2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Pros and Cons Review: A Great Ranger12/09/2021
- The best Ford Ranger you can buy
- Loves the dirt
- Top-notch powertrain
- Tinny doors and structure
- Ancient interior
- Few if any clever features
The new 2021 Tremor was an earth-shaking addition to the Ford Ranger lineup, instantly establishing itself as the best-driving, best-riding, and best-wheeling version of the aging midsize pickup.
Credit goes almost entirely to the Tremor’s upgraded suspension and rolling stock. Its off-road tires’ taller sidewalls are first into the refinement breach, taking the initial edges off impacts that set teeth clacking in regular Rangers, and the Tremor’s Fox dampers—the rears have remote reservoirs—and revised rear springs take care of the rest. Mostly. It’s still a firmly suspended truck, but with much improved ride refinement and body control over bumps, lumps, and yumps.
Power comes from the same 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder and 10-speed automatic transmission found in every U.S.-spec Ranger. Output stands at a beefy 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, and the judges at our 2022 Truck of the Year contest sang its praises. “Good power,” senior editor Alex Kierstein said, “with almost turbodiesel-like grunt. Torque is king in a truck, and this 2.3T beats any base gas V-6 around.” Features editor Christian Seabaugh agreed: “Love this powertrain and its bucketfuls of low-end torque and wide powerband.”
With the engine leading the charge and the tires and suspension delivering sure-footed grip and a steady path, the Tremor made easy work of the off-road course at Honda’s proving ground. “It absolutely rips off-road,” features editor Scott Evans said. “It’s super fun to tear around in, especially in Sand mode where the stability control chills out.” Of course, given the Tremor is an off-road-oriented trim, we’d be more surprised if it weren’t good at getting dirty.
This Ranger also acquitted itself decently in our towing test, with the stout turbo-four easily maintaining or even adding speed easily while pulling 5,000 pounds of trailer and UTV. (All Rangers are rated for a 7,500-pound towing max.) Even with the softer off-road tires, the truck and trailer tracked true—but things got hinky when decelerating due to the built-in trailer brake controller. Besides a lack of visual or tactile feedback from the knob as to its settings or whether it was even activated, the controller would take a beat or more to release the trailer’s binders once you lifted from the truck’s brake pedal or came to a stop. This resulted in a shudder or a shove from the rear no matter how the controller was set. No other truck we tested exhibited similar behavior with this trailer.
Although the Tremor package improves the Ranger—almost immeasurably so—the rest of the truck is the same one on sale globally since 2011, which was updated lightly for North American duty for 2019. The Ranger’s old bones, technology, and interior drag the Tremor down, and the improved suspension can’t do much to mitigate the considerable NVH or the fact closing the doors sounds like banging a couple of empty beer cans together. The bed also lacks any of today’s latest tricks, such as a multifunction tailgate, multiple (or any household-style) power outlets, or steps, limiting its versatility when viewed against stuff like, say, Ford’s own Maverick.
With a new Ranger imminent and the bleeding edge of what pickup trucks can and will be on display at this year’s Truck of the Year competition, well, “tremor” best describes this Ford’s overall impact. And that’s simply not enough for this good small truck to score our Golden Calipers.
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