Getting to Know the 2021 Ford F-250 Tremor.June 14, 2021
Can a rock crawler be at home on the highway and in the field?
Images compliments of Ford Motor Company and the author
After a year of COVID restrictions finally being lifted, I looked forward to getting some seat time with the new OHV 7.3-liter gas V-8 that Ford nicknamed Godzilla.
My audience was just as anxious to have the Farm Machinery Digest provide an agrarian look at the new Ford Super Duty and its engine.
The only thing left to do was send an email to Mary Beth Childs at the New York area press fleet and see what they had.
Mary Beth promptly replied. Her correspondence had an attachment and a query. “Will this fit the bill?” is all that it said after her asking how my wife and I were doing.
The attachment was the Monroney for a potential test candidate.
If you are wondering what in the world a Monroney is, let it be known that is the trade name for the window sticker on a new vehicle.
United States Senator Almer Stillwell Monroney of Oklahoma, in 1958, brought forward legislation that required the auto companies to provide retail pricing for passenger vehicles.
In previous days, the price of a new car was whatever the dealership wanted it to be. There were no practical means for the consumer to know what they were paying or to comparison shop.
With that established, as soon as the PDF loaded, my eyes went right to the top of the Monroney where Ford lists the drivetrain.
All I needed to see was 7.3 DEVCT NA PFI V8 Engine, and below it, 10-Speed Automatic, and I was in.
The only obstacle that has yet to be settled is the deciphering of the acronym DEVCT.
The DE is the problem, and no one that I can find can tell me what it means.
I know that VCT identifies variable cam timing, NA is naturally aspirated (no turbo or supercharger), and PFI, port fuel injection.
The injector is located at the junction of the intake manifold and cylinder head runner. This is old school and not GDI (gasoline direct injection), where the fuel is directly injected into the combustion chamber.
If I ever find out what DE is, I will let you know.
I have a hunch that it refers to direct electric. This would establish that engine oil pressure is not used to evoke the cam phaser. Instead, the position is altered with a solenoid or stepper motor, but I may be wrong.
I then arranged for Ford to deliver the truck to the farm.
It would be tasked with going to Maryland to my agronomist, The Mill, and picking-up a 275-gallon IBC tote of custom-blended planter fertilizer for my sweet corn crop. A 475-mile round trip and an actual farmer road test.
The fact it was a $72,920.00 Antimatter Blue 4X4 Crew Cab King Ranch with the Tremor package, and Java leather interior, was all secondary.
The F-250 had the pushrod 445 cubic inch Godzilla and 4.30 gears, was all that mattered to this Hot Rod Farmer!
There is no denying that the new V-8 will be the focus of my road test, so I need to bring you up to speed on it.
The gasoline 7.3 is an actual medium-duty truck engine being down streamed into the F-250 and F-350 applications.
Thus, it’s the chock-full of engineering that sets it apart from the competition.
These are only some of the data points.
Canted valve high-flow cylinder heads.
Cast iron deep-skirted engine block with ribbing for strength.
6-bolts on every main cap.
Coolant flow slot between siamese cylinder bores.
Forged steel crankshaft
Four knock sensors
Large water pump bearing
Chain-driven oil pump located in the oil pan.
Variable cam timing.
The 7.3 has an “engine guy” design written all over it. Every box is checked for a gas engine that will take whatever you can throw at it for as long as you want to.
In like fashion, the Tremor is a valid off-road package with unique shocks, skid plates, and other features that raise the ride height and allows you to take the family rock crawling.
This is a proper off-road truck, with that not meaning just going into your field to check a center pivot or deliver some seed.
By definition, rock crawling is an extreme form of off-road driving using specialized vehicles to overcome obstacles.
In rock crawling, drivers typically go over very harsh terrain.
Driving locations include boulders, mountain foothills, rock piles, mountain trails, etc.
Rock crawling is about slow-speed, careful and precise driving.
High torque is generated through significant gear reductions in the vehicle’s drivetrain.
