Does The 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Deliver Off-Road Fun For 4x4 Truck Fans?
Despite leading the way for tough full-size trucks with its dune-bashing F-150 Raptor, Ford has been much slower to the entry-level off-road pickup game. Two years after it first debuted, the Ford Ranger finally receives its own dedicated hardcore 4x4. The Tremor package goes in a different direction than its larger sibling—think Toyota's TRD Pro rather than Raptor's high speed shenanigans—but that's in keeping with the rest of mid-size rivals, which prize overall toughness rather than trophy truck speed.
Has it been worth the wait? I took the 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor out to play in the mud to see how it compares against the class-leading Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.
Check Out Those Specs
Ford already offered the Ranger in FX4 trim, which delivered a modicum of all-terrain capability in a package that maintained much of the vehicle's day-to-day utility. It's also been possible to build your own competent Ranger crawler via Ford Performance's deep parts catalog. The Tremor takes things several steps further by bundling up many of the Ranger's available off-road accessories into a single package, asking for a few compromises along the way, but wrapping them in the promise of more fun when the asphalt disappears.
The Ford Ranger Tremor swaps its stock shocks for a set of Fox 2.0 monotubes, with piggyback reservoirs at the rear, installs a set of rugged 32-inch tires (with unique 17-inch wheels), retunes its springs front and rear to play nice with the new dampers, and widens its track by an inch. An electronically-locking rear differential is also included, as are a set of skid plates. Visually, the Tremor stands apart with fog lights, recovery hooks, vestigial side-entry steps that double as rock rails, and a set of auxiliary switches molded into the dashboard.
This translates into 9.7 inches of total ground clearance (almost an inch more than the FX4), 6.5 inches of suspension travel up front and 8.1 inches at the rear, as well as approach and departure angles that are slightly better than the stock Ranger. On paper, the truck compares well against the Tacoma TRD Pro (which trumps it on departure but loses out slightly on clearance), and the Colorado ZR2 (which is nearly an inch closer to the ground).
Core Values Remain The Same
Mechanically, there are no differences under the Ranger's hood. The truck retains its 2.3L turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, which is rated at 270hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, matched with a 10-speed automatic transmission, a low-range 4x4 transfer case, and Ford's 'terrain management' system that uses a dial to configure the throttle, traction control, and four-wheel drive to handle specific driving conditions.
Power is excellent from the EcoBoost setup, and it's easily a match for the V6 engines that top out the mid-size pickup segment. The transmission is more of a mixed bag, offering an unusual vibration at part throttle while cruising that is endemic to all Rangers, not just the Tremor.
The Ranger has also developed a reputation for offering a bouncier ride than some of its rivals, but the Tremor's new shocks dial that down. Yes, this is still a stiff truck, but that's the penalty to be paid for the extra capability unlocked by its chassis. The ride is very similar to the Tacoma, but not as controlled or smooth as the Colorado ZR2, which features a unique DSSV shock absorber setup that transitions better from the rough to the road.
Slow And Steady
How does the Ranger Tremor do when the going gets tough? With the rear axle locked and terrain management set to mud, Ford's newest truck did a good job maintaining forward momentum even when plunged into deeper ruts slick with a recent rain from two days previous. On a trail that regularly dunked into slippery brown puddles in between whoop-dee-dos, the Tremor was able to crawl along, through, and over anything that was placed in its path.
In fact, the only time the Ranger Tremor ground to halt happened when entering a pool of muck at an awkward angle, only to discover that it was a somewhat deeper than it first appeared. Even here, with half of the truck marooned on a grassy berm and the front end clawing for traction below the surface, a shift into 4LO and a slow, but steady forward and backward rocking motion freed the rear of the truck from the bank and allowed for an easy back-out and go-around.
The Tremor never got itself stuck, but it's important to understand the vehicle's limits. Unlike a Raptor, or the Ram TRX that I had driven across the same trail only a week before, the Ranger is limited to low-speed off-roading by its ground clearance and shock travel. Even at lower speeds, the rear of the truck moves up and down, and side-to-side when clearing a mud-slicked obstacle, which doesn’t encourage tipping into the throttle any more than you have to.
This is no different from the Tacoma TRD Pro, which exhibits a similar 'proceed with caution' personality over very uneven terrain, but it's a notable step down from the control and capability of the Colorado ZR2's DSSV setup.
Watch The Bottom Line
The 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor is certainly an upgrade over the FX4 version of the truck, and it feels competitive enough with the Tacoma to justify a cross-shop if trail fun is your thing. Keeping in mind the Ranger's older platform and ho-hum interior, however, and the pricing is a bit of sticking point.
You need to start with an XLT crew cab trim to spec the Tremor package (my own tester was a top-tier Lariat), which means the $4,290 option brings the total sticker price to just over $42,000. This is a deal compared to the nearly-$50k TRD Pro, but roughly the same as the least expensive (extended cab) version of the Colorado ZR2. More to the point, if you're smart with the Ford Performance catalog, you level up the Ranger to the same suspension setup, plus a substantial horsepower boost, for $8k less.
As a straight-forward dealer option, however, the Ranger Tremor provides the mid-size truck with enough punch to at least tempt the off-road crowd in its last couple years of its current platform before the upcoming redesign adds a more competitive edge to the truck's overall charms.
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