Home » Ford Has Idiot-Proofed Off-Roading With The 2024 F-150 Tremor

Ford Has Idiot-Proofed Off-Roading With The 2024 F-150 Tremor

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I just got back from the media drive for the 2024 Ford F-150, and before you ask — no, they didn’t screw it up. The new F-150 is only lightly updated from the outgoing truck, and yet Ford invited a bunch of journalists for a multi-day event that involved off-roading the F-150 Tremor. If there’s one main takeaway for me, it’s this: Ford has refined off-roading to a point that no automaker ever has before. Things that many people in the off-road world took as “just part of the game” are what Ford spent time fixing, and now some of their vehicles are easier to off-road than anything else on the market. Here, allow me to explain.

OK, let me get some of the basics out of the way. The 2024 model-year basically takes the 2023 Ford F-150, tweaks the styling, kills the 3.3-liter natural aspirated V6 to make the 2.7-liter EcoBoost the base motor, discounts the 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid option, adds a new optional Pro Access Tailgate, offers a new head-up display, features an optional Blue Cruise hands-free driving feature, offers a new modular front bumper on the Tremor and Raptor, and makes the 12-inch infotainment screen standard across all trim levels.

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Ford has embargoed all F-150 Raptor driving impressions, and since the only non-Raptor driving involved off-roading a Tremor, this review will be primarily about the Tremor’s off-road performance, which highlighted one thing to me: Usability. Ford has made off-road features that typically require a bit of knowledge and patience almost completely foolproof, and that’s just smart given that the company is part of a wave of automakers bringing genuine off-road capability from niche into the mainstream.

[Full Disclosure: Ford invited me to Palm Springs to drive the refreshed F-150. I drove there in a Lincoln Nautilus that our sister company, Galpin, had lent me. I stayed a couple of nights in a beautiful resort that Ford paid for. FoMoCo also fed me delicious  food. -DT]. 

First, Let’s Look At BlueCruise And The Pro-Access Tailgate

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For the first time ever, Ford is offering BlueCruise in the F-150 (on XLT and up). It’s a hands-free driving assist feature that lets you basically let the vehicle take over driving — sort of. Even though you’re in “look ma, no hands!” mode, you still have to pay attention, and the vehicle will get on your case if you don’t.

Even if it only lets you go hands-free on certain divided highways, it’s still a fun system as I learned driving the truck you see above, with the setup acting as more than just a blend of Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping. Ford’s newest update (this is BlueCruise 1.2, an update over 1.0 previously available in other Ford products) adjusts the vehicle’s position within the lane; that’s a nice touch that is especially noticeable as you pass, say, a semi truck, and the system gives you a bit of extra space. The Lane Change Assist also works well, with the vehicle steering over to the next lane for you, though you do have to cancel the turn signal unless you only touch it slightly with your hand.

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The first-ever F-150 head-up display — which projects useful features like vehicle speed, navigation instructions, temperature, time, and speed limit onto the base of the windscreen — is nice; it’s not as good as, say, an A-pillar-to-A-pillar panoramic screen like that of the Lincoln Nautilus, but it does help keep the driver’s eyes looking ahead.

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The next feature I’ll discuss is the new Pro Access Tailgate. It basically just takes the standard F-150 tailgate and adds a door in the middle. It’s really that simple.

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What’s the point? Well, it lets you gain access to items deep in the bed because you no longer have to reach over the tailgate. There are some other advantages, but I’ll save those for a separate article I plan to publish today — an article in which I claim that the Pro Access tailgate is the greatest of the current crop of whiz-bang tailgates in this segment.

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Finally, before I get to what I did for the majority of the press trip — off-road the Tremor — I just want to note that during that short BlueCruise demonstration, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the 3.5-liter Powerboost hybrid. I’d driven it before, but I didn’t realize just how compelling it is to pilot down the freeway.

