The same day that Ford announced the latest modifications for its top-selling F-150 pickup truck, a clean Oxford White Super Duty Crew Cab in King Ranch trim, and featuring new Tremor off-roading hardware, rolled into my possession for a visit.
Pickup trucks remain the bread-and-butter money generators for the American automakers, followed closely by crossovers of every ilk. While pundits claim that 30 percent of new vehicle sales will be EVs in only five years (they were less than 3 percent in 2019), it will take continued sales of the cash-creating pickup workhorses to pay for the supposed arrival of EVs.
The latest F-150 gains interior enhancements for comfort, plus pieces that will create a more user-friendly workspace for the key target audience — the working class that really uses pickup trucks as intended. The electric F-150 is still a year or so away. Ford has created a massive customer list for commercial vehicles, a foundation that helps the F-series trucks account for almost 70 percent of the blue oval brand’s annual profits.
A big chunk of F-series sales are heavy duty Super Duty trucks, with base pricing starting at just over $35,000. The Tremor model shown was conceived as a stronger off-road-capable pickup for buyers who need the heavier towing capacity of a Super Duty — but still need, or want to, play in the dirt. Not as wild as the Raptor, the Tremor still shares some principal engineering and design emphasis so that it too can bound over moguls, cross deep streams, and generally go places that 98 percent of drivers will never venture.
Much more than a simple FX4 makeover, Tremor ($3,945 option) adds big hardware. Like 35-inch Goodyear Wranglers mounted to 18-inch black-out wheels, a 2-inch suspension lift (with twin-tube shocks and almost 11 inches of ground clearance), underbody skid plates to protect vitals like a locking front differential and a limited-slip rear diff as well as the electronic-shift transfer case (no AWD setting like GM). The front air dam is reconfigured for approach angles, while Ford adds a rock crawl mode in the engine management system plus off-road trail control — cruise control for when the pavement ends.
Already a beefy truck by any measure, the Tremor package adds content, which of course adds weight. Cracking the scales at well over 3 tons, this Super Duty can still tow up to 15,000 pounds with the new 7.3-liter 430-hp V-8 engine — a throwback to an earlier generation of Ford diesel engine labels. Using an all-new 10-speed automatic, the Tremor also can be ordered with the 6.7-liter PowerStroke diesel with 475 hp and 1,050 pound/feet of rock-crawling torque. The diesel powertrain, a $10,495 option, can pull up to 21,900 pounds via a gooseneck setup in the bed.
Inside, our Super Duty was swathed in rich cowhides festooned with the King Ranch logo. Heated and cooled power seats, power telescoping steering column, power telescoping dual-pane trailering mirrors, rear brake controller, rear towing cameras, push-button ignition plus a 10-speaker sound system and the latest electronic driving aids all help to take the edge off of a long day working. Throw in some power-deploying running boards, navigation, and a wireless charging pad and you soon understand how the sticker price got to $71,750.
The seats are plush. The Bang & Olufsen audio is powerful. The controls are simple, efficient and properly placed. The console is huge, but work-friendly. The rear seating is ample, with a flat load floor to boot — in case you need to flip the seat up and sleep in this space.
The power is ample. Too ample. The new V-8 is a hushed partner and squirts this big truck to even bigger speeds than it has any right to accomplish, so effortlessly. The 10-speed gearbox and 4.30 gears certainly help, yet this truck motors with a sense of confidence.
The ride, however, is stiff. “Punishing” was the quote from the right seat. With so many rural Maine roads wretchedly rough, the big Ford found every ripple and transferred it up through those big Goodyears, that solid axle suspension and into the cab. The Raptor commendably arrests much of those driving reactions; the Tremor much less so.
Ram has its Power Wagon and GMC has the AT4, so Ford added the Tremor to continue reaching every niche of the pickup market. While conceived before the proliferation of EVs and COVID viruses, the Tremor will satisfy a lot of Ford fans and help pay for the vehicles that will eventually take its place.