Ford is bringing off-road fun to the masses with the announcement of the new Rattler off-road package for the 2023 F-150 XL. While the brand’s previous off-road-ready creations had been limited to the upper end of the market with models like the F-150 Tremor and Raptor, the Rattler manages to offer some high-end performance features without breaking the bank. While drivers looking to get into off-roading on a budget previously had little choice aside from searching the web for “used F-150 near me” and hoping for the best, the Rattler’s low price point provides the perfect excuse for drivers to explore the hobby without having to splash out $50,000-plus. While the brand-new model won’t start showing up on the used market anytime soon, we thought the Rattler’s introduction provided the perfect excuse for diving into some of Ford’s other recent experiments in giving the popular F-150 an off-road makeover.
Of course, Ford isn’t the only automaker that’s gone all-in on off-road trims as of late. The sector has exploded in recent years with a number of brands introducing both over-the-top off-road beasts and affordable off-road packages that add an impressive slate of off-road features while remaining affordable for a majority of drivers. The Rattler fits firmly within the second category, giving those who opt for Ford’s entry-level F-150 the chance to experience some mud-slinging fun of their own.
The off-road market, in general, is poised for some historic growth over the coming years as a more adventurous set of 30 to 40-year-olds increasingly turn to the outdoor adventure market to get their kicks. According to a report from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), the global adventure tourism market is on a major upswing, with expected growth exploding from $112 billion in 2020 to as much as $1.7 trillion by 2028. Off-roaders like the Ford F-150 Rattler, Tremor, and Raptor could play a major role in this growth, giving adventurers the rugged, well-equipped ride they need to access remote camping, kayaking, biking, and climbing destinations. Let’s take a closer look at the new Rattler off-road package and explore the F-150’s other two off-road offerings to see how they stack up.
Produced: Starting in 2023
New for 2023, the Rattler off-road package transform’s Ford’s most affordable F-150 into an adventure-ready rig. Available as a $1,810 addition to the XL trim ($1,495 for the package itself and $315 for the required trailer hitch), the Rattler provides a level of customization not normally seen at the lower end of the trim spectrum. Todd Ekhart, Ford’s marketing manager, said, “Our new F-150 Rattler offers aspiring adventurers an off-road option with expressive looks and capability in one package. This truck builds off the F-150 off-road legacy while allowing us to introduce new customers to the right blend of styling and value in the F-150 lineup.”
While details are still scant on this forthcoming model, early evidence suggests that Ford has taken the task seriously, loading the F-150 XL up with a host of respectable off-road components that elevate the pickup beyond some of the new so-called “soft-roaders.” Such models have become popular over the last few years, and while they look the part with larger tires and sporty styling, they often fail to deliver a marked improvement in performance. The Rattler breaks this increasingly tired mold, introducing features like an electronic locking rear differential that ensures traction on even the most rugged off-road terrain, skid plates, halogen fog lights, a beefy off-road suspension, Hill Descent Control, and Rock Crawl mode.
Sure, it also has the oversized all-terrain tires found on some lesser off-road pickups, but that’s a small part of what’s on offer when it comes to the 2023 F-150 Rattler. We look forward to the Rattler’s appearance on the used market in the coming years, where it’ll offer an affordable alternative to some of the higher-end F-150 models on offer. Best yet: these used Rattlers will likely have already experienced their most rapid period of depreciation, meaning used buyers will get to enjoy an almost-new pickup at a steep discount.
The pickup looks every bit the off-roader as well, featuring an upgraded dual exhaust system, painted 18-inch wheels, and a restyled interior with distinctive Onyx seats and bronze accents throughout. Add some Rattler badging to the fender vents and the requisite rattlesnake graphics, and you’ve got a visually arresting pickup with the off-road components to back up its aggressive styling. A wealth of exterior color options make the Rattler exceptionally customizable, with drivers able to choose between hues including Oxford White, Avalanche, Iconic Silver, Carbonized Gray, Antimatter Blue, Stone Gray, Agate Black, and, for an additional charge, Rapid Red TriCoat. We suspect that any Rattler that managed to make it to the used market is going to be snapped up pretty quickly.
Produced: 2019 – Present
The Tremor has a unique history among Ford’s off-road models. The pickup didn’t actually start as an off-road model but rather as a sound system package. First introduced in 2002, the Tremor package included a 485-watt Pioneer sound system, 10-inch subwoofer, six-disc CD player, cassette player, AM/FM radio, and an upgraded alternator to power all the electronic goodies. Ford totally reimagined the package in 2013, turning the Tremor into a competitive street truck with a powerful 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that gave the pickup a considerable 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. While conceived as a street truck, drivers could also opt to throw in the FX2 or FX4 packages which included a range of off-road-minded features like four-wheel drive and a locking rear differential.
The Tremor package would continue to evolve in 2019 as Ford once again redesigned the pickup, this time putting off-road performance at the forefront. Ford also added this package to the Super Duty lineup rather than the F-150. Since Ford already had its bases covered on the upper end of the high-performance off-road pickup segment with the F-150 Raptor, it took a decidedly different approach when it came to the Tremor, focusing on the sort of low-speed performance that comes in particularly handy for off-road pursuits like mudding and rock-crawling.
