What Is Ford’s Trail Control System And How Does It Work?
If anyone ever told you driving a several-thousand-pound 4×4 on a steep hill or trail is easy, they were lying to you. Put simply, it’s a delicate (and ever-changing) dance of obstacle avoidance, tire placement, steering inputs, throttle touch, and brake control. The manufacturers who understand this have provided a type of low-range “set-it-and-forget-it” trail-crawling software solutions such as Ford’s Trail Control System to (theoretically) help both the novice and the expert become better drivers over nasty terrain.
It Takes Over Throttle and Braking Duties
Again, put simply, some automakers (namely Ford, Toyota, and Jeep) have incorporated these systems to take over throttle and braking duties to allow the driver to simply focus on obstacle avoidance. Maybe the easiest way to think about it is as a slow-speed cruise control for trail and rockcrawling, though more complicated in the sense that simply touching the brake does not fully disengage the system. In fact, in some cases, you can actually use multiple brake touches to adjust your speed as you move along the trail. Most of these systems can be speed-adjusted below one mph and up to 20 mph before they disengage.
Ford’s Trail Control comes standard with the Tremor off-road package available on its full line of pickups—Rangers, Super Dutys, and F-150s. We had the opportunity to test Trail Control during the 2022 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year on the 2021 Ford F-150 Tremor. The system can be engaged in either 4-Hi or 4-Lo and provides fingertip control of the throttle in increments of 1/2 mph in low range (maxing out at 10 mph) and in two mph increments in high range (maxing out at 20 mph), via the steering wheel touchpad. According to Ford engineers, this particular system, which measures wheel speed and slip more than 10,000 times per second, is designed to give the novice four-wheeler a chance to focus more on steering the vehicle and where to place a tire than worrying about throttle and brake pedal adjustments.
How Trail Control Is Different From Toyota’s Crawl Control
To its credit, Ford allows both its Trail Control and Terrain Management System to work together to create different performance parameters no matter what terrain setting (Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, or Sand). This is not true for Toyota’s Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select system, which works independently and only in 4-Lo. Finally, it’s worth noting that Ford also offers this software packaging in the Ranger FX4, F-150 Raptor, Bronco Sport, Bronco, and Expedition Timberline.
What Is Trail One-Pedal Drive?
Additionally, on the topic of impressive off-road software, Ford also offers technology like the Trail One-Pedal Drive, which helps keep massive amounts of engine and brake torque fully controlled by way of a recalibrated throttle for extreme 4-Lo situations, where adding a small amount of throttle input allows for slow, controlled forward motion over a rock, and releasing it instantly engages brake torque (no two-foot driving necessary) to slow momentum over that same rock. People who do serious boulder-crawling will see the advantages right away, especially to their rear quarter panels and bumpers.
And There’s Trail Turn Assist
Finally, we also need to mention Ford’s exclusive Trail Turn Assist which, when engaged, will lock the inside rear tire when the steering wheel is at full lock, allowing the vehicle to almost pivot when making a sharp turn. The results can cut turning radius almost in half in some cases. For now, these two additional software systems are only available on the Bronco, F-150 Tremor and Raptor, but could spread in the lineup as more people experience their benefits.
Watch: 2021 Ford F-150 Tremor revealed
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