We welcome the Ranger back after a brief hiatus
Words by: Adam Allen
Welcome back, Ranger!
The midsize pickup segment has been enjoying something of a renaissance over the last few years, and Toyota’s Tacoma and the General Motors Colorado/Canyon twins have had the sales pie all to themselves once the Ranger and Nissan Frontier drove off into the sunset. During the 8 years since Ford retired the Ranger, the company keenly observing the swelling sales figures and decided it would not be wise to sit on the sidelines any longer while these players monopolized the class. The Ranger had continued to be offered in international markets, so Ford elected to save a huge amount of development costs and simply adapted the platform for North American duty. What you see before you is a culmination of that effort.
Basically, they made it tougher.
We North Americans expect a lot from our trucks, and Ford knows this better than anyone- they sell a staggering amount of F150’s- one every 35 seconds, to be exact. They abused their test mules to the breaking point making sure that nothing would fail, and they result is a payload capacity of 748 kilograms and the ability to tow loads weighing up to 3,402 kilos. These are robust numbers from a smallish pickup and should be more than enough capability than owners will ask of them. Not only is the Ranger adept at hauling stuff around, but Ford paid close attention to how it would fare once the pavement ends. To that end, the Ranger is available with what Ford calls Terrain Management System and Trail Control. Basically, it acts like an off-road cruise control system wherein the computers decide how much throttle and brake applications are needed for a given scenario while the driver steers the truck. They also alter the throttle response, steering effort and transmission behaviour to help get the most out of the Ranger when you head off the grid. There are also metal plates strategically placed to protect vital mechanical bits, and while these are generally referred to as skid plates, Ford calls the stuff mounted to the Ranger ‘bash’ plates. How cool is that?
Ever been in the pre-hiatus Ranger? Yeah, this one’s much more nicely appointed.
Contrast our tester with the last Ranger you could buy here in Canada and they feel like trucks that have come from different millennia (and in a way, they have.) The current version feels positively luxurious compared to its agricultural feeling predecessor. Even before you thumb the start button and set off for the first time, you are struck by how much more room there is and by the level of comfort on tap. Even those relegated to the back seat will appreciate the environs and will not miss the vinyl upholstered perches with their bolt upright seat backs. Some of those who have tested the Ranger have complained about the materials Ford used to furnish the interior, but we think that’s a bit misguided. It isn’t going to encroach on any of the top level F150 interiors for sheer luxury but it more than gets the job done. The Ranger also boasts all the modern convenience features like Apple CarPlay, FordPass Connect (which allows you to interact with the truck using your smartphone) and Ford Co-Pilot360 which includes a whole whack of driver assistance technologies.
Did Ford achieve the same level of success with the oily bits?
Yes, and we think the advancements made with the drivetrain and the on-road proficiency of the Ranger eclipse the interior highlights for noteworthy discussion points. We didn’t get a chance to take the Ranger off the beaten path, but we did spend plenty of time on the highway and came away mightily impressed at how accomplished a cruiser the Ranger is. We thought the aggressively treaded off-road geared tires would make a racket and cause the Ranger to drift aimlessly in its lane, but we were pleasantly surprised by the absence of both. It tracks straight and true and the ample suspension travel lend it the ride quality of a 1970’s Cadillac in the best possible way. If there is a slowpoke holding you up, simply depress the throttle deeper and the 2.3 litre Mustang sourced turbo four serves up a satisfying amount of urge and is appreciably smooth while doing so. It’s mated to a 10-speed gearbox that may have a few ratios too many- witness the occasional clumsy low speed shifting behaviour we encountered- but it’s always willing to drop a bunch of ratios to get the turbo on boil and fades quietly into the background when you just want to pack on the kilometres. Another welcome surprise: usually pickups have the turning circle of an offshore oil tanker but not the Ranger. Its tidy turning circle is smaller than the zippy Hyundai Veloster N we had in the Carpages Garage at the same time while the Ranger was under our care.
What might go wrong?
The Ranger is a huge improvement from its ancestors but there are a few edges that could use some smoothing. We’d trade some of the highway cruising alacrity for a bit more starch in the suspension- we understand that a truck is never going to be a spritely handler, but we wouldn’t miss some of the nautical body roll and substantial brake dive if we had to give up a little comfort in the process. SYNC3- Ford’s very familiar and ubiquitous infotainment system- stumbled quite a bit in the Ranger. Sometimes we’d count a few seconds before it would respond to a command, and it’s clearly starting to show its age. Another gripe: the radio reception is shockingly poor. Our tester’s satellite radio subscription had expired, so when we went hunting for tunes on some local radio stations that should have come through with ease we were met with horrible sound quality and static. If you stream music from your phone or have a lengthy subscription to satellite radio this won’t matter to much, but it was surprising nonetheless.
Should I buy a Ford Ranger?
Fancy yourself a small(er) truck? You’ll find lots to like about the Ranger and you should make the arrangements to take one out for a drive. Actually, you might want to take out a Toyota Tacoma before you do that so you can see how much better the Ranger is to drive than its venerable competitor. A far as we’re concerned, it’s a two-horse race between Ford and GM for midsize pickup supremacy but we might give the edge to the Ranger based solely on its rather excellent drivetrain. The only reason you might want to hold off your decision to put one in your driveway is the likely arrival of the Ranger Raptor already blasting off sand dunes and ridges in far flung locales across the world. Whether you exercise patience or not, the Ranger should ensure that Ford helps itself to a big ol’ slice of the midsize truck segment pie.
2019 Ford Ranger 4X4 SuperCrew— Specifications
- Price as tested: $51,309
- Body Type: 4-door pickup truck
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/four-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.3 turbocharged inline four, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 270 @ 5,500 rpm
- Torque (lbs.-ft.): 310 @ 3,000rpm
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 2,014 kg (4,440 lbs.)
- Fuel consumption: 13.2L/100km (18 mpg)