Should You Get a Performance Pack for Your Ford Ranger or Wait for the Tremor?

2020 Ford Ranger Performance Pack Level 2 Front Side Profile

Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman

By Aaron Bragman

The return of the Ford Ranger to North American roads has been celebrated by truck fans across the continent, and for good reason — the new baby Ford is an immensely capable, fun to-drive, useful and well-executed mid-size pickup truck. It almost won our 2019 Mid-Size Truck Challenge, only narrowly edged out by the Honda Ridgeline’s more user-friendly interior. But North America isn’t getting the most exciting off-road version of the Ranger, the Raptor. That model currently can only be found overseas. While there’s hope that a Raptor trim level will be a part of the next-generation North American Ranger lineup in a couple of years, right now our choices are from-the-factory Rangers that perform well off-road but still fall a little short of rivals like the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro or the impressive new Jeep Gladiator Mojave

Related: Get Started on Your Ranger Raptor With New Off-Road Accessory Packages From Ford Performance

The FX4 Off-Road option package is available, and it does imbue the Ranger with some additional off-road capability and protection. You get monotube off-road shock absorbers, off-road tires, several steel underbody skid plates, some off-road-specific gauges and the slick electronic Terrain Management system with Trail Control, which is rather like off-road cruise control. That equipment puts it on par with the Colorado Z71, GMC Canyon AT4 or perhaps the Nissan Frontier Pro-4X. But what if you’re dead set on a Ranger and want more off-road capability, and maybe a little more style and oomph to go with it? Well, until the new Ranger Tremor or Ranger Raptor get here, you can turn to Ford Performance, the automaker’s parts and accessories division. 

Three Levels of Performance

Ford Performance has come up with three packages that you can add to your Ranger to pump up its off-road chops — three levels of additional parts and modifications available for installation at your local Ford dealer. Level 1 ($2,495 plus installation) adds an off-road leveling kit that changes the rake of your Ranger and adds Fox 2.0 Performance Series front and rear shocks, 17-inch gray-painted wheels and some stickers. That leveling kit essentially raises the front of the truck by 2 inches, putting it on par with the already-lifted rear, allowing for a change in driving dynamics, handling characteristics and a 21% increase in approach angle and 10% improvement in breakover angle for better off-road clearance. The leveling kit can be had on its own for $1,495 plus installation, meaning that the extra grand you’re paying for the Level 1 kit is the wheel and tire package, which isn’t a bad deal. 

2020 Ford Ranger Performance Pack Level 2 Blue Tow Hooks

2020 Ford Ranger Performance Pack Level 2 BFGoodrich KO2 Tires

The Level 2 kit ($4,495 plus installation), which I tested for a week, really kicks things up a notch by taking Level 1 and adding a new calibration tune for the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that boosts horsepower to 315 and torque to 370 pounds-feet. That’s a 16% bump for horsepower and a healthy 20% jump in torque. You also get a tire upgrade to knobbier 17-inch BFGoodrich KO2 tires, a Rigid foglight kit, blue tow hooks and a Ford Performance stainless-steel license plate frame. If you want to go all out, the Level 3 ($8,995 plus installation) takes Levels 1 and 2 and adds a Ford Performance sport exhaust system, ARB winch-ready bumper, a Rigid 40-inch LED light-bar kit, red tow hooks instead of blue ones and a chase rack in the bed. 

Who Does Level 2 Work For?

Sadly, my time with the Ranger Performance Pack Level 2 came during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and off-road opportunities were limited, but given that the truck is likely to spend the vast majority of its time on-road anyway, this is what we’ll talk about. I can definitely say that on roads both paved and dirt, the suspension and engine tune upgrades absolutely shine. This is no slapped-together effort that you might get from a tuner shop; this is a kit designed and tested by the company to make sure it does good things for the Ranger, and I assure you, it does. Let’s start with the ride and handling, which are excellent. Steering feel doesn’t seem to suffer much with the big BFG tires, but you will get a little bit more drone in the cabin from the tires’ aggressive tread pattern. The more-level-yet-still-lifted stance of the adjusted Ranger doesn’t affect its braking ability either, and while the Fox 2.0 shocks and different springs may be more softly tuned for off-road use, the truck doesn’t feel bouncy or floaty in the slightest. Even if you opt for just the leveling kit, that is worth the $1,500 on its own. It boosts the Ranger’s civility and capability in one go.

2020 Ford Ranger Performance Pack Level 2 Rear Side Profile

The extra grunt from the recalibrated engine computer doesn’t hurt either. The standard Ranger engine puts out 270 hp and 310 pounds-feet of torque, and while a 45-hp jump isn’t likely to be felt in the seat-of-the-pants-meter, an increase of 60 pounds-feet of torque in a turbocharged engine certainly is. The Ranger steps off the line smartly and with even greater alacrity than before, and it was by no means a slouch in its original tune. The turbocharged EcoBoost engine mated to the standard 10-speed automatic transmission makes the powertrain the most impressive feature of the newest Ranger, and this boost to its performance only makes it more of a good thing. I’d like to eventually hear one with the Level 3 sport exhaust to see how tolerable it is in daily driving, but that extra $4,500 for that, a winch-ready bumper and a light bar seems a bit steep. I think I’d be perfectly happy with the still rorty-and-snorty sound of the standard exhaust and use that extra scratch for a brush guard or onboard ARB air compressor. 

Should You Wait for a 2021 Tremor?

That’s the big question. Not long after Ford unleashed the Performance Packs, it also announced the imminent arrival of the Ranger Tremor Off-Road Package for the 2021 model year. The Tremor package will include some of the things that the Performance Packs have, but the company insists that it’s gone to much greater lengths to tweak the components for the Ranger Tremor, optimizing things like suspension tuning and parts for a better overall experience than the Performance Packs can give you. The total cost for it will be $4,290, and it will slot in above the FX2 and FX4 Off-Road option packages. This isn’t that different from the price to get a Level 2 Performance Pack (not including the package’s installation, however), but instead of the engine tuning for more power (the Tremor makes use of the standard engine), you instead get some cosmetic differences: suede-insert seats with stitched badges, and a set of auxiliary switches for accessories like lights, graphics and a different grille. We’ll be getting some seat time in the 2021 Ranger Tremor in February, so be sure to check back in to see how it stacks up against the Performance Packs then. 

The great thing about the Ford performance packages is that you can get them all at once or spread out what you want over time. You can add them to a Ranger you already own, and you can add them to any trim level of a new Ranger as well. The Tremor can only be had on XLT and Lariat trims. If you want to keep the costs down, the bits-and-pieces approach may be the way to go, as the new Ranger is not the cheapest option in the mid-size truck class, and adding off-road packages only makes it more expensive. My test truck, for instance, was a loaded 2020 Lariat 4x4 crew cab, which stickered at more than $47,000 (including destination) before the $4,495-plus-installation cost of the Level 2 Performance Pack. Ford has more than 200 Ranger accessories available from Ford Performance, and the new Performance Packs create a truck that’s definitely a worthy upgrade from the Ranger’s base-level capability. It’s still not the Ranger Raptor we still lust after, but Ford’s getting there with options to fit a wider variety of budgets.

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