It’s been more than half a decade since Ford’s offered North American customers a pickup smaller than its stalwart F-150, but that changes in 2019 because the Ranger is coming back!
Officially revealed at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, this truck is new from hood to hitch. It brings fresh design, more amenities, and greater capability to market than any Ranger that’s come before.
Unlike the previous version, which was really the last true compact pickup on the market, this reborn 2019 model is a midsize truck. Ford is responding to growing customer demand by offering this rig in America.
According to Todd Eckert, the company’s truck group marketing manager, this segment grew by about 84 percent in 2017, accounting for more than 452,000 sales. That’s a significant number, and one the blue oval is no longer content leaving to Nissan, Toyota, and General Motors.
Additionally, full-size truck pricing has gotten out of control in recent years, meaning a lot of potential buyers have been squeezed out of this segment. Ranger will be ready to answer the call when it launches early next year.
While this looks like little more than an Americanized version of the popular international Ranger, which was redesigned back in 2011, there’s more going on here than meets the eye.
“[It’s] not about bringing the global Ranger here and selling it in our dealerships,” said Eckert. Many changes have been made.
In fact, according to Max Wolff, the Ranger’s chief designer, every single body panel has been tweaked in some way, even if it was just to improve the panel-fitment gaps. “A lot of work went into refinement around the truck,” he said. Additionally, its hood and tailgate are made of aluminum and overall aerodynamics have been optimized for enhanced efficiency.
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Wolff also said the frame-mounted steel bumpers are “unique to the North American market.” Helping it appealing to a broad swath of buyers, eight exterior colors and eight wheel designs will be offered, though, curiously, no regular-cab model. It will only be available in SuperCab and SuperCrew configurations.
Proving its toughness, the new Ranger was subjected to the same rigorous durability resting as the larger F-150. It also rides atop an all-new, fully boxed, high-strength-steel frame that differs from what’s found underneath international versions. This should help the truck deliver a best-in-class payload rating, though no figures have been released.
Under hood, just one engine will be offered in North America, a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. If this sounds familiar, it should. A similar engine is used throughout Ford’s passenger-car range, though this one has been beefed up for truck duty.
“It’s a truck, it needs to be durable,” said Rick Bolt, chief program engineer of the North American Ford Ranger. And this powerplant has been strategically beefed up to meet the challenges of rigorous use. With a forged crankshaft and plenty of other enhancements, Bolt equated it to the second generation of this 2.3-liter engine.
ALSO SEE: 2018 Ford F-150 Review – First Drive
Like its big brother, the Ranger will feature Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission. In fact, it’s the only gearbox that will be offered. Unfortunately, a manual is not in the cards.
Further cribbing from the F-150’s playbook, this midsize pickup will be available with a host of innovative features including a blind-spot monitoring system that works even if you’re towing, a high-end B&O Play audio system, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and much more.
When the going gets tough, the Ranger should get going, thanks to its available terrain management system. With four discrete settings including normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts and sand, it’s ready for just about any off-road situation.
Trail Control is also all new to Ford. Like cruise control for off-road driving, you pick a desired speed and it will maintain that through mud, down hills and over rocks. It can be set anywhere between 1 and 20 miles an hour.
The brand-new Ranger will be built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. It’s slated to go on sale in the first quarter of 2019. At first glance, it looks like an extremely capable midsize truck, though as usual, we can’t say for certain because important details like pricing, fuel economy and engine performance figures have not been released.