I don't consider myself a truck guy, per se, nor have I really manifested an interest in buying one. I just don’t have truck needs or truck dreams.
But then the coronavirus happened, and like everyone else, I ended up locked up inside my apartment for months, spending my days playing video games and smoking legal marijuana (I live in Canada), a substance that was deemed “essential” during the shutdown. (Because, you know, Canada.)
I clocked hours upon hours in SnowRunner, the acclaimed off-roading video game; a slow-paced, highly addictive and immensely technical truck simulator that puts you behind the wheel of an adequately equipped rig to transport heavy cargo through difficult terrain. Somehow, and perhaps worryingly, that was the kind of environment that made me the most comfortable during the pandemic’s darkest hours. Also, I was suddenly very interested in trucks. Newly fascinated by locking differentials, transfer cases, articulated suspension systems and mud tire specifications, I remember promising myself as I sat there on my couch, 20 pounds overweight wearing a beard the length of my hair: “I will get behind the wheel of one again."
Things did eventually get better, though we’re not out of the woods yet. When I was finally able to emerge from hermitage, I shaved, put on pants and set off on a quest for the largest, most badass mud-running machine out there. What I found was the 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Tremor, a heavy-duty pickup that doubles as a fairly astounding exploration rig and offers one of the biggest V8 engines on the market. That'll do.
The 2020 Ford Super Duty F-250 Tremor Specs
- Base Price (as Tested):$53,490 for a Crew Cab XLT ($82,620)
- Powertrain: 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 (optional)
- Horsepower: 475 horsepower @ 2,600 rpm
- Torque: 1,050 pound-feet of torque @ 1,600 rpm
- Ground Clearance: 10.8 inches
- Off-Road Angles: 31.65° approach | 21.5° breakover | 24.51° departure
- Payload Capacity: 2,923 pounds
- Towing Capacity: 18,100 pounds
- Fuel Economy: 19.6 mpg combined (observed)
- Curb Weight: 6,050 pounds
- Quick Take: The off-road Tremor package is definitely worth the price. The $10,000 Power Stroke diesel? Not unless you're using it daily for work, or you've got your own business to absorb the upcharge.
What’s In a Name?
Super Duty is Ford’s appellation for its entire heavy truck line, essentially three-quarter and one-ton machines built for the hard, tough and gritty stuff, as well as everyday commuting in places like Texas. To take on the elements, these trucks need to be larger, sturdier, and more capable than your average Ford F-150. For the 2020 model year, Ford brought a mid-cycle refresh to its work mules by way of a slightly redesigned front and rear fascia, a reshuffling of available packages, new paint colors and some minor interior updates.
The biggest changes sit under the hood, where an all-new optional 7.3-liter V8 engine (internally known as “Godzilla”) also joins the party with 430 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque on tap. That, the unchanged 6.2-liter base V8 and the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 are all connected to the Ford-GM 10-speed automatic gearbox. Tested here, the turbodiesel got a healthy dose of upgrades that sees it now developing 475 horsepower (up 25 from before) and a riveting (“It’s over 1,000!”) 1,050 lb-ft of torque, a number that beats Ram’s old record of an even thousand.
The Tremor package is also a fresh offering for 2020. It grants the Super Duty access to the exclusive heavy-duty off-road truck segment, a category of adventure-seeking mules that has long been dominated by the trend-setting Ram Power Wagon and the more recent GMC Sierra HD AT4. Obviously, it was just a matter of time before Ford hopped on that bandwagon as well.
What exactly do you get here? The Tremor package is a standalone option that sells for $3,975 and can be grafted onto any single-wheel F-250 or F-350 above the base XL as long as it's equipped with four-wheel-drive, the Crew Cab cabin and the 6.75-foot bed. The pack also requires going with the 7.3-liter gasser for a minimum additional upcharge of $2,045 (again, the diesel is a $10K option), making its effective base price $6,020.
