When it comes to trucks, the folks at Ford Motor Co. know a good thing when they see it — probably why they sell so many each year.
One of the things they do well is produce variants of their pickups. When the company re-introduced the Ranger for 2019, they brought it back as a midsize model, the original being a compact truck. Ford created it as a midsize to, obviously, compete with the hot-selling Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Admittedly, I’m stretching the “variant” idea here, but it’s where it started in my mind.
Since then, the Ranger’s gotten a number of specialized appearance packages, mirroring what its big brother — the F-150 — including the STX package for the 2021 model year. Prior to that there was the FX2 and FX4 models to round out the run.
But now we get to the good stuff — the Tremor. Actually, in my case, the test vehicle was a 2021 Ford Ranger SuperCrew 4×4 Lariat Tremor, henceforth to be known simply as the Tremor. When you approach the Ranger Tremor for the first time, it’s clear that this is a different animal from the others. It sits a bit higher. It takes up a bit more room in the driveway.
Clearly, this is by design because it’s supposed to mimic its Big Brother on some level. Fortunately, I’ve also driven the F-150 Tremor so I’ve got some basis for comparison. There’s no question, the Ranger Tremor’s a fine truck and the $4,290 you pay for that off-road package is worth it — when your off-roading.
I’ll be honest, I think it’s hard to find an “ugly” truck, although the grille on the previous model year Chevy Silverado heavy-duty almost got me to change my tune. The test truck came in carbonized gray with black and red accents. Veeerrrry nice. Sitting on 32-inch tires and 17-inch black wheels resulting in nearly 10 inches of ground clearance, it definitely looks like something I’m gonna scratch the sides of while driving down a two-track … or less.
In short: it looks the part. Except. I’ve never been a fan of the nose of these trucks. They’re just so … blah. If the F-150 is Marcia, then the Ranger is definitely Jan when it comes to the front end of these trucks. Again, not ugly, but not Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.
The cabin of the Ranger Tremor is a good place to be, although if you’re under 5-foot, 10-inches tall, you’re going to work to get into it. Also, if you’re a bigger person (yup, I am) it’s also a bit of work. Not much can be done about that, just a warning.
Again, once inside, the cabin is very pleasant. Everything is as it should be. Easy to see. Easy to reach. Easy to understand. It features an 8-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard with a couple of knobs, which were simple to manipulate while not having to take one’s eyes off the road. There are controls for that in the steering wheel too. It’s nice to have options.
The seats are a leather-trimmed with fabric inserts and a stark white stitching that look amazing and offer plenty of comfort. That said, if you’re a bigger person, you may feel a bit cramped. Not uncomfortable, but there’s not a lot of wiggle room once you’re in place. The rear seats offer less space, but not unreasonably so. I don’t think I’d want to travel across the country back there, but sitting back there for a few hours wouldn’t be a problem.
The Ranger Tremor’s powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-4 that puts out 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. It does all this through a 10-speed automatic transmission with 4-wheel drive available whenever needed.
It’s a good engine and it’s not quite the gas monger one might expect. We’re told it gets 19 mpg … all cases: city, highway, combined. I averaged 17.8 mpg during my time in it. I’m required to test all aspects of a vehicle, especially acceleration. Sometimes, I conduct those test a few times. Other times, I do it more often. This was a “more often” week. So yeah, I thought it offered plenty of acceleration in city and highway driving. I made certain of it.
Safety and Technology
For what you pay for this truck — I’ll get to that later — it should be laden with all kinds of advanced driver assistance technologies. And it is. It features all of the current greatest hits: cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency brake (it works), plus convenience tech like adaptive cruise control, forward sensing, reverse sensing and rear-view camera.
This model comes with the Sync3 system. It’s still clunky when compared with Apple CarPlay, which it adapts to marvelously. I’m still uncertain why Sync isn’t further along in its voice recognition setup at least. Ford was an early adopter when it came to this type of technology, but when I ask it to play a certain song or make a phone call, there’s still a bit of a protocol it seems to make me want to go through that I don’t need to with CarPlay.
Also, the wireless phone charger drives me mad. I put my phone on the pad. It charges for a minute, then it throws up a screen telling me it’s not on the pad exactly right. I nudge it a little and the pop up goes away. Fifteen seconds later, it comes back. I nudge. It goes. It returns. Every Ford vehicle with a wireless charging pad does this to me. I’m sure I’m the problem, but it almost makes me want to form a support group.
Ford describes this model as the most off-road capable Ranger ever. I don’t doubt it. Just look at some of the components listed in the package, it’s a veritable who’s who (or what’s what?) of name brands associated with driving over rocks, through rivers and up steep inclines. That said, I can say navigated every highway off-ramp with aplomb. Which is to say, I drove it like 99% of the people who will buy it.
It’s a little bouncy, but it’s a truck. It’s supposed to be a little bouncy. It’s a little tight on the inside, but most vehicles I get into these days are … that’s a “me” thing more than a “them” thing. It rides well for an elevated midsize truck and the powerplant is excellent. The 10-speed functioned flawlessly during my time behind the wheel with no moments of trying to find the right gear — simply smooth all the way through.
It’s an excellent off-roader by most accounts, but if you want something you can drive to work (if you do that anymore) daily and then go have fun on the trails, this can do exactly that.
It’s a very good truck. Good acceleration. Good stopping power. Clearly good off-road. It tows 7,500 pounds even. So what stops me from saying, “Get this thing!”? It’s nearly $50K!! I can get a full-size F-150 for that amount of money with most of the equipment on this one … oh, and I can tow a lot more.
A midsize truck, like the Ranger, is an excellent alternative to a full-size model until a certain point — a certain price point. This truck crosses that point, and with a $4,290 optional package, it does it proudly.