DETROIT, Michigan — It seemed perfectly reasonable seven years ago that Ford might remove the Ranger midsize pickup truck from the U.S. market forever. The last model sold here hadn’t been updated in what seemed like decades, and the average Ford truck buyer could get nearly the same gas mileage from a V-6 F-150 (and run it on cheap gas), with a bigger cargo box and much better towing capacity for a few bucks a month more.
Turns out seven years was as long as Ford could go without trying to assert its truck leadership image in every possible sub-segment, and get the Ranger back on the U.S. market. And so here we are at Cobo Hall in Detroit, where the 2019 Ford Ranger is unveiled about a year before it begins production in North America, as a “lifestyle” truck not meant to capture any would-be full-size pickup buyers who need a work tool.
It looks very much like the same Ford Ranger that has been on-sale in Europe and other foreign markets in that interim. In a reversal of the Mulally-era One Ford touted for the ’12 Focus, however, the Blue Oval truck people say the Ranger has been heavily redesigned for the U.S. market, and has its own, unique box-frame construction.
The North American 2019 Ford Ranger also gets its own solid-steel front bumper, front-mounted tow hooks, a new double-bulge aluminum hood, and on the FX4 trim level, an “aluminum bash plate,” as truck design chief and native Australian Max Wolff puts it. Every body panel was “touched,” for “optimized panel gap reduction, and wind noise reduction,” Wolff adds.
“There’s a lot of shape you can see in the front from the plan view,” he says. Globally, the Ford Ranger design is distinct for its fast windshield, high beltline, and short front overhangs, which make for good approach/departure angles.
The FX4’s Terrain Management System offers four drive modes: normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand. An off-road drive assist technology maintains speed as low as 1 mph and as high as 20 mph, in any transfer-case setting. As on the F-150, a blind-spot information system includes trailer coverage. A rear camera and emergency braking are standard, and pre-collision assist, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control are available. Its Sync 3 works off an eight-inch information/entertainment screen.
Inside, the steering wheel and shifter have been redesigned from foreign-market models. There are F-150-inspired side-steps optional, new cargo box rails and eight new wheel designs, some of them also F-150-like. Standard wheels are 17-inch, with 18-inchers optional. The tailgate is aluminum, with the handle lifted for “usability.”
Unlike all the competition, from the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, to the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, the 2019 Ford Ranger will be offered in North America with just one engine; what the company is calling an “all-new” version of the gas direct-injection, twin-scroll turbo 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo four already offered in the Mustang. The new Selectshift 10-speed automatic is standard. No manual will be offered.
Ford will offer the Ranger here in Super Cab and Super Crew body styles. Super Cab will come with a five-foot box, and the Super Crew’s will be six feet. Trim levels are XL, XLT, STX, and Lariat, with FX4 4×4 and sport and trim packages available, so one can assume it would take Ford making a big dent in the midsize pickup category before it would consider adding different engines, like the F-150’s new 3.0L Power Stroke diesel, or King Ranch, and Platinum trim levels. Ranger seems like a better platform for the Raptor pickup, however.
While Ford’s U.S. PR declined to provide detailed specifications at an embargoed preview, the U.K. version of the Ranger is 211 inches long, on a 126.8-inch wheelbase, and 71-72 inches tall. Curb weight ranges from 4,066 pounds for the non-North America standard cab, to as much as 4,875 pounds, which still is more than 600 pounds lighter than a Ford F-150 Platinum 4×4 Super Crew.
Ford will build the new ’19 Ranger beginning early next year, famously, at its Michigan Assembly Plant in the City of Wayne, where it currently produces the Focus and C-Max. Ford raised President Trump’s ire when it announced it was moving Focus production to a new plant, since cancelled, in Mexico. North American Ford Focus production now moves to China as Michigan Assembly retools for the ’19 Ranger, and about one year later, the new Bronco SUV.
EPA fuel economy numbers for the 2019 Ford Ranger won’t be published until shortly before it goes on sale early next year. Whether or not there’s a major improvement over the fuel mileage of EcoBoost- and diesel-powered aluminum F-150s, the new Ranger provides an easier entry point for—Ford hopes—younger buyers. It also provides better maneuverability in urban areas, where parking an F-150 in a downtown public garage can be a handful, and then on weekends can haul dirt bikes or mountain bikes to the hills. And while Ford left it unsaid, the new Ranger will be better-suited than the F-150 for all the car-sharing programs we’re likely to see in the ‘20s.