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2021 Ford F-150 Tremor review: More than cowboy cosplay

It's rugged looking and incredibly capable, richly trimmed and laden with tech, smooth riding and fleet of foot. In short, this truck rocks.

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2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - profile
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2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - profile

The Tremor is nearly as large as a McMansion, but it's much nicer looking.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

If you're on the prowl for an off-road-ready, full-size truck there are plenty of options -- from the boldly styled Chevy Silverado Trail Boss to the sophisticated Ram 1500 Rebel to the stalwart Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. But starting this year, Ford is providing the new F-150 Tremor. This rough-and-tumble pickup splits the difference between workaday trim levels and the steroid-pumping Raptor. That midlevel positioning sounds like it could be the worst of both worlds, but the Tremor is rugged, refined and outrageously easy to live with every day.

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor
8.8

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor

MSRP

Like

  • Responsive infotainment system
  • Buttoned-down dynamics
  • Well-finished interior
  • Potent powertrain
  • Handsome looks

Don't like

  • Transmission could be smoother
  • Cheap-feeling gear selector

Visually setting the Tremor apart from run-of-the-mill F-150s, it features a unique grille and hood, plus blacked-out Ford logos. Active Orange accents brighten up the exterior, adding a splash of color to the grille, fender vents and front tow hooks. All that festive bric-a-brac looks especially good next to this example's radiant (and free!) Velocity Blue Metallic paint. The rear is embellished by a high-flow dual exhaust system, with the bazooka-sized outlets neatly filling semicircular cutouts in the steel bumper. Altogether, this pickup's design upgrades are tasteful and attractive, making it (arguably) the best-looking model in the sprawling F-150 lineup. But this truck is far more than just for cowboy cosplay; there's plenty of substance behind the style.

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor: Tough looks, easy livability

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Setting the Tremor apart from its siblings is a host of off-road-focused upgrades. Front and rear, the springs have been retuned, helping provide an additional inch of suspension travel up front and an extra 1.5 inches at the rear. The hub knuckles and upper controls arms have been updated and the truck features special monotube shocks up front and model-specific twin-tube dampers at the rear for a softer ride at low speeds, such as when creeping down a rocky trail.

Amplifying its traction, this F-150 comes with 33-inch all-terrain tires mounted to dark-finished 18-inch wheels. Aside from upping the truck's style factor considerably, this combo provides additional ground clearance and increases the track width by 1 inch.

Underneath the rugged bodywork is an F-150 Raptor-style front bash plate protecting its delicate powertrain hardware. A locking rear differential is standard equipment, though a Torsen limited-slip front diff is also available. For added convenience, higher-end examples can be had with a torque-on-demand transfer case, which provides all the push-button selectable drivetrain modes you could want -- from efficient two-wheel high for weekday commutes, to four-high and four-low for various off-road situations to automatic all-wheel drive -- so the truck does the thinking for you.

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - screen
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2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - screen

Lights, cameras, action!

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Burnishing the Tremor's mountain goat capabilities, it's also available with a cornucopia of off-road aids, amenities like a one-pedal drive function, which makes navigating difficult routes easier because you don't have to operate the accelerator and brake at the same time. As in the new Ford Bronco, you can get Trail Turn Assist. In certain situations, this feature locks the inside rear wheel to dramatically reduce the truck's turning circle. Finally, Trail Control is available, which is like cruise control for the dirt. It keeps the truck moseying along at a preset speed, either uphill or down.

The 2021 F-150 is offered with a host of powertrains, but you'd better be a fan of Ford's 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 if you've got your heart set on a Tremor, 'cause that's all on offer. Fortunately, this EcoBoost engine is a delight, delivering torrents of torque everywhere in the rev range. It doesn't matter how fast you're going or what  grade you're climbing: Prod the accelerator and this big truck muscles forward.

With 400 horsepower on tap and a prodigious 500 pound-feet of peak torque, the performance is effortless on road or off. No, this EcoBoost engine doesn't sound as good as a Hemi-powered Ram or GM's 6.2-liter V8, but honestly, it performs better in nearly all situations. Putting that under-hood firepower to good use, this off-road F-150 can conventionally tow up to 10,900 pounds and its payload tops out at a husky 1,885 pounds, more than enough for work or play.

Distributing all that succulent torque to the wheels is a standard 10-speed automatic transmission that was co-developed with GM. As in other Fords, this familiar gearbox is very astute but a little uncouth. It downshifts readily, intelligently changes ratios in hilly terrain so you're never caught flatfooted and rarely ever hunts for the right gear, but it is a little clunky. Sometimes upshifts are buttery smooth, though on other occasions they can be lumpier than hastily mashed potatoes. Downshifts are particularly uneven while rolling to a stop. Ford's implementation is hardly awful, but I definitely prefer the tuning of GM's 10-speed, which is so smooth you practically don't know it's there.

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - bed
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2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - bed

With this versatile bed, the Tremor'll get 'er done.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Providing a bit more boost than eco, this truck stickers at 16 mpg city and 20 mpg on highway jaunts. In mixed driving, it's expected to stretch a gallon of gasoline 18 miles, which is neither outstanding nor awful for the full-size pickup segment. In my hands, this Ford is returning about 17.5 mpg, which is about where it should be.