Central to this approach is the Tremor’s gigantic 7.3-liter Godzilla V8 engine, which provides 430 hp but, even more importantly for low-speed performance, 475 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough torque to tackle nearly any off-road obstacles you’re likely to face in the Tremor, but for those who believe too much of a good thing is still a good thing, there’s a ridiculous 6.7-liter diesel V8 that ups the torque to 1,050 lb-ft. This type of power comes at a steep cost, but between its monstrous torque and 475 hp, it’s well worth it for those looking to max out their chances of off-road success.
As far as off-road equipment is concerned, the Tremor holds its own with a limited-slip front differential and an improved suspension that includes Tremor-branded shocks, longer front springs, a larger rear spring block, and a smaller diameter sway bar. The Tremor also features upgraded axle vent tubes that go a long way in preventing oil leaks by strategically relieving the air pressure inside the axle. This not only allows the pickup to chew through the off-road miles with ease but prevents the type of leaking seals that can spell disaster when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.
Starting in 2021, Ford elevated the Tremor from a trim package to a fully-fledged trim level for the F-150. This changes the equation a little bit, allowing drivers to customize their Tremor experience by choosing either the standard, mid, or high equipment tiers. All three offer outstanding off-road performance, and the differences largely come down to the interior, where higher tiers will enjoy more luxurious cabins. The mid equipment tier, for example, includes an upgraded 12-inch touchscreen, while the high tier sees the addition of leather upholstery. Regardless of which tier you choose, all Tremor models come standard with the SuperCrew cab, a 5.5-ft box, four-wheel drive, a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, a rugged suspension, 33-inch General Grabber all-terrain tires, and 18-inch wheels with a matte finish. The pickup also features seven driving modes that allow drivers to tackle off-road scenarios with confidence by selecting Sport, Tow/Haul, Eco, Slippery, Deep Snow/Sand, Mud/Rut, or Rock Crawl modes.
Produced: 2010 – 2014, 2017 – Present
Ford’s no-holds-barred off-road champion traces its lineage back to 2010 with the introduction of the F-150 SVT Raptor, optimized for off-road performance and designed in the spirit of a desert racing truck. Ford even built a race-ready version for that legendary crucible of off-road performance, the Baja 1000, which featured a hulking 6.2-liter V8 engine boasting 500 hp. Production models got a 5.4-liter V8 with 320 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, as well as some chassis upgrades like Fox Racing internal bypass shocks with external reservoirs, which allow for 11.2 inches of front suspension travel. The rear leaf springs and the front upper and lower A-arms were redesigned, and a locking differential was added to the rear axle with a 4.10:1 gear ratio. Early models featured an open-differential front axle which was replaced by a Torsen helical gear limited slip differential in 2012.
The Raptor briefly disappeared in 2015 and 2016, but it wasn’t to be for long. The second-generation Raptor hit dealerships in early 2017, losing the SVT name and 500 lbs thanks to aluminum-heavy construction. The second-generation model kept the previous iteration’s Fox Racing internal-bypass shocks with external reservoirs (which would be updated with automatically adjusting Live Valve capability in 2019) but added a half-inch to the shocks to give the pickup an impressive 13 inches of front axle travel.
Perhaps the most notable upgrade was a new transfer case that combined the best aspects of four-wheel drive with the flexibility of all-wheel drive thanks to a cunning torque-on-demand system. Those more focused on power would probably argue that the new optional V8 engine was the real game-changer, with the twin-turbocharged engine giving the Raptor 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. The 2017 model also saw the introduction of the industry’s first 10-speed automatic transmission on a non-commercial vehicle.
That brings us to the current third-generation Raptor, which debuted in 2021. The pickup retains the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 found on previous models, with the V8 engine reserved for the new Raptor R package. The Predator V8, lifted from the Mustang GT500, is undeniably powerful with a 5.2-liter setup that churns out 700 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque, but it comes at a premium. The Raptor R is the most expensive F-150 ever produced, but that price tag naturally comes with a bevy of high-end luxury and performance features like an electronically controlled locking rear differential with a 4:10:1 ratio, 37-inch tires, carbon-fiber accents, and black leather and microsuede upholstery with Recaro front seats. This is definitely a model you will want to grab if you catch it on the used lot.
A Versatile Off-Road Lineup
With the addition of the Rattler, the F-150 lineup is now more versatile than ever, giving all drivers the chance to experience some off-road adventure at whatever price point suits them. From the reasonably priced Rattler package on the F-150 XL to the mid-tier Tremor and desert-race-ready Raptor, these three options provide a compelling case to leave paved roads behind in favor of some off-the-grid adventure. The Rattler might lack some of the heavy-duty components of the Tremor or Raptor, but it provides an excellent base on which to build out a lighter-duty off-roader for use in green-laning or overlanding. The Tremor is a low-speed specialist with a generous complement of equipment that makes it ideal for rock-crawling and other slower off-road pursuits. The Raptor is the ultimate off-road companion, with a surplus of rugged, high-performance components that speaks to the pickup’s desert racing roots. No matter which version of the F-150 you choose, you’ll find a pickup that’s got the goods to back up its ambitious off-road claims.