But really, it's a ton of visual and mechanical kit for that price, to the extent that the Tremor feels like its own unique sub-model in the vein of the F-150 Raptor. A quick rundown of what to expect:
- Wrangler Duratrac 35-inch off-road tires
- Upgraded springs and twin-tube dampers with internal hydraulic rebound to better control body motion
- A two-inch lift front and rear
- Front Dana limited-slip differential
- Locking rear differential with shift-on-the-fly engagement
- Skid plates to protect the transfer case and gas tank
- Shorter overhangs to improve the approach angle
- Extended-axle vent tubes
- A unique “rock crawl” driving mode with a 53:1 (gas) or 44:1 (diesel) crawl ratio
- Optional 12,000-pound integrated Warn winch
Now, we’ve seen packages like these in trucks before; things like Toyota’s TRD Pro kit or GMC’s optional AT4 specification. But none of them feel as substantial as this here Tremor. There’s a sense that Ford understands off-roading better than its rivals, transforming the humble workman’s Super Duty into its own unique version of the Raptor. But unlike a Raptor, which was first and foremost designed for jumping over sand dunes at full throttle, the Tremor’s main purpose is hauling heavy gear through a flooded forest in 4x4 Low.
That—towing—the Tremor does extremely well with an 18,100-pound capacity for gooseneck trailers. That's way better than the Ram Power Wagon (10,350 pounds, no gooseneck option) and sitting just under the GMC Sierra 2500HD AT4's segment-leading (are off-road HD trucks officially a segment now? Guess so) 18,500-pound rating. This makes sense because the Ram Power Wagon is built mainly for off-road shenanigans, while the Ford and GMC are a little more buttoned-down for work. Even with a conventional hitch, the F-250 Tremor will pull up to 15,000 pounds.
How Does It Perform?
Of course, I couldn’t leave this hunk of metal lying around in my suburban Montreal parking lot. I had to find a trail for it. One that would allow me to test out all these toys without breaking an axle on this $80,000 loaner.
Yes, you read that right. Eighty freakin’ grand. Part of that sticker has to do with the optional Power Stroke engine. Then there’s the Platinum trim my truck was dressed up in, the second most expensive and luxurious model after the prestigious F-250 Limited. Entry price for a Crew Cab F-250 Platinum is already $65,895.
The trail I had found for my test was a heavily beaten maintenance road used to access and/or fix high-tension power lines. During a typical humid spring, the area floods, causing man-deep puddles, severe ground deformations, steep rocky inclines and of course, a shit-ton of mud. Suffice it to say it was the ideal scenario for the vehicle at hand. Except this year, we’ve been experiencing dryer than usual conditions here in Quebec, so my trail wasn’t as mucky as I had anticipated it to be.
Nevertheless, the experience did allow me to fiddle with the Tremor’s go-everywhere toys. Four-wheel-drive gets activated by way of a small knob located on the right of the steering wheel. It’s also where you alternate between low and high gears, as well as lock the rear differential by pulling on the knob itself. The only thing this system lacks is an “auto” feature which lets the all-wheel-drive system do its thing in the background automatically. That would have been nice, especially considering GM and Ram both offer it.
Then there are the drive modes, which allow you to navigate between Towing, Slippery, Deep Sand, Snow and Rock Crawling, as well as the comical Eco mode. All modes considerably change the traction control and the transmission’s behavior.
The F-250 Tremor basically ate up that trail, which was an indication of just how capable it is. The Tremor’s suspension feels sturdy and articulates wonderfully over large gaps, but it’s still not as spectacular as the setup Ram has patented. Ram actually injected Jeep Wrangler wizardry in its truck, allowing it to disconnect its sway bars for ultimate freedom of movement. No other pickup truck currently does that.
But the Tremor’s tires grip effortlessly on rocky surfaces, while the ten-speed gearbox fantastically adapts to the various drive modes. It just always finds the right gear for the task, allowing this king-sized apparatus to smoothly ease its way out of the deepest crevasses no sweat. It’s all very impressive.
