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Ford Tremor makes light work of any terrain during a launch test drive on the Grabouw 4x4 Route in the Southern Cape.
Pic: ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, shot with Canon EOS R100 and RF-S 18-45mm lens.


One can trust
this Tremor

The new off-road conqueror in the Ford Ranger series earns its trust on the toughest trails, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

It may well have been coincidence that a small earth tremor hit Cape Town last Wednesday, just as I was trying out the new Ford Tremor on a dirt road in the Western Cape.

The Council for Geoscience confirmed a mild earthquake with a magnitude of 1.4 had occurred at almost the exact same time that I began to experience the trust I could place in the new Ford Tremor on almost any surface.

At that moment, it happened to be on a dirt road somewhere near Elgin. The following day, it was on the Grabouw 4×4 Route, one of the country’s great treasures of off-road driving. 

And that is when the new double-cab truly came into its own.

But let’s first take a few steps, or trails, back.

Ford Tremor sets out on the Grabouw 4×4 Route.
Pic: ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, shot with Canon EOS R100 and RF-S 18-45mm lens.

The Tremor has been launched in the wake of the arrival of the Wildtrak X, and represents Ford widening the Ranger’s model diversity and customer appeal. It is equipped with the same suspension upgrades as the X, including Bilstein position-sensitive dampers, 24mm higher ground clearance and 30mm wider track. Its engine is based on the XLT series, with a 154kW/500Nm 2.0L Bi-Turbo diesel engine and full-time 4WD. That doesn’t mean it only takes the best of its siblings toys. It also introduces Pro Trailer Backup Assist, along with Trailer Reverse Guidance, now also standard on the X, Raptor and Platinum.

For all that, however, it does not break above the million-rand price barrier.

“Although the Tremor has all of the enhanced off-road capabilities shared with the Wildtrak X, it is based on the XLT series which makes it a more affordable option that is ideally suited to the most adventurous exploits and hard-working environments,” says Doreen Mashinini, general manager for marketing at Ford South Africa.

The target market: customers who want enhanced capability and confidence in challenging off-road conditions, but also want to be able to  customise their car.

The Tremor looks different, too. A black honeycomb off-road front grille with LED auxiliary driving lights – a la Wildtrak X – combines with Bolder Grey details on the bumpers, fender vents, and door handles.

It is equipped with 265/70 R17 all-terrain General Grabber AT3 tyres – incongruosuly with white lettering that is quickly going to vanish in off-road mud – mounted on 17-inch Asphalt Black machine-faced alloy rims. While we’re talking cosmetics, it also sports the black Ford Oval on the front grille and tailgate, shared only with the Wildtrak X and Ranger Raptor.

With all that, one would expect a compromise in the on-board technology, but the Tremor gets the full infotainment treatment. Not only does it come with a generous 12-inch touchscreen display – the XLT has a mere 10.1-inch – but is also equipped with Off-road SYNC functionality, complemented by a 360-degree camera system that guides the driver while manoeuvring in tight spaces.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are a pleasure after wrestling with incompatible cables on numerous other vehicle. However, the wireless charging pad has not overcome the propensity of most of these devices to overheat one’s smartphone.

Let’s hit the road now. On the Grabouw 4×4 Route, we tested the Tremor to the full, on both rock-strewn dirt roads up and down mountains, and in the equivalent of an off-road trail. It was astonishing to experience the damping force of the Bilstein Position Sensitive Dampers, an advanced form of suspension, which means that jarring road conditions are literally dampened into something approaching a smooth ride.

Of course, the all-terrain General Grabber AT3 tyres helped: they create a wider track and increased ground clearance, so that rocky roads are limited in the damage they can inflict.

General Grabber AT3 tyres increase ground clearance on the Ford Tremor.
Pic: ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, shot with Canon EOS R100 and RF-S 18-45mm lens.

Trail Turn Assist, first introduced on the Wildtrak X, was tested to the full, including a perilous descent on a mountainside, where a wide turning circle would have spelled out a rapid plummet into the valley below. TTA works through braking the inside wheel when taking a tight off-road bend below 19km/h. It reduces the turning radius by up to 25% to help navigate around obstacles – or avoid cliff edges!

With guidance from the extraordinary trailmaster and event coordinator Gideo Basson, I was able to put my trust in an innovative off-road feature to keep me safe – and exhilarated.

Drive Modes are easily selected via a rotary dial, turning from Normal to Eco, Tow/Haul, Slippery, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl. As Ford puts it, the system adjusts the throttle response, gearshifts, traction and stability control, rear diff-lock, as well as the steering and braking system to optimise vehicle performance to suit the terrain.

Then there is Trail Control, the off-road equivalent of adaptive cruise control. The driver selects a set speed below 32km/h while driving off-road and, just as with adaptive cruise control, the car looks after acceleration and braking while the driver does the steering.

In several settings, I just had to steer, and the Tremor did most of the rest. The key, however, is trust. And it is easy to trust the Tremor. At one stage, with the car on 3 wheels and the 4th suspended high in the air, it may have seemed to any observer that it was about to tip over. Instead, the other three wheels were merely taking their time getting the vehicle back on the level. Watch the video below:

The Ranger Tremor and Wildtrak X are the only 2.0-litre models available with Ford’s full-time four-wheel drive system, which Ford says “uses an electromagnetic transfer case (eMTC) mated to the 10-speed automatic transmission with advanced eShifter and electronic parking brake”. My brain is too small to process so many interlinked systems but, again, it all adds up to the ability to trust the vehicle to do the right thing.

There is much more to say about the Tremor, especially its range of driver assistance systems, but we’ll keep that for a longer test on regular roads. For now, I have a new benchmark of trust in going off-road.

  • The Ranger Tremor Double Cab 2.0L BiT 4WD 10AT retails from R977,500. Ford Protect will be included as standard, comprising of a four-year or 120 000km warranty, four-year or unlimited distance Roadside Assistance and five-year or unlimited distance corrosion warranty.
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