On the Road Review: Ford F-150 Tremor

When you dominate the full-size pickup truck segment as Ford does, you have some latitude, and some pressure, to create unique trim lines and models to keep the masses interested in your product. This week’s Tremor is one such product.

The Tremor model is a basic two-door regular cab truck with a short-bed box — the kind of truck that used to be very popular before pickups became the default family vehicle for urban America. Available in either 2WD or 4WD, the Tremor comes with one powertrain — a 365-hp twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission. A 4.10 rear axle ratio maximizes the engine’s output — making the Tremor a surprisingly quick truck with electric rheostat-like power delivery.

To separate the Tremor from other F-150 models, there are special graphics, blacked-out 20-inch alloy wheels with performance Pirelli rubber, LED HID headlamps and special piping on the interior seats — which have soft Alcantara inserts. Other interior notables include brushed aluminum trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel with intuitive redundant controls, plus power pedals.

The Tremor also gets a modified (simpler) version of Ford’s Sync and MyFordTouch system — an arrangement that uses more conventional knobs and controls than the usual touch-pad oriented configuration that aggravates many users. With a crisp audio system and a reasonably subdued cabin, the Tremor is a fitting travel partner.

Except that the regular cab layout doesn’t offer a lot of interior cargo room. There is some packing space behind the front seats, yet it is awkward to get to — requiring that the seats move all the way forward first. When this body style first debuted, there were small rear-hinged doors on regular cab models; that design has been dropped.

People space is fine, with a good view out assisted by large mirrors and an optional real camera. I was, however, shocked to find that this ‘small’ regular cab pickup was a tight fit in my garage, requiring the driver’s side mirror be folded in to fit through the door, and little remaining walking space around both front and rear bumpers.

With a sportier chassis below — stiffer springs and shocks — the Tremor’s road manners are smartened up a tad and this pickup drives with crisper responses than other F-150s. Steering feel is actually markedly better than (next week’s) Toyota Highlander, producing more road feel and better grip. Certain rough road surfaces created a few unwanted body rattles (some of which was attributed to the optional cargo-bed folding compartment pieces), yet the overall ride was surprisingly compliant.

Mash the go-pedal and the Tremor surges forward with little drama. There is a muted exhaust note and a subdued engine tune, but a glance at the speedometer needle reveals impressive results.

Our fuel economy however did not reach the lofty expectations of the predictions; 18.2 mpg was our peak efficiency, several miles per gallon lower than the EPA chart. This is consistent with other EcoBoost experiences. Two factors come to mind. Maybe the EcoBoost testing is done on Iowa flat terrain, absent the hills of other locales, or, the seduction of the EcoBoost’s V-8 like power delivery incites more aggressive throttle application than normal under the deception that you can still power along AND save fuel. In good conscience, it is probably a little of both.

This point is central to the new aluminum-bodied F-series pickups that are in production right now. Ford has been selling 40 percent of its F-150s with the 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost engine. To further increase efficiency, Ford has added a 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine that is projected to get up to 26-mpg in 2WD trim. While still less than Chrysler’s Ram Diesel (28 mpg), I think Ford was banking on a big bragging number for the new aluminum truck, the much bally-hooed construction, which is supposed to save 700 pounds over the previous steel-bodied pickup. I would expect to see some tinkering with transmissions and gearing in the short term, as Ford, and the industry, have a large federally mandated fuel economy target looming ahead.

Word persists that Ford continues to work on a new Bronco truck, a two-door SUV that would share the new aluminum body, but rely on the Raptor/Tremor underpinnings to be a world-class rival to Jeep’s Wrangler. With Wrangler sales racking up big numbers year after year, it only makes sense for someone to take a run at the Jeep; Ford’s initial Bronco had a similarly loyal following so a new modern off-road-oriented Bronco — either in midsize or full-size guise seemingly makes good business sense.

The Tremor doesn’t yet appear in the 2015 F-series trim level offerings, so if you want one of these sporty short-bed pickups, you will need to quickly scour dealer web-sites before Ford fans snatch these trucks up. It is a credible offering and will be a popular model for pickup collectors.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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