The Ford Ranger was
such a successful compact pickup truck during its 1983-2011 run that
some estimates say there are still more than 2 million of them on
the road today. That includes the 2005 model that sits in my
But by the time the
last new ones were sold, American tastes were changing. Buyers
wanted bigger. Sales of Ford’s F-150, the best-selling vehicle in
the country, were rising. Sales of the small, inexpensive Ranger
were falling. Ford dropped it from its lineup.
Now Ford sees tastes
changing again, and the Ranger is back. It’s no longer small, and
it’s no longer inexpensive. It has moved up a whole class. “The
old Ranger was smaller and less capable, and at the end of its life
was sold principally on cost,” said Ranger marketing manager Chad
Callander. “We saw that the opportunity and the room existed to
bring it back as a midsize truck.”
Truck sales across
the brands are strong, as drivers increasingly eschew sedans for
SUVs and pickups. Typically cheaper to produce than passenger cars,
they sell at high average transaction prices. That number for the
F-150 is about $48,000, according to Edmunds manager of industry
analysis Jeremy Acevedo — and even higher for new full-size truck
entries from Chevrolet and Ram.
That makes the new
Rangers a relative bargain. “This is the perfect time for a
vehicle like this, especially for buyers who want a truck and have a
lot of Ford loyalty but don’t want to make that $48,000 plunge,”
Acevedo said. “And Ford hasn’t had anything for that
At first glance,
especially to someone like me who has owned a Ranger or two, the new
truck is huge. Advertised as a midsize pickup, and built in a
Michigan factory that will also be responsible for reintroducing the
Ford Bronco, the 2019 Ranger looks as big as an F-150.
The updated Ranger is
powered by an updated four-cylinder, 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine,
mated to Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s a
perky power plant, putting out 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of
torque. It’s strong enough, and still efficient enough, to allow
for what the company boasts is the best payload, towing capacity and
fuel economy for any gasoline-powered vehicle in its class.
boasting about, and almost hides the significant detail that the
Ranger comes with only one engine — no V-6, no V-8 — and is not
available with a diesel engine. That could deter some buyers.
Offered in three trim
levels, the truck can be had in two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive
formats. I drove the latter — a SuperCrew 4x4, with the special
FX4 off-road package — loaded with dirt bikes for a trip to the
desert, and it was a hoot.
The Ranger comes
standard with multiple drive modes. A sport setting kicks the torque
up a notch and sharpens the gear changes, so that it squirts around
town like a hot rod. This served to make the Ranger feel less big
For other conditions,
it can be driven in modes suited to mud, snow, gravel, sand and
more. Even in standard two-wheel-drive mode, the truck managed deep
sand and rocky ruts with alacrity, seeming as stable and quiet
off-road as on the highway. In the four-wheel off-road modes, it
didn’t even notice the rocks and sand.
If the truck felt
solid, that’s no accident. Callander said the new Ranger was put
through the same durability tests as the heavier F-150s got. It took
me a day or two to figure this out, but the new Ranger wasn’t as
enormous as it first seemed. Though it appears to dwarf the Rangers
of old, the new model hasn’t experienced as much bloat as, say,
the F-150 has.
The 2019 model-year
truck, for example, is only 7 inches longer than the 2011, only 4
inches wider and — comparing the tallest 2019 to the shortest 2011
— 5 inches taller.
So, though I was at
first anxious about parking it, or taking it into a public parking
lot, I soon realized it was quite a bit more manageable than it
The Ranger comes in
SuperCrew and SuperCab body designs. The first is fitted with a
5-foot truck bed, the second with a 6-foot bed. The truck can also
be had with the FX4 off-road package, similar to a rugged system
offered on the Ford Raptor.
What’s missing is
any variation on the simple Ranger one sees everywhere on the road
— and in my driveway. There is no longer a two-door, bench-seat,
no-back-seat version of the truck. The SuperCrew seats five; the
SuperCab seats four.
The Rangers are
priced accordingly. The entry-level XL can be had for as little as
$25,395, almost half the average price of a new F-150.
Unlike the Rangers of
old, which were very analog machines that did almost nothing
electronically — I mean, you have to lock the doors and roll up
the windows on mine by hand — the new Rangers have some smart
technology as standard equipment. Among the most essential: All
models come with a forward collision-warning system and,
importantly, an automatic emergency braking system that will stop
the truck in the event of an impending crash.
But the features that
will attract most Ranger buyers will cost extra. Among those might
be the $1,295 FX4 off-road package, the $495 trailer-tow package, or
the $795 technology package, which includes advanced safety
That could easily
bring the price of an average midrange Ranger — Callander said the
XLT trim, which I drove, will be the volume seller — well into the
Kelley Blue Book
senior managing editor Matt DeLorenzo said he thought Ford would
find an eager audience for a midsize truck, particularly among
buyers who for financial reasons have had to be content with
used-truck purchases of Nissan Frontiers or Toyota Tacomas. “There
is a core audience for this truck,” DeLorenzo said, “and they
will take a hard look at the Ranger.”
But Ford may risk
abandoning the compact-truck segment and giving someone else an
opportunity to move in, the analyst said. Watch for Hyundai, for
example, to make a small truck and pick up some sales.
On the other hand,
DeLorenzo said, moving up a niche may be Ford’s own way of
re-entering the small-truck market with a new pickup based on the
Ford Focus platform.
watching,” he said, “because that’s still a viable market.”
2019 Ford Ranger
Los Angeles Times
take: Bigger, better, costlier
technology, off-road capability.
Lows: May be too big
for utility truck shoppers.
Four-door pickup truck.
Base price: $35,210.
Price as tested:
4-cylinder gasoline engine.