When Ford announced its intentions to discontinue the F-150 Tremor for the 2015 model year, it seemed to signal the end of an era for high-performance sport trucks in the U.S. market. The once highly competitive segment has officially been wiped off the map following the Tremor’s demise.
Though it’s hard to admit, it seems the hotly contested head-to-head matchups between the Big Three’s sport trucks will be forever in the past. Straight-line acceleration, agile handling and fast quarter-mile times are no longer a strong deciding factor when shopping for a Ford F-150, Dodge Ram 1500 or Chevrolet Silverado 1500.
Today, consumers are more concerned with fuel efficiency, towing capacity and rear legroom. That’s far from a bad decision, as pickups have transitioned from a work truck to an everyday family hauler due to the ever-increasing expense of a new vehicle purchase. If you’re going to shell out more than $40,000, why not spring for an extra set of doors? It makes perfect sense and enables many families to avoid the added cost of purchasing a four-door sedan or SUV to comfortably haul everyone.
However, these practical and sensible thoughts should be ignored anyway, as the very idea of a sport truck is sheer lunacy to begin with. If superior performance in a two-passenger vehicle is what you’re seeking, why buy a truck instead of a Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, or even a budget-friendly Nissan 370Z? Heavier, less aerodynamic trucks will inevitably fall short in performance and handling against similarly equipped cars. It’s just the way it is.
But the sport truck segment thankfully wasn’t founded on well-reasoned rationale, and it has remained popular for nearly a quarter of a century without it. While it’s always been a low-volume niche market, it’s not one that should disappear anytime soon.
The popularity of the sport trucks first escalated in the 1990s with a brewing rivalry between Chevrolet’s big-block 454 SS and the first generation Ford Lightning. Though full-size pickups still dominated the segment, sport trucks like the turbocharged GMC Syclone and V8 Dodge Dakota R/T featured potent powertrains in even smaller packages.
The stylish second generation Lightning produced from 1999 to 2004 is arguably the segment’s halo truck with its supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine that cranks out an astounding 380 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque at its peak. Ford’s only competitor arrived late to the scene in 2004 when Dodge released the Ram SRT-10 with a Tremec-T56 six-speed manual transmission and a 500 horsepower and 525 pound-feet V10 engine. Production of the Ram SRT-10 continued until 2004.
After a 10 year hiatus, the Ford F-150 Tremor looked as if it was going to revive the popularity of the dying segment and serve as the highly anticipated successor to the lauded Lightning. With 365 horsepower and 420 pound feet from a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, the Tremor definitely appeared to be up for the challenge. Ford marketed the Tremor as a truck that would appeal to street truck enthusiasts looking for high-performance V8 power with V6 fuel efficiency and features typically only found in the aftermarket.
The Tremor could be ordered in either a two or four-wheel drive layout and came standard with a launch-optimized 4.10 rear axle that improved traction during takeoff. While the fair-weather Lightning was often limited because of its rear-wheel drive configuration, the 4×4 Tremor can be driven year-round in even the harshest winter months. It is arguably the most practical sport truck to date for individuals and families that don’t need the extra room.
But practicality wasn’t enough to save the Tremor. After only a single year of production, Ford announced it would be discontinued from the F-150 lineup and no longer produced for the 2015 model year.
Ford’s promise of 12 new global performance vehicles through 2020 could mean the Tremor or even the Lightning will return in the near future with the F-150’s new lightweight aluminum body. But don’t hold your breath — the sport truck era might soon be just a distant memory of the past.