Move over SVT Raptor because the Ford Tremor sport truck wants a piece of the action.
But instead of muscling its way into the specialty truck category, the more modestly powered and sized pickup aims to win friends with on-road street smarts - and not just off-road ability - as well as livable fuel efficiency.
Pickup trucks are as much about style and image as passenger cars. In fact the convergence of the two automotive genres over the past few decades has been quite remarkable. Originally little more than a bench seat and a box, the once humble pickup has can now be found clothed in fancy sheetmetal, gussied up in the finest of interior trim and accessories and revved up with enough horsepower to plant you in your seat.
Ford's F-150-based Raptor that's now entering its fourth year of production has been a surprise hit at a time when all other pickup makers - Ford included - have been trying their best to reduce their truck's appetite for fuel. But whereas the Raptor's image is as a dune-bashing desert rat, the Tremor takes a different approach. It's very much a street truck, just like the 2000-2004 SVT Lightning, packaged up with equipment and accessories that collectively give it a unique flavor. It's also only available as a short-wheelbase, regular-cab model fitted with the shortest available box.
The result is not as useful as an extended-cab F-150 or a four-door crew cab, but it makes the Tremor lighter on its feet and in a way that actually seems more purpose-built, just like the short-box, regular-cab Lightning.
To give the Tremor its solid-citizen demeanor, Ford opted not to take the V8 route (the Lightning had a supercharged 5.4-liter unit) and instead installed a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that produces 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm. Those aren't exactly weak-kneed stats - they're about the same as the Lightning, actually - and they clearly indicate that the "EcoBoost" V6 will give a good accounting of itself from a standing start, especially with the 4.10:1 rear-axle gear.
The powertrain can be optioned with an electronic locking rear differential that reduces wheel slippage, especially when accelerating from a dead stop.
Fitted with an off-the-shelf six-speed automatic transmission, the rear-wheel-drive Tremor is rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Those numbers suffer a bit with optional four-wheel-drive and will likely take a real beating in the hands of most buyers who actually drive the Tremor the way it's intended.
By comparison the much larger and heavier SVT Raptor is rated at 11 mpg in the city and 14 on the highway with its 411-horsepower 6.2-liter V8.
Some difference, huh?
Also looking good is the Tremor's interior where Ford has tossed out the regular cab's standard cloth-covered bench seat and installed twin buckets covered in tasteful leather with faux suede inserts and contrasting piping. In addition, there's an industrial-looking floor shifter integrated with a generously sized console. Included as standard is MyFordTouch communications and infotainment system (run by a touchscreen).
The Tremor's distinguishing exterior features begin with an appearance package that includes a blacked-out grille insert, darkened headlight and taillight covers, chromed exhaust tip and black 20-inch wheels with Pirelli Scorpion tires.
With an expected starting price in the $36,000-$38,000 range, including destination charges (about $8,000-$10,000 shy of the SVT Raptor), the well-equipped Tremor is a pretty appealing vehicle that just might catch on with pickup buyers looking for some show and go, as opposed to owning a straight-up work truck.
2014 FORD F-150 TREMOR
Type: Four-door, rear- /four-wheel-drive full-size pickup
Engine (hp): 3.5-liter DOHC V6, turbocharged (365)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Market position: The Tremor joins the SVT Raptor as one of Ford's specially equipped sport-truck models. Both extend their appeal beyond the work-truck market to focus on buyers who are more leisure/lifestyle-oriented.
Points: Awesome looks with standard FX4 trim package; Interior upgrade exudes style and quality; Turbo V6 might not appeal to hard-core truck fans, but it's no slouch compared to competition; Expect possible extended-cab version if regular-cab Tremors sell well; Will General Motors and Chrysler respond with similar sport truck models?
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 16/22
Base price (incl. destination) $36,000 (est.)
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