As a result, rock crawlers often drive up, down, and across obstacles that appear impassable.
The FMD test truck was also equipped with a factory-installed, front-mounted Warn winch capable of moving 12,000 pounds. Hopefully, I would not need it as I traveled the interstates to Maryland and back.
There is no denying the subject F-250 is big, gorgeous, and high.
Looks and features are subjective, but I believe it is just too high for farm and ranch work when loading the bed.
If you do not rock crawl, a standard height (non-Tremor) would be much more practical.
In typical Ford fashion, the fit and finish of the body panels and interior were superb, along with the paint.
I study the body gaps, the way the doors, hood, and tailgate close. Panel alignments reveal assembly quality along with the precision of the sheet metal stampings.
The interior materials and construction would be at home in a Lincoln or even higher-level car.
The leather was soft and supple. The front seats were marvelously comfortable.
The dashboard was very legible, and the layout was, for the most part, user-friendly.
The forward line-of-sight was excellent and much better than the Chevy Silverado and Nissan Titan I road-tested last year.
I had trepidations about the ride quality with the Tremor suspension and potential noise from the off-road tires at highway speeds.
My apprehensions were totally unfounded.
The F-250 Tremor was unequivocally the best riding, handling, and quietest three-quarter-ton pick-up I ever drove or rode in.
The Godzilla engine was definitely worth the wait. It is eerily quiet at idle and appears to have a decent level of service access, even to the valve covers.
The Ford 10-speed automatic skip shifts under light load, and hard as you may try, other than looking at the tachometer or the instrument cluster gear display, you have no idea when it changes gears.
The torque converter was equally adept, but there was one extremely minor quirk that I noticed.
Every engine on start flares up in rpm to burn off the hydrocarbons created by the cranking fuel. The engine speed then quickly decays down to curb idle.
I gleaned that either the torque converter’s stall speed is just 100 rpm or so too low, or the engagement of either reverse or drive needs to be dampened slightly.
I am not one to start an engine and shift to any drive gear on flare-up. My ears told me the rpm decayed out enough to shift, but then I was greeted with a lurch, and the truck tugged against the brake for a second.
This would only happen on engine start and not when shifting from drive to reverse or the other way.
It was hard for me to truly nail down what was occurring since the torque converter’s stall speed was perfect in every other situation.
If you have read any of my other road tests you know I am overly critical of the torque converter and throttle input. That is important when hooking up or positioning a trailer. You need a very linear and defined response.
The 7.3 engine delivered 17.8 mpg going to Maryland with just an empty tote in the bed. But, loaded, it only dropped to 17.3 mpg.
The engine pulls like a freight train in every driving scenario. I am very well convinced that it has closer to 500 horsepower than the 430 Ford claims. (Some unofficial and independent dyno tests have revealed 550 horsepower with a Shelby GT 500 throttle body and headers.)
This new Ford engine is going to be the BBC of the 21st century!
What I liked:
Engine and transmission set new standards for the industry.
Excellent build quality, interior materials, and switch operation and feel.
Luxury ride and quietness even with the Tremor package.
Good fuel economy for a vehicle that weighs 7,200 pounds empty.
Tight turning circle for its size.
The truck drove and performed with the full 275-gallon tote as if it did not know it was there. The ride height did not even change much (see image in text).
What I did not like:
Too high to load and get in and out of easily.
The touchscreen operation is much better in Ford Bronco Sport.
Too many buttons on the dashboard with icons that are not easily seen or interpreted.
What I nitpicked:
B&O’s 10-speaker sound system was not impressive.
Headlights on the low beam were acceptable, but others are better.
Torque converter stall speed may be slightly low.
When it comes to three-quarter-ton pick-up trucks, the competition is tight between the brands. They all will get the job done on the farm or ranch.
But the newly redesigned Super Duty with the 7.3 gas engine option just does everything better.
Until the other trucks show me something else, without question, the crown goes to Ford.
Henry, the farmer turned car builder, would be proud!