As the truck sank its front axle into the next puddle, I was luxuriating in the F-250 Platinum’s immeasurably spacious, quiet, and fine interior. My truck had the exquisite Kingsville Dark Marsala leather surfaces, complete with massaging and cooling seats, a panoramic roof and a 10-speaker, 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system.
As impressive as it all is though, the Super Duty’s cabin is ironically starting to show age; with GMC's own woes on that front, Ram still wins this round hands down. This is especially apparent when you spot some shady cabin materials, hard plastics, and a Sync 2 infotainment system (Ford is now moving onto Sync 3) that feels slow compared to the newer stuff currently on sale. Furthermore, the system can also only be had with an eight-inch screen, while Ram offers the possibility of a large, 12-inch, Tesla-like tablet.
Is It Easy To Live With?
Of course, driving a lifted 20-foot long truck around town comes with its share of challenges. Luckily, the F-250’s numerous camera systems and sensors make parallel parking rather easy, although I was quickly irritated by the fact that they only automatically engage in reverse. You need to manually tap a button if you want to see what’s happening up front while inching forward.
Once on the road, the Power Stroke’s colossal torque means it vigorously launches the truck forward the moment you feather the throttle. Turbo lag, an inevitable turbodiesel flaw, is noticeably less present here than with the competition. Power comes on strong and remains steady as the brute steadily picks up speed, emitting snorting and whistling sounds as its gargantuan turbocharger shoves compressed air into the engine’s massive combustion chambers.
I was also pleased with how well the 10-speed transmission goes about its business. I’ve driven this in other Ford or GM applications, and I’ve complained about it lagging in the Mustang or even in the Expedition, but here, the software calibration is by far the best I’ve experienced. Ford put a cool little cluster in the gauge pod that allows you to see in which gear you’re in; take off from a stoplight, and barely 40 feet away the truck’s already shifting into fifth. It’s all so seamless and non-dramatic that you often wonder if there’s even a transmission in there at all.
Sadly, that kind of refinement doesn’t apply to the F-250 Tremor’s road manners. Tire noise is unsurprisingly present due to the large knobby tires, but perhaps the most obvious downside to all this off-road gear is how much the truck wanders on the road. Often, I had to correct the steering from the truck’s inability to track straight. Granted, the Tremor was never intended for highway driving, and it’s hard to get around its rear solid axle setup. But I’ve seen considerably better on-road performance from GM and Ram. Heck, even a Jeep Wrangler rides smoother than this.
For those wondering about fuel economy, manufacturers aren't required to publish mileage figures for heavy-duty trucks. I managed to hang around a 19.6 mpg average during the week I had it. That's really impressive considering we're talking about a three-ton behemoth.
Is It Worth Your Hard-Earned Money?
Considering how much gear you’ll be getting and how powerful your truck will be, I say that yes, the 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Tremor does in fact give you a lot for the price, even if it’s a little rough around the edges at times for daily driving.
However, you must consider the pitfalls of the diesel avenue. It’s not just the price of the engine itself that’s a hard pill to swallow, but also the maintenance bills typically associated with turbodiesel power plants. You’ll also have to take into consideration periodic additive refill costs, which aren’t exactly cheap. Finally, diesel fuel is typically more expensive than gasoline here in North America. Opt for the Power Stroke engine only if you run a business that can absorb these expenses or you're really bereft without that low-end torque.
If your purchase is personal, then perhaps the 7.3-liter V8 would suffice. It’s a significantly simpler engine that will, in theory, end up being more reliable and cost you less in the long run. Plus, it's a 7.3-liter V8, one of the biggest in any current production vehicle. What buyer realistically shopping in this category wouldn't be tempted to lay claim to that?
Then again, if mud is what you seek, that 1,050 lb-ft of torque will spin some mighty big tires.