2019 Ford Ranger - Load The Bed, Not The Options List
Sept. 14, 2019
Seven years after it disappeared from the North American market, the Ford Ranger is back. The Ranger never entirely went away though, continuing in overseas markets in the intervening years until Ford decided that the business case for midsize pickup trucks actually made sense in its home market. I just spent a week with the “new” Ranger and I’ve got some thoughts about it.
When American production of the Ranger ended in December 2011, it was still very much a compact pickup truck. While it had grown a bit over the course of its 28-year run, it remained relatively modest in size. But just as full-size trucks have grown in size (as has everything else it seems), so too have our smaller trucks. The new to America Ranger is based on Ford’s T6 platform that has been used for the global model since 2011 making it a midsizer now.
Gallery: 2019 ford Ranger Lariat
In the old days a Ranger could be had with a standard cab or extended cab. These days, American buyers have largely abandoned the standard cab layout except for commercial work trucks. Thus the extended SuperCab is now the base Ranger configuration as it is for most trucks in this class while a crew cab is optional.
The wheelbase of the current SuperCab is just over an inch longer than the 2011 equivalent but the overall length has swelled by over seven inches. The width has expanded by four inches giving the new generation a considerably more spacious feeling. As someone that got through his college years in a similarly sized 1984 GMC S15, these modern “small” trucks feel enormous by comparison.
For anyone that has seen the global Ranger since 2012, this new American edition will look familiar. The lights and grille are new but most of the sheet metal is carried over. It doesn’t fit with the blockier design language of the current F-series trucks, but the look generally works with the smaller proportions.
When Ford dropped the Ranger from the U.S. lineup, it gave the excuse that the cost of building a smaller truck wasn’t much less than full-size models and the fuel economy wasn’t that much better. Thus it made more sense for customers to buy the larger more capable machines. In the intervening years, those big trucks have climbed steadily in price, in part due to the popularity of premium models like Raptors, Platinums and Limiteds. The average transaction price of an F-series is now over $47,000. That upmarket trend has opened a gap to fit the Ranger back in the lineup and the popularity of competitors like the Chevy Colorado, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier has demonstrated that there clearly is a market for midsize pickups.
For its re-launch, Ford is only offering a single powertrain option in the Ranger, the turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder with a ten-speed automatic transmission. Variants of this engine are also used in the Mustang and the upcoming new Explorer. In the Ranger, it generates 270-hp and 310 lb-ft of torque which is more than ample for this truck that ranges from 4,100 to 4,400 pounds. The most powerful engine in the old Ranger was the 4.0-liter Cologne V6 with just 207 hp and 238 lb-ft of torque.
With its stronger, more modern frame and added power, the new Ranger can handle up to 1,860-pounds of payload in a rear-drive SuperCab or 1,650 pounds for the four-wheel-drive version. It can also tow up to 7,500-pounds, a significant improvement from the maximum of 5,800-pounds on the classic models. Only the new Jeep Gladiator can tow more in the midsize truck segment.
While the escalating prices of full-size trucks have created an opening for the Ranger, it doesn’t exactly make this smaller truck a bargain. The Ranger is currently offered in three trims, the base XL with steel wheels, the XLT and the Premium Lariat. The XL SuperCab starts at $25,495 while an XLT will bump that to just over $29,000.That’s actually not a bad deal, especially when you consider that Ford includes its CoPilot 360 driver assist package as standard equipment, something GM charges extra for and the engine is considerably stronger than many of the base mills in other trucks.
However, the tester I drove was a four-wheel-drive Lariat trim which came to just shy of $42,000 and there were still a few options missing from that truck. The Ranger Lariat looked the part on the outside with chrome alloy wheels and running boards and a Hot Pepper Red paint job. Inside, the seats were upholstered in leather and the fronts were reasonably comfortable. The controls are all well placed and easy enough to use including the SYNC 3 infotainment system with Navigation. There is support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well.
The top surface of the dashboard was also covered in leather as was the steering wheel. However, all the other surfaces were a hard plastic that neither looked nor felt premium. There weren’t any visible mold flash marks or sharp edges, but this isn’t a look that I would expect in a truck costing over $40,000. In the sub-$30,000 it’s fine, but at this price point I expect something more.
As in other extended cab pickups, the SuperCab has vestigial rear seats, but they are really only suitable for those less than five feet tall, or a dog with a cover on the leather surfaces.
One of the ways that trucks have improved dramatically in the past two decades is ride quality and driving dynamics. While I certainly wouldn’t rank the Ranger at the bottom of my list (a position reserved for the Tacoma, although I haven’t driven the Frontier in many years either), there are many trucks that are better suited as daily drivers from a comfort standpoint.
The full-size Ram 1500 and the Nissan Titan are both noticeably better, avoiding the bounciness that the Ranger;s uncompressed rear leaf springs exhibit when running empty. On the other hand, when I loaded 600 pounds of top soil into the bed, everything settled down quite nicely but I doubt most owners would want to haul around a bunch of dirt most of the time. If you are looking for a midsize truck with better day-to-day ride quality, the Honda Ridgeline is probably the best option, although you give up 2,500 pounds of towing capability and 300 pounds of payload.
Back in the day, you could get a base four-cylinder Ranger with a manual gearbox that had an EPA rating of 24 mpg combined. But in order to max out towing and payload you needed that V6 with an automatic. With four-wheel-drive, that truck only got a 16 mpg combined rating. The considerably more powerful and capable 2019 model is rated at 22 mpg in four-by-four and I averaged an impressive 21 mpg in my week of driving.
For those looking for something smaller than an F-150 with some quite impressive capabilities, the Ranger is definitely worth a look. I’d recommend taking a pass on the Lariat and going for the mid-level XLT instead which you can get for under $30,000 with judicious use of the options checking pen. The Honda Ridgeline rides better and has a nicer interior, but it also starts at over $31,000 and is less capable. The Ranger in its current form isn’t entirely new, but it is well proven in global markets and certainly more modern than the Frontier. Despite the age of the platform, Ford has updated with current technology and most customers will likely be quite happy with it.
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