Ford was feeling left out. How else to explain the new (to America) Ranger? With the reborn Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, the recently updated Toyota Tacoma, and even the ancient Nissan Frontier duking it out in the mid-size-truck arena, sales of such pickups have been on a steady upswing since 2015, to the point that the segment can honestly be described as white hot. Of course, Ford left at just the wrong time.
When it was discontinued after the 2011 model year, the prior Ranger was the second-bestselling small truck—and bestselling American model—but the Blue Oval bet its customers would pony up for an F-150 instead. And thus it redesigned the Ranger for global markets and didn’t offer it in America. Until now. The 2019 Ranger you see here, as you likely know, is a fast-tracked, reworked version of the truck that’s been on sale elsewhere since 2012, although admittedly the changes extend beyond new bumper reinforcements ad a reworked powertrain.
But while it might have slightly dusty bones, the new Ranger nevertheless looks good, and I believe sharper than the GM trucks. Our chromed-out black example was fitted with the luxe-focused Lariat package that brings leather trimmings and top-spec tech upgrades. As equipped, it’s at least as nice as the best Colorado or Tacoma, and the Ranger’s cabin was a pleasant enough place to pass (lots and lots) of time in L.A. traffic. But if you want the niceties, you’re going to have to pay for them, as the Lariat is a roughly $4,000 jump over the mid-level XLT. That said, dollar-for-dollar, getting the upscale interior on the Ranger is cheaper than in the Colorado, which at least $1,645 over a similarly equipped Ford.
A 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission is the sole powertrain configuration, in contrast to the usual low/high-level engine options available on its segment mates. With 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, though, it hustles the roughly 4,300-pound truck along well enough, and the transmission is snappy with its shifts. With 10 speeds to manage, the transmission does have the tendency to hunt around a bit, but not so much that it annoys.
Depending on trim, cab configuration, and driven wheels, the Ranger can tow up to a respectable 7,500 pounds, beating out the naturally aspirated Toyota Tacoma (6,800 pounds max) and coming in just under the most capable diesel Colorado (7,700 max). If you need more power, this basic engine—albeit with a different head—has proven itself capable of 350 horsepower in the Focus RS, so there may be options for tuning. (Hennessey, in fact, offers a version pumping out that same 350 horses.) Ford itself hasn’t announced plans for a power upgrade—and we figure it unlikely given the all-new, next-generation truck is expected in 2021. Certain markets already have access to a jacked-up, armored-down Raptor variant with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel and not our gas 2.3-liter, but we expect a Raptor to hit our shores with the new version.
For now, the most aggressive trim available stateside is the FX4, a package that brings an off-road-oriented suspension, wheels, and tires. I initially planned on taking this new Ranger to one of the many off-road areas surrounding Los Angeles, but given its Lariat spec, the FX4 would be a better partner for the tight, dusty trails of Hungry Valley.
The Lariat I drove is more aimed at a demographic that spends most of their time on pavement, and its chassis offers well-balanced and linear-feeling steering and braking. However, while the suspension soaks up minor imperfections and expansion joints with no problem, the Ranger’s truckishness becomes known when you hit larger bumps. Such deflections send the body rocking and the wheels pattering, even if the force of the impacts themselves are isolated from the cabin. Weight in the bed would no doubt help calm things down—one of my motion-sickness-afflicted friends required Dramamine—but this is a truck and it rides and drives like one, and if you’re expecting a Lincoln, well, buy one of those.
Overall, I like the Ranger. It’s a capable, handsome, and wieldy pickup that should serve its audience well, especially in urban environments where F-150s become burdensome and where smaller hauling tasks are the norm. I experienced the truck only in its most loaded, luxurious form, however, and I’d like to drive the lesser trims and rip around the dirt in the FX4 (and play with the Ranger’s terrain-management settings) before I pass my personal full judgment—to say nothing of my anticipation for the next-generation model. The Ranger is back and I’m happy to know it’s here to stay.
2019 Ford Ranger Specifications
|ENGINE||2.3L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve inline-4; 270 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 310 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||front-engine, 2+2 or 4-door, 5-passenger, RWD or 4WD truck|
|EPA MILEAGE||20–21/24–26 mpg|
|L x W x H||210.8 x 85.8 x 70.7–71.5 in|
|0–60 MPH||6.8 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||105 mph|