If you’ve been a fan of the Ford Ranger for as long as we have, you probably had the same emotional reaction as we did when we heard the Tremor was coming back. For better or worse, Ford surprised us all when the 2021 Ranger Tremor arrived as a hardcore off-road package instead of the audiophile truck it was in the early 2000s. With a low lift, impressive Fox 2.0 shocks and 32-inch all-terrain tires, the General Grabber Ranger Tremor is the real deal when it comes to off-roading—on paper, anyway. The combination elevates the Ford Ranger to competition in the premium midsize SUV class, which previously included the Chevy Colorado ZR2 and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.
So, is the 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor the best when it comes to factory off-road pickups? Read on to find out how our judges thought it fared during our week-long torture test.
Ford Ranger Tremor RTI Ramp and Track Data
When Ford brought the Ranger back as a midsize for 2019, it did so in line with a trend that’s becoming increasingly common. Ford offered only one transmission for this generation of Ranger. That’s really not bad, as the small truck’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost I-4 engine makes 270 hp. and an impressive 310 lb-ft of torque. The EcoBoost engine is backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission similar to the one found in the larger F-150 pickups.
On-track testing is truly the only place where our diverse group of competitors compares head-to-head. While we don’t expect the smaller midsize trucks to handle the more powerful half-tons, it’s interesting to see where things stack up. When the Ranger Tremor went from 0 to 60 mph in 7.61 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 16.08 seconds at 88.0 mph. That was enough to make it the quickest and fastest of the trio of mid-sized rivals, but even more interesting was the fact that the Ranger Tremor was just fractions of a second ahead of the much more powerful Tundra. Unfortunately, when it came to braking performance, the Ranger fell to the rear, going from 60 mph to zero in 152.22 feet, a full 10 feet farther than the next closest competitor.
When it came time for the RTI ramp, the Ranger Tremor did a great job with a solid mid-range score. Climbing 51 inches up the ramp, the Ranger scored 440.53, which was better than the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tundra, but well behind the nimble Tacoma.
Interior and exterior of Ford Ranger Tremor
In relaunching the Ranger nameplate in 2019, Ford decided to use the company’s existing global platform. While this certainly saved the company time and money on development, the three-year-old Ranger was already a bit dated, and that reflected in our judges’ evaluation of the truck. There were many comments about the truck’s hollow door closures, the general plainness of the interior, the abundance of hard plastic and the generally uninteresting design. Even so, our judges mostly agreed that the Ranger’s front seats were quite comfortable and the B&O sound system sounded fantastic. While there was nothing wrong with the Ranger’s interior (although one judge disagreed with the location of the power mirror switch), it didn’t win many fans, and that was reflected in the scores.
Despite the fact that the interior did not receive the highest marks, the exterior of the Ranger Tremor attracted the attention of most members of our jury. Setting the Tremor apart from other Ranger models is a slight increase in ground clearance, 32-inch General Grabber tires, metallic painted wheels, unique fender flares, a painted grille, rear recovery hooks and side steps. This combination gives the Ranger Tremor an aggressive style that our judges loved. In particular, the Ranger received high marks for its stability, high ground clearance, aggressive off-road tires and four closed-loop recovery points. The only real complaint the team heard was about the Tremor-specific side steps. Our judges found the steps to be largely unusable for getting in or out of the car, with some scraping their shins against the large rings, and we spent the entire week of testing worried we’d damage them off-road because they hang well below the threshold. We all agreed that if Ford had ditched the big steps in favor of a more low-profile rear derailleur, the Tremor package would have been perfect.
Ford Ranger Tremor atp the highway
When it came to hitting the pavement, the Ford Ranger Tremor earned average marks from our judges. They noted that the Ranger felt small and nimble, which was especially handy when navigating tight parking lots. Many of our judges gave high marks to the Ranger’s cornering ability and tight overall handling characteristics. The truck was also noted to be very smooth, thanks in part to the Fox 2.0 monotube shocks in the Tremor package. The truck’s EcoBoost engine and 10-speed transmission were also crowd favorites. While there was some minor grumbling about turbo lag from the turbocharged 2.3-liter I-4, everyone agreed that the little truck really hustled once it got going. The biggest complaint we found among judges when it came to highway driving centered around cabin noise. With the stereo off, many noticed an increase in wind and road noise, as well as the General’s aggressive tires. Fortunately, the B&O audio system drowned out these noises with ease. The fuel economy calculated for the Ranger Tremor was quite interesting. The EPA rates the truck at 19 mpg all-terrain, but in our testing we saw an average of 16.43 mpg with a worst tank of 14.93 and a best of 22.38. This tells us that the Ranger Tremor is very thirsty when off-road, but can be quite stingy when driving on the highway. We have no doubt that under normal driving conditions this truck can meet or exceed EPA ratings, which is quite a rare occurrence indeed.