Ford says it made some refinements to the system, which basically places an electric motor between a 3.5-liter Ecoboost engine and a 10-speed automatic, and maybe I’m feeling some of that, but regardless, I couldn’t help be notice how beautifully that powertrain provides forward thrust. That power delivery is so absurdly smooth, devoid of any weird shifting delays or any of that — as soon as you step on it, the truck just moves forward with the speed of something much smaller than it and with the unstoppability of a freight train. Would I take it over the 5.0? Well, the 5.0 definitely sounds better, especially at idle, but that PowerBoost just moves, and not to mention, it’s got an available 7.2kW power source onboard that Ford used to run a bunch of AC units at the event. So yeah, I think I would take the hybrid. Plus, the 23 MPG combined figure is significantly higher than the 5.0’s 19…

Off-Roading The 2024 Ford F-150 Tremor Made Me Realize Just How Dialed In Ford’s 4×4 Systems Are

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I spent the vast majority of the non-Raptor portion of the press trip off-roading a gray, ~$80,000 Tremor. We all met about an hour from our hotel at a staging area, where the Tremors were lined up looking good. That new-for-2024 gray coast-to-coast grille combined with those orange accents — it all just works so beautifully.

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By the way, here’s how the 2023 Tremor looks. I prefer the new one:

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Before I headed off-road with the other journalists, I couldn’t help but notice a 5.0-liter V8-powered truck’s gaping holes in the new steel modular bumper:

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See that lower opening: On 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6 models, there’s an intercooler behind it hidden by active grille shutters to reduce drag:

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On 5.0 models, the hole just goes to…basically nowhere:

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I’m surprised by this, as typically automakers try to close out as much of their frontal openings as possible so as to reduce drag. I’m curious what’s going on here — whether the EPA fuel economy-tracked vehicle had the standard bumper, or if the sims showed that, even open, modular bumper’s holes don’t deleteriously affect drag. I’d be surprised by that, but then, who knows? Anyway, enough musing, let’s talk about the truck’s off-road performance.

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The Tremor is solid off-road. The start of our trail was mostly mild, involving a few articulation events on dirt trails through mostly desert terrain. The F-150 Tremor’s leaf-sprung solid axle articulated well, keeping all four tires on the ground, yielding extra grip and a nice, stable off-road ride:

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The 33-inch all-terrain tires (two-inches taller than the base F-150’s tires) gripped well, and the front-facing camera, along with some spotters, made navigating a few tight spots through some boulders quite easy.

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We stopped at an obstacle that involved climbing a hill, then trying Ford’s Trail Turn Assist around a campfire, then descending a steep grade. Here’s a look at the hill climb:

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The F-150 Tremor has a decent 27.6-degree approach angle, a decent-for-a-truck 24.3-degree departure angle, and a decent-for-something-with-a-huge-wheelbase 21.2-degree breakover angle. Ground clearance is a good 9.4 inches. This particular trail wasn’t hard enough to challenge any of those figures, except for perhaps the breakover angle, with an occasional underbody “thud” ringing out as we crested mounds. None of those thuds were a concern, because the engine/cooling system/steering all have skidplate protection, as does the transfer case. The fuel tank and transmission don’t look protected, though a Ford engineer made it clear that, especially in an era where weight savings is critically important, adding a steel skidplate to a fuel tank that didn’t get significantly damaged during the company’s torture-testing seems unwise:

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Climbing the hills, Ford suggested we use Trail Control, which is basically an off-road cruise control that keeps the vehicle moving at controlled, low speeds set by the driver. This system also acted as hill-descent control down steep grades:

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Every now and then, the truck would run out of articulation, but when that happened, it kept moving thanks to a Torsen front diff and a locking rear diff, which activated instantly with the press of a button.

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Also activated with a press of the button was One Pedal Driving, which allowed you to adjust your vehicle speed with just your right foot; the truck slowed down on its own as you let off, and it sped up as you pressed the accelerator — not unlike an EV with regenerative braking.

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Though I never really got used to this, and found that it only made my driving jerkier, the Trail Turn Assist Feature was indeed legit, allowing the truck to make tight turns that it would otherwise be unable to if it couldn’t use the brake to drag the inside rear tire:

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It was during this press drive that I realized just how significantly ahead of all of its competitors Ford is when it comes to off-road feature usability.

Ford Is Ahead Of The Pack On 4×4 Feature Usability

I’ve been off-roading for most of my life. I’ve used vehicles that require you to be stopped to engage four-wheel drive (you had to step outside and lock the hubs and then yank the transfer case lever into “4wd”); I’ve driven AMC products that featured “Shift on the Fly” four-wheel drive that let you shift while moving; and I’ve shifted electronic transfer cases. I’ve used lockers from every major automaker, I’ve used sway bar disconnects, and on and on.

