Like the McRib, My Little Ponies, or Billy Ray Cyrus, you may never have realized how much you actually missed the Ford Ranger prior to its inevitable come back. After some seven model-years on hiatus, Ford has jumped back into the mid-size truck segment with a reboot of the Ranger that has decidedly more in common with its current segment competitors than it does with its historical namesake. While not the light pickup of yesteryear, the Ranger is not just a shrunken F-150, either. It is, in fact, its own thing, a new thing, and that proved entirely alright by us.
The new Ranger features just one engine option (and is therefore not, strictly speaking, an option), a 2.3 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that it shares with the Mustang and Focus RS. This does not mean the Ranger ends up underpowered. This little four-banger produces a perfectly respectable 270 hp and, with 310 pound-feet of torque, bests both the Toyota Tacoma (265pf) and the gas-powered Chevy Colorado (275 pf). For the Ranger this translates to a towing capacity of 7500 pounds and a hauling capacity of up to 1860 pounds in the RWD SuperCab. The towing capacity on the Tacoma and Colorado top out at 6400lbs and 7000lbs respectively. The Ranger’s engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, which is a significant jump up from the segment standard 6-speeds.
Where you land on the cabin to bed size ratio will largely hinge on what or whom you have to haul. The less you like your passengers and the more you want to heave in the back the more likely you’ll be to want the SuperCrew with its full 6ft bed (and comically cramped rear seating). If, like most prospective customers, you’re looking to make the Ranger something closer to a daily driver, we recommend opting for the SuperCab which skimps on bed size down to 5ft while gaining rear doors and room enough for full grown adults in back.
Practical concerns aside, the real question is, how’s the Ranger handle off the pavement? Ford equipped the Ranger with its Terrain Management and Trail Control Systems allowing incremental forward-speed adjustments for clambering over rocks and logs without swaying and creaking like the rigging of a 19th century whaling vessel. The optional FX4 package can make things even easier off-road by adding a locking rear differential, though this package comes at the cost of additional stiffness and bounce when back on pavement. Clearance starts at 8.4 inches in the RWD versions but increases to 8.9 inches once you spring for the FX4’s suspension.
One of the key virtues of downsizing your truck is the gains made in fuel economy, and the Ranger stands out in this regard. The EPA estimates of 20 mpg city and 24 mpg highway for a combined 22 mpg put it at the top of the mid-size heap.
Another bonus that comes with the smaller size of the Ranger is the improved drivability. The Ranger feels comparatively squat, lumbering just enough over uneven surfaces to remind you you’re still in a truck. Electronically assisted steering makes for relatively smooth and serviceable handling. The breaking provided enough bite without snapping our heads forward. The turbo-boosted 4-cylindar provides plenty of oomph, and the 10-speed automatic smoothly transitions between gears. Switching to Sport mode will give you an extra kick whether passing or just for fun, but there we noted just the slightest of lags in response. Patience pays off however, as it yielded a noticeable boost in power, and even without Sport mode, the Ranger still nets a respectable 0-60 in under seven seconds.
Ride comfort will depend heavily on the sort of terrain you’re tackling. The more off-road/off-pavement driving the greater the likelihood you’ll recognize the pitchy quality of the Ranger. A smooth ride over even pavement can turn bouncy or pitchy over bumps and around corners. By our estimation the only notable deficiency for the Ranger.
That jostling is, however, well cushioned by the comfy front seats. The rear seating in the SuperCrew was just enough to accommodate my six-foot frame without much threat of cramping on longer drives (which was nice to find), though the seat backs where straighter than you might want. I should also note that I had to put the driver’s seat all the way back to fit comfortably up front, and this left me wondering whether folks taller than myself might be forced into a F-150 upgrade.
This is not to say that the Ranger isn’t roomy for its frame, because it is. There’s plenty of head and elbow room to be had, and the visibility out of the front was excellent for a vehicle of its kind, aided by the ride height (we were driving with the FX4 package with its 8.9 inches of clearance) and the short hood.
The cabin proved quiet even with the throttle down in windy weather.
Ingress and egress in the front seat were easy. As the Ranger isn’t the biggest truck to start with, you may or may not need the optional running boards, depending on how tall you and your passengers are. The back seat, however, was a different story, especially in the SuperCab where the cramped quarters challenged even the yoga adept among us on entry and exit.
The XLT’s eight-inch touchscreen is well positioned though its angle caused the sun’s reflection to obscure the view at times.
The climate controls feature more buttons than are probably necessary for the job, and to make matters worse you still can’t adjust the airflow from here. Instead you have to consult the infotainment screen’s climate control menu in order to change the airflow from floor to dash. A small oversight to be sure, but one that could use fixing.
If you’re interested in off-roading, this where your Ranger may warrant some optional upgrades. Ford’s Terrain Management and Trail Control Systems, part of its FX4 package that includes all-terrain tires and off-road shocks, makes the Ranger exceedingly nimble on rugged surfaces. Add the electronic-locking rear differential and now we’re really cooking. And fear not, the Ranger comes with skid plates to ensure you’re not at risk of disemboweling your truck while tackling rocky terrain.
Overall, the off-road, towing, and hauling abilities of the Ranger position it well within the mid-size segment (tops for a gas-powered truck). While it might not carry or the pull the weight of its big brother F-150, the Ranger was impressively capable for its size. On a side note, we were a little disappointed that tailgate wasn’t at least dampened. Come on Ford, the tailgate wars are heating up and you’re decidedly behind the curve on this one.
The Ranger comes equipped with Ford’s SYNC infotainment system, which is one of the more intuitive systems on the market. The Ranger XLT and above trims come with the SYNC 3 system which bumps up the 4.2-inch infotainment screen to 8-inches and allows for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and enabling a Bluetooth connection is a breeze. The internal navigation system was likewise easy and straight-forward to use. The Ranger features two USB ports up front and two more in the back so keeping devises charged on long rides won’t be a concern (you kids will thank you). Many of the safety features are optional upgrades worth the inflating the Ranger’s price tag. These include forward emergency breaking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring (which works even with a trailer in tow), lane assist, and adaptive cruise control.
We felt the 2019 Ford Ranger was pretty darn good so long as you were willing to compromise in order to cover all your bases. Of the current mid-size offerings, the Ranger is well positioned with excellent towing and hauling capacities along with segment leading gas mileage. The biggest detraction for the Ranger was nothing to do with its mechanics or drivability but is instead its price tag. Though it starts out with a base price of the $25,495 for the SuperCab XL, this is for the most basic of basic versions. As you add what are probably must-have features, like four-wheel drive, the tow and off-road packages, and modern amenities like the tech package the sticker price climbs. By the time you’re getting close to the truck you actually want you’re edging the $40,000 mark. Not unheard of in this heyday of overpriced trucks, it’s just that, nice as it is, the Ranger is quite literally less truck than you get with the F-150 or Sierra. For those of us hoping for a mid-size truck at a mid-size price we’ve been left a bit wanting by Ford’s resurrection of the Ranger.
With that said, probably my personal favorite aspect of the Ranger is the overall aesthetic of this truck. The smart proportions and athletic demeanor exemplify its off-road agility and exceptional (for its size) work capacities. All that Ford needs to do now is give in to public pressure and deliver the Ranger Raptor we’ve all been dreaming about. Hey, at least then people couldn’t complain about the price tag.