When tThe sidewalk ends
The Ford Ranger Tremor is loaded with off-road capabilities, and our judging team really liked them. Thanks in part to the truck’s increased ground clearance and 32-inch all-terrain tires, the General Grabber A/TX Ranger Tremor boasts an impressive 9.8 inches of ground clearance, along with an approach angle of 30.9 degrees, a break angle of 24.2 degrees, and a 25.5- degree angles of departure. This gave the truck plenty of room to maneuver over obstacles on our rocky trails. The Tremor suspension features Fox 2.0 shocks with reservoirs in the rear. Wheel travel has increased to 6.5 inches in the front and 8.5 inches in the rear. Combined with the truck’s custom-tuned front and rear springs and Fox Ranger Tremor shocks, it delivers a fantastic ride over medium-sized bumps and rough terrain, even at high speeds.
The Ranger Tremor is also equipped with a host of electronic accessories designed to aid in off-road adventures. The most important among them is the electronic locking of the rear differential. Our judges were impressed by the fact that Ford allows Ranger drivers to lock the differential in all drive modes, including two-wheel drive. While the locker still disengages at relatively low speeds (around 20 mph), none of the other competitors allow rear locker in two-wheel drive, and most do so only for short range. In addition to the locking differential, the Ranger Tremor also features Ford’s Terrain Control System, which includes four different driving modes. It doesn’t stop there; The Ranger is also equipped with Ford’s innovative Trail Control system, which allows the truck to control the steering and braking while driving on a trail. Finally, Ford has recalibrated the Tremor traction control system for improved acceleration and traction on loose surfaces.
During testing, there was no discipline for which our judges did not rate the Ranger Tremor highly. The truck performed admirably on our bumpy hill climbs, handled the bumpy desert roads with ease and comfort, and had no trouble in the rocks (except for the low side steps). The real surprise was on the sand, where the Ranger Tremor impressed with its stiff chassis, excellent suspension setup and fantastic power.
The bottom line
While the 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor may not be the newest in the world, it has proven to be a truly reliable wagon. If you can get past the dated interior design, the Ranger Tremor could be the perfect midsize truck for those looking to go off-road in comfort and style. The truck’s suspension, tires, and wheelset work very well together, and the drivetrain provides plenty of power and efficiency. We’d go so far as to say that the Tremor package might just be the best Ranger available today… just need to ditch those side steps.
Looks great! More details?
- Smooth and powerful EcoBoost engine, single-tube Fox 2.0 shock absorbers, strong off-road style
What is not
- Outdated interior design, large low-hanging footboards, cramped back seat
Journal of quotations
- “Extraordinary fun on rough roads with gradients and a complete surprise on the sand.”
- “Once the EcoBoost turbo fires up, this truck really goes!”
- “Love the stance of this truck. She just sits right.”
- “Oh! I just hit my shin on the blunt low-hanging side steps…again.”
- “Drove a good distance without the radio on and this truck gets a lot of road and wind noise.”
- “The exhaust on this gas truck sounds like an old VW bus. You decide whether it’s good or bad.”
2021 Ford Ranger Tremor
- Base price: $34,745
- Price after inspection: $44,430
- EPA Fuel Econ (City/Highway/Comb): 19/19/19
- Tested fuel economy (average/best): 16.40/22.38
- Engine: 2.3-liter EcoBoost I-4
- Power: 270 hp. at 5500 rpm
- Torque: 310 lb-ft at 3,000 rpm
- Gearbox: 10-speed automatic
- 0-60 mph: 7.61 seconds
- ¼ mile: 16.08 seconds at 88.0 mph
- Braking from 60-0 mph: 152.22 feet