With the mid-size pickup truck market seeing a resurgence in relevance after years of steady decline, automakers are more focused than ever at delivering a new wave of affordable pickup truck options. Chevrolet and GMC lead the way with the revamped Colorado and Canyon, and sold more than 145,000 units combined for the 2016 model year. This wave of success helped jump start the Ranger’s long journey back into the U.S. market after a long absence.
The last iteration of Ranger left the U.S. back in 2011, and loyalists were incensed at Ford’s decision to axe it. However, that Ranger was left to stagnate prior to its demise, and was known more for its antiquity than offering anything modern to consumers. While it was gone from our shores, its international market sibling began racking up sales abroad especially in Asia, Europe, and New Zealand. Naturally, Ford chose to retain much of that version’s charm, but made several revisions to help it be able to adapt to stricter U.S. regulations. A fully boxed ladder frame with six cross members makes up the bones that hold up this beast of burden together. While the frame may appear to be a mere duplicate of its global cousin’s, Ford revealed that several major revisions were made mostly in regards to safety. Engineers reinforced the front and the rear of the frame to help create a sturdy mounting location for the front and rear steel bumpers, as well as other revisions to help it comply with U.S. crash tests. Ford revealed that it will also offer an optional integrated trailer hitch receiver for buyers that want to have some towing chops to go with their Ranger sized purchase.
Unlike the bigger F-150 and its heavy duty cousins, the 2019 Ranger bucks Ford’s recent push for aluminium extensive construction, and arrives with a mostly steel body with the aluminum hood and tailgate standing out as the lone exceptions. Engineers also made an effort to tighten and create more consistent panel gaps than the global version and it features a revised front fascia with U.S. market exclusive lighting elements. Short overhangs help ensure good approach angles front and rear, though we expect the rumored “Raptor” variant to cater to buyers that aim to formally rock crawl on challenging off-road trails. Monotube dampers are mounted at all four corners, with a control arm style front suspension complimenting the rear live axle setup.
Wheras its predecessor had two engine offerings, Ford is keeping things simple when it comes to performance, with all 2019 Rangers coming equipped with Ford’s 2.3 liter EcoBoost four cylinder engine. No V6 option will be offered, and Ford did not discuss Ranger performance figures in today’s release. But this engine also sees duty in the Ford Explorer and Mustang, so look for potential figures to reside roughly at the 300 horsepower mark, with 345 to 350 lb-ft of torque on tap. The 10-speed automatic is the same unit that is mounted to the F-150, but engineers were forced to use a smaller case to help it fit into the Ranger’s more compact layout. Buyers will be able to choose from either rear or four wheel drive, with the latter option featuring a two speed transfer case with 4Low 4 High and 2 High capability. An optional electronically controlled differential will also be available as an option on select models.
At launch the 2019 Ford Ranger will arrive in FX2 and FX4 guise with both models getting the fore-mentioned electronic diff as standard equipment, as well as other off-road grade goodies including all-terrain tires, off-road oriented dampers, steel skid plates, and plenty of FX badges. While designed for off road adventures, both models have the same ride height, with Ford claiming that it designed the entire Ranger lineup to qualify as “high riders.” Naturally, FX4 models push the envelope further, and come equipped with a Terrain Management system that features four modes (Normal, Grass, Gravel and Snow.) Each mode tailors the transmission shift points, throttle response, as well as the traction and stability control systems to help the Ranger adapt to all kinds of terrain. A new Trail Control system allows the truck to utilize cruise control-esque features for off-road driving, and even allows drivers to tap on the brake pedal to set a lower speed without turning the system off.
The trim level hierarchy is also refreshingly simple, and will be familiar to hardcore Ford loyalists, especially pickup truck buyers. Like the F-150, XL trim serves as the entry level Ranger trim, with XLT and Lariat versions gradually adding more luxury features to the Ranger’s bag of tricks. The 2019 Ranger will launch with eight different exterior color options as well as eight different wheel designs in 17 and 18-inch sizes. LED head and tail lights are on the options list along with puddle lamps, in box cargo lighting, and Ford’s Smart Trailer tow connector system that alerts drivers to potential issues with the wiring of their trailer.
The Ranger’s interior has been significantly overhauled, and buyers that were familiar with the old Ranger’s functional but decidedly crude interior will be blown away by what they see. The cabin can now house five occupants, and features under seat storage in the rear, as well as dual LCD info screens in the instrument panel. The optional SYNC 3 infotainment system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Ford’s Ford+Alexa personal -assistant functionality, optional navigation software, and an 8.0 inch center mounted color touchscreen. Reflecting Ford’s drive to be a mobility based company, 4G LTE connectivity with support for up to 10 devices is optional, with AC power units, and a B&O Play premium audio system also joining the options list.
Safety is also a virtue in the 2019 Ford Ranger, and buyers will be pleased to hear that Automated emergency braking is standard across the lineup with Lane departure warning, Lane keep assist, and blind spot monitoring with trailer coverage making their appearance on XLT and above models. Look for these items to allow the Ranger to be on par with the Colorado/Canyon in this area, and it also reflects the progress that Ford has made since the demise of the original Ranger.
While the Ranger was tailored more towards off-road enthusiasts versus traditional commercial buyers, we still expect it to resonate well with small businesses, especially those that want capability, but need a smaller package than the F-150 to achieve these goals. Look for the 2019 Ford Ranger to hit showrooms in early 2019, with more information being revealed closer to its formal launch.