Great for camping or small job sites, the Tremor can be had with Ford's Pro Power Onboard generator. This allows the truck to provide up to 2 kilowatts of electricity, which is perfect for running small appliances or tools. Conveniently, you can tap into this juice from a pair of 110-volt household outlets right in the bed. Since the PowerBoost hybrid drivetrain is not offered in this trim, the F-150's more potent 2.4- and 7.2-kW Pro Power Onboard systems are not available.

In motion, the Tremor's ride and handling are excellent. There are no coil springs or fancy airbags supporting the live rear axle, just a pair of old-fashioned leaf springs, yet the thing glides along cratered pavement and exhibits almost zero axle-hop on washboard surfaces. Large imperfections are silently smothered before they reach the cabin, making it feel like almost nothing phases this truck.

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - interior
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2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - interior

It's debatable whether this interior is nicer than what Ram offers, but it's damn good nonetheless.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Despite its body-on-frame construction, this is about the stiffest truck I've ever driven. The structure is so rigid, it feels like a unibody architecture rather than something with a separate chassis. This structural fortitude is evinced by a lack of vibration and harshness. Noise from the all-terrain tires is minimal, a muted hum far off in the distance. Wind and tire sounds are nearly absent as well.

The Tremor handles well for what it is, with little body roll in corners. The steering is quick enough to be agile, but it still has enough heft that the truck never feels jittery. Despite being considerably bulkier, this pickup actually drives smaller and feels nimbler than the midsize Ford Ranger.

The Tremor is offered in one configuration: a SuperCrew body and a 5.5-foot cargo box. Unlike the GMC Sierra or Ram 1500, the F-150's tailgate isn't hinged in multiple ways, but it can still do a couple parlor tricks. As it has for years, this Ford's cargo-box door is available with a pop-out step and handle, making it far easier to climb up into that towering bed. The tailgate can also open or close at the push of a button, something that's surprisingly convenient, plus it has some clever integrated clamping locations, so you can turn your F-150 into the world's most expensive sawhorse.

Like the exterior, this rig's cabin features orange accents, a few on the console, dashboard, doors and seats. Just like other 2021 F-150s, high-quality soft plastics abound in this truck and the interior's design is clean and highly functional. Some may still prefer what Ram is doing with its interiors these days, but what the Tremor offers is superb.

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - gauges
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2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - gauges

Don't expect a whole bunch of standard driver aids, this ain't no Hyundai!

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Optionally, the console lid flips forward, revealing a table-like surface. This clever productivity solution is perfect for filling out paperwork or dashing off a few emails on your laptop. Enabling this, the gear selector motors down into the center console at a button push, though it doesn't sound robust, nor does the shifter itself feel built for the long haul.

This Tremor features loads of tech, including an easily reconfigurable digital instrument cluster and a beautiful 12-inch central display. That touchscreen is scalpel sharp and runs a Sync 4 infotainment system that is not only easy to use but blazingly quick. Poke through some menus and swipe around this multimedia array and it never stutters or lags, it feels absolutely fluid and responsive. The available 360-degree camera system is also crisp and super helpful while backing up.

As it sits, this truck is pretty loaded, but many common driver aids are unfortunately not standard. An emergency braking system, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams and more are bundled in a $655 options group. If you want adaptive cruise control with lane centering, road sign recognition and intersection assist you have to shell out $6,065 more for the 401A Mid Package, $765 for the 360-degree camera package and then another $750 for the Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0 option -- which is a real shame.

But hey, at least the available driving aids all work phenomenally well. The blind-spot monitoring system keeps you from sideswiping other vehicles, the adaptive cruise control is immediately confidence inspiring and the lane-centering system practically makes this truck track like a monorail. Even the automatic high beams are just about perfect, promptly clicking on when appropriate and dipping again long before oncoming traffic gets too close.

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - rear
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2021 Ford F-150 Tremor - rear

It looks tough but is surprisingly easy to live with.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

A step above the Lariat model and one rung down from King Ranch, the Tremor is solidly a midrange F-150 trim. Avoid gorging yourself on the options buffet and its starting price is a reasonable $51,200 including a scowl-inducing $1,695 in destination charges. Naturally, the example evaluated here is far ritzier than that. The smorgasbord $13,445 402A high-end options group pads the bottom line, as does the $1,090 Trailer Tow Package, $1,000 Torsen front differential, $995 2-kW Pro Power Onboard electrical system, the $695 B&O Unleashed sound system, that nifty $695 power tailgate, a $595 spray-in bedliner, a $215 partitioned under-seat storage cubby and the $165 center console work surface, phew! That brings the total to $70,095, a serious chunk of change.

Yes, we're officially living in crazytown when shelling out 70 grand for what should be a work vehicle seems ordinary. But in today's world you can spend a lot more than that on a pickup without trying. And honestly, I'd be outraged by that price if the Tremor weren't so likable. This truck delivers more than your typical F-150 without going overboard, offering extra capability while maintaining its composure and refinement. If you're looking for an off-road-ready full-size pickup, put this on your shortlist.

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor
8.8

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor

MSRP

Score Breakdown

Performance 9Features 9Design 8Media 9.5

Specs

See full specs Engine V6 Cylinder Engine, TurbochargedDrivetrain Four Wheel DriveMPG 20 MPGPassenger Capacity 5Body Type Trucks