2019 Ford Ranger; Cars.com photos by Mark Williams
Mid-size pickup truck shoppers — people who don’t need or want a full-size pickup or who might be looking at their first truck — have choices, with even more on the horizon. That includes the coming 2020 Jeep Gladiator off-road-oriented adventure truck, but even sooner will include the revived 2019 Ford Ranger.
Related: We Now Have Full Pricing Details for the 2019 Ford Ranger
Ford is returning to the U.S. mid-size pickup market after an eight-year absence with a version of its global Ranger pickup. It’s a more mainstream truck than the Jeep, and will take on the sales-leading Toyota Tacoma and crosstown Detroit archrival Chevrolet Colorado, currently No. 2 in mid-size pickup sales; that’s in addition to GMC, Honda and Nissan rivals. Ford particularly wants to lure buyers with active lifestyles looking for a personal ride. But given the number of aging previous Rangers still on the roads, Ford truck loyalists may be first in line.
The Ranger will offer only limited choices at launch.
“Ford is being cautious, competing only in the most popular configurations,” wrote Mark Williams, editor of Cars.com sister site PickupTrucks.com, in his Ranger First Drive. “The 2019 Ranger has just one wheelbase, so it can offer two of the most common versions for the class: a SuperCab (the extended-cab choice) with a 6-foot bed or a SuperCrew (with four full-size doors)” and just three trim levels.
Also, Williams explained, “for simplicity’s sake, the Ranger will be offered with only one engine.”
Is the new Ranger up to the challenge of this competitive market? Williams actually drove the new truck twice — just last week during the Ranger’s official media launch and in mid-November during a local dealer drive event. Here are highlights of seven things he really likes and one he thinks Ford could have done better.
7 Things We Like
All Rangers will have a 270-horsepower, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 310 pounds-feet of torque, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with either 4×2 or 4×4 drivelines. Williams found this standard powertrain quick to respond when he put his foot to the floor.
“Some may think choosing a four-cylinder engine to power a pickup truck (even a smaller one) is a risky move,” Williams said in his First Drive, but he found that the turbo four “delivered plenty of motivation in all the configurations we drove; in fact, the only engine with more torque in this segment is the bigger and brawnier turbo-diesel option in the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon.”
2. Chassis and Handling
Williams liked how the throttle sensitivity and steering tighten in Sport driving mode, and he found the chassis well-balanced.
“We never found a situation where the front end didn’t carve into the turn or where the rear end became unsettled,” he said.
He also noted that “the rear-end suspension is a standard feature as well, not feeling too soft or tuned for empty ride quality.”
All Rangers use the same single parabolic arched rear leaf spring and overload spring, as well as Hitachi monotube shocks specifically tuned for each configuration.
3. The Cockpit
“The cockpit of our Lariat package was quite impressively appointed with leather, a simply designed center console and instrument panel, as well as a nice, big navigation screen,” Williams wrote after his November drive. “Seating in the rear passenger area is quite reasonable for adults and will offer generous amounts of seating area (with a center armrest) for kids.”
Related: Ford Releases 2019 Ranger Towing, Payload Numbers
4. Payload and Towing
Williams found the Ranger quite capable for towing and hauling.
“Of course, we know that most people who buy a mid-size pickup will not tow or haul that often but given that most … are purchased with adventure activities in mind, it’s good know how they perform just in case they get the call,” he said in his First Drive.
The Ranger offers the highest maximum tow rating (with the tow package) for any gas-engine small pickup at 7,500 pounds. Maximum payloads are 1,860 pounds for a SuperCab 4×2 and 1,770 pounds for a SuperCrew 4×2. With a 500- to 600-pound load during testing, Williams said that “the extra weight over the rear axle was almost neutralized by the fairly aggressive Tow/Haul mode, which kept the engine revving at a higher rpm by holding gears longer before upshifts and proactively downshifting when slowing down.”
He added that, with 5,500 pounds in tow, “we found our little four-cylinder engine plenty strong enough to keep its revs up and slot the right gear in the transmission to make short work of the extra weight.”
5. Fuel Economy
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2019 Ford Ranger is 21/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined, the top rating for a gasoline mid-size pickup. And in the real world, said Williams, “We ran about 200 miles over freeways and two-lane mountain roads from sea level up above 5,000 feet and we finished our all-day run with a 21.1 mpg average — not bad given how enthusiastic we were through the fun parts of the mountain roads.”
6. The Four-Wheel-Drive System
Williams noted “how well the part-time four-wheel-drive system integrates engine power with the transmission gears on nasty trails.” He observed that the Terrain Management System’s four settings — Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Normal — change throttle response, traction control, steering feel, shift points and more, and they can be used both in 4-high and 4-low ranges.
“Add to this system a strong FX4 Off-Road Package and you can see why we never found any obstacles on our off-road test track we couldn’t conquer,” Williams said, adding that, “the 4WD system has all the right parts, gearing and driver readouts, but what separates this new 4×4 pickup from the others is how well it all works together.”
Related: Ford F-150 Raptor and Ranger Will Share Trail Control System
“There is a lot of value in what Ford is offering in the 2019 Ranger,” Williams said. It “does not try to revolutionize the mid-size pickup segment by offering features or technology never before seen; however, it does offer enough feature and trim choices to satisfy the vast majority of customers.”
Plus, he cited “reasonable” pricing at $25,395 including destination to start, though he noted that it “runs up quickly through the trims and cabs to the highest starting price of $39,480” for the 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat trim level.
No Towing Mirrors?
“Our only selfish complaint,” Williams said, “is that the Ranger will not be offered with towing mirrors, so getting a full view of what’s behind will be tricky for anyone who tows – unless of course the load is cement board on a flatbed trailer.”
Lone “selfish complaint” aside, Williams said after his first drive in the Ranger “has us thinking this will be a big hit for both old-time truck buyers who have been waiting for Ford to come back to this segment, as well as first-time buyers looking for a new kind of economical work-and-play vehicle for their family.”
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