height. The meatier tires further improve the stance, while the black steel bumper and chase rack are a strong indication that this is more than your ordinary Ranger. We'd pass on the Ford Performance window decal – it's obtrusive, as all windshield graphics are – and go for a color other than red. But beyond those changes, the Ford Performance Pack 3 makes a mean-looking Ranger.
In the grand scheme of things, $8,995 (plus installation) is a substantial amount of money. But it's worth keeping in mind the cluck for that buck, and what the other guys are doing. The Performance Packs make a serious deal with must-have items that transform a decent truck into a great one. Extra power, larger tires, and tweaked suspension components alone would lead us to recommend the PP3 – that it comes with neat aesthetic touches is just a bonus.
At the same time, the PP3 serves as a solid argument against both the Roush Ranger and the Ranger Tremor. It's more powerful than both, while the $9,000 price tag easily undercuts the $12,750 Roush Ranger package. And unlike the Ranger Tremor, the PP3 frees you from the requirement of a SuperCrew body. And no, Ford Performance's parts won't void your warranty.
Improvements from the tires and suspension speak for themselves, but it's hard to overstate the difference added power makes. The standard truck's turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder had stout figures, with 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, but they weren't the 315 hp or the 370 lb-ft you'll get here. Under hard acceleration, this truck is far more confident and enjoyable, with even more prodigious low-end torque – max twist is available at 2,500 rpm, rather than the standard truck's 3,000-rpm peak. And the best bit of all? The engine reflash is part of the middle tier, not the range-topping Performance Pack 3.
Doesn't Sound Great
While we like the punch that comes with the Ford Performance packs, we'd pass on the PP3's cat-back exhaust. This plumbing makes an acoustically unpleasant engine worse. There's drone at highway speeds owing to the increased volume and a general buzziness and lack of character that's unbecoming of a pickup under even modest acceleration.
On-Road Character Compromised
Adding big, knobby tires and tweaking the suspension for off-road performance can compromise on-road behavior. Sky blue, water wet. But while this is hardly a surprise, we'd single out that the combo of the BFG KO2 tires and an extra 60 lb-ft of torque goes a step further and makes the Ranger PP3 more difficult to drive. We spent a fair chunk of our testing driving in the cold and rain and this setup is simply less manageable in inclement conditions. Switching to four-wheel drive solved the issues for the most part, but you obviously don't want to leave the car in 4H at all times.
There Are Better Values
As good as the Performance Pack 3 is, nothing on it feels like a must-have item. Sure, a winch-capable bumper looks cool and is good if you're planning on fitting a winch, and the 40-inch Rigid light bar can brighten up most environments, but this combo of kit isn't enough to overcome the $4,500 premium that the PP3 demands. The $4,495 Performance Pack 2, though, ticks every box – better tires, uprated suspension, extra power, and an exhaust that doesn't make your ears bleed are all on hand. We wouldn't begrudge anyone that orders the PP3, but for us, the middle child makes all the sense.
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Gallery: 2020 Ford Ranger Performance Pack Level 3
2020 Ford Ranger Lariat SuperCrew Performance Pack Level 3