And what I’ve learned is: Much of these are huge pains in the ass. Take the Toyota Land Cruiser that I drove a few weeks ago at the real-life Toyotathon. Getting that thing into low-range, and getting the lockers working took far too much patience, with me writing in my review:

Still, the sway bar disconnect worked flawlessly, and though the excellent low-range switch took a bit of time to actually get the transfer case into low, and though the lockers also took a moment to actuate, once they were on, the Land Cruiser was basically unstoppable — traction seemed endless.

This is not uncommon. Actuating low-range, and especially actuating lockers, usually takes time and involves staring at a blinking light, waiting for it to finally stay on to indicate that you might have a popsicle’s chance in hell of making it through whatever rigorous terrain awaits you ahead. This patience isn’t needed in Ford products; in the Bronco and F-150, four-wheel-drive low-range works without issue, and the lockers are absolutely incredible. I noticed this while first driving the Bronco a few years ago; it has squishy switches on top of the center stack. Press one of those, and seemingly instantly, you’ve got your diff locked and you’re ready to conquer the trail. The F-150’s rear locker works similarly, which is to say: Borderline perfectly.

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Ford has had Trail Control off-road cruise control dialed in for years. Even when Toyota’s Crawl Control system was loud from all the ABS actuation noise, Ford’s was quiet and easy to use, allowing the driver to set a comfortable off-road speed, and the vehicle delivering that without a fuss. You can adjust the speed in tiny increments on the steering wheel, and overall it just helps you focus on steering instead of trying to feather an accelerator pedal or brake pedal up or down a grade or over some obstacle.

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One of my favorite features of the new F-150 Tremor is the fact that its washable front-facing camera can stay on when you’re in a certain 4×4 drive mode. This is a huge deal, as, when off-roading, you’ll often find yourselves needing to understand the terrain ahead, especially if that terrain is the sky as you crest a steep grade. So many other companies’ front-facing cameras stop at a certain vehicle speed, which isn’t very helpful over the dunes.

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Then there’s one-pedal driving, and more importantly, Trail Turn Assist to make tight trails easier to navigate.

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On the Bronco, there’s the sway bar disconnect that one can disengage even while driving on uneven terrain and putting stress through that sway bar. Typically, one has to wait until the vehicle is on flat ground to disconnect the sway bar; not on Ford Broncos.

Verdict

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As I sat there in the cushy $80,000 Tremor, I realized that a lot of the BS that I expected when off-roading just wasn’t there anymore. The Tremor’s four-wheel drive system (including low-range) works easily with the press of a switch; the rear locker actuates insanely quickly; excellently-tuned Trail Control keeps you going a precise speed; the always-on front-facing camera is a huge deal; on Bronco, the sway bar can be disconnected even when the vehicle isn’t on perfectly nice ground, and I can go on and on about Fords drive modes.

But the short of it is that Ford has made the new F-150 (along with its Bronco sibling) downright easy to off-road and devoid of BS. And that’s a good thing, because the four-wheel drive world used to be riddled with it.

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Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
28 days ago

Tremor is possibly the worst name ever for a vehicle. Does anybody at Ford even have a dictionary? I guess it’s not quite as bad as calling it the Spastic but geez.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
28 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

They first used it for a limited-release sport truck of sorts. So it’d make “tremors” in the ground from its powerful sportiness or whatever. Now I suspect Ford is reusing the word they were able to trademark, and playing a bit tongue-in-cheek to the “Tremors” movie franchise, which take place (IIRC) in the desert and such.

I much prefer an emotive word like “Tremor” to alphabet and number soup options like z71, TRD, sr5, at4, etc., that don’t really have much gravitas or meaning to them. It’s also better than, say, “Bison”, which doesn’t really evoke the thought of something that goes on trails and such.

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
28 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

At least it’s a name! Ford has some of the best branding, while GM sticks with its alphabet soup. AT4X AEV sounds like a printer in the office. Tremor, Rattler, Raptor, Lightning, etc. all sound like something special.

GMC has Bruin and Kodiak registered. Come on GM, everyone likes bears!

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