2019 Ford Ranger: Back in the Nick of Time

Brian Armstead

Remember the Ford Ranger? If your answer is “no,” don’t be ashamed, as the Ranger was taken out of production in 2011. Why? In a then dwindling compact truck market, competition from the likes of the Toyota Tacoma, Honda Ridgeline, Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier was certainly a factor, but by 2011, the Ranger was almost as large as the bread and butter F-150, and Ford incorrectly bet the then V6 F-150 would absorb fans of the Ranger. So here we are, and the all-new 2019 Ranger should be successful for two important reasons: 1) It’s extremely well executed, and 2) Not everyone wants to shell out big money for the more expensive larger pickup trucks like the F-150, RAM, Toyota Tundra and Chevy Silverado.

M test Ranger, a SuperCrew 4x4 with a five-foot box, carried a base price of $34,115 (base Rangers start at $25,395). Significant options include, among other unlisted options, the $995 XLT Series Equipment Group, $795 Technology Package (Adaptive Cruise Control, eight speaker SYNC/SIRIUS XM audio package), $495 Trailer Tow Package, and $1,295 FX4 Off-Road Package with electronic locking differential. With a $1,195 destination and delivery charge, the bottom line was $40,605.  This is significantly less than a comparably equipped F-150.

With the new Ranger, Ford clearly put design as a major priority. This truck is super attractive, with a low slung front end that uses aggressive wheel arches and deeply sculpted door panels as the design sweeps up at the C pillar before finishing with a high walled five foot cargo box. At first glance, it looks a lot like the larger F-150. It’s a very tasteful design, which should bode well for sales numbers in a now more competitive compact truck market.

On the road, Ranger’s 2.3-liter turbocharged four cylinder outputs 270 horsepower and a healthy 310 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration is impressive, as is Ranger’s 7,500-pound towing capacity (when properly equipped) and 1,860-pound payload capacity. My tester was “properly equipped” for max towing, which in my experience testing trucks usually means the ride quality is stiff and sometimes punishing. Not so with Ranger, which rides as smoothly as the Platinum Edition Ford Expedition. No bounce or jounce over road berms or railroad tracks, and Ranger is relatively quiet. Ford should add soundproofing to the headliner however, as the sound of raindrops hitting the metal roof is amplified by the dearth of roof soundproofing.

Off road, my tester’s FX4 Off-Road Package means this Ranger can boogie over rocks, through mud and snow, and in loose media like sand and gravel. Shifting into four-wheel drive is simple: just choose 4x4 high or low on the fly, or two-wheel drive for normal driving conditions. The FX4 Off-Road Package also includes: Tuned off-road monotube shocks, all-terrain tires with aggressive tread, traction-enhancing electronic-locking rear differential, an exposed steel front bash plate, heavy-duty front skid plate, and skid plates for the electric power-assist steering electric motor, transfer case and fuel tank. And inside, a cluster screen provides feedback on pitch and roll plus steering angle. Included also are the Terrain Management System which allows you to choose between normal, grass, gravel, show, mud and ruts, and sand drive profiles. Trail Control manages throttle and braking at individual wheels while maintaining a constant speed between 1 and 20 mph. The system allows the driver to focus on steering the Ranger over demanding terrain while Trail Control handles the rest.

Ranger’s interior also gets the job done. An available 8” center touch screen, available dual LCD instrument cluster and available Bang & Olufsen premium audio are upscale features. Legroom and headroom is ample--capable of seating five six footers with ease.

The Ford Ranger is back, and just in the nick of time. If gasoline prices continue to rise, consumers seeking pickup truck utility and versatility will surely give the more fuel-efficient compact pickup segment a closer look.◊