At last year’s North American International Auto Show, Ford officially confirmed that it would reintroduce the Ranger pickup, setting off a firestorm of anticipation and rumormongering across the industry. Now, almost exactly one year later, Ford will end the speculation as it officially reveals the 2019 Ford Ranger at the same show where it was first announced. Doing battle in the newly revitalized midsize pickup segment, the Ranger will compete with the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier body-on-frame pickups, as well as the unibody Honda Ridgeline.
Ford claims that most of the North American–market 2019 Ranger is all-new, even though it shares its bones with the global “T6” Ranger sold in Australia, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Evidence of its uniqueness starts in the styling: While other markets get a carlike plastic front fascia and bumper, American tastes dictated a redesign that incorporates frame-mounted steel front and rear bumpers.
Slightly more aggressive designs for the front end and tailgate distinguish the North American Ranger from its cousins. It looks very much like one would expect a Ranger to, with appropriately sporty styling, a utilitarian interior, and trim dimensions. If we had a complaint, it’d be a slightly plain-looking rear quarter view and the use of hard plastic on the door panels (though we’ll withhold final judgement till we sit in a series-production example).
Underneath the rugged bodywork is a high-strength steel frame, to which is mounted a segment-exclusive turbocharged gasoline engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. The EcoBoost engine is a 2.3L I-4 that Ford says will boast class-competitive or class-besting power and torque ratings. The same engine is also found in the 2018 Mustang, where it makes 310 hp and 350 lb-ft on 93-octane fuel, but expect 300 hp and 320 lb-ft from the Ranger swilling regular. Backing it up is a version of the 10-speed gearbox found in the Mustang, F-150, and some GM vehicles. A manual transmission is not available, and the 2.3L EcoBoost is the only Ranger engine (for now, at least).
The 2019 Ranger will be available in three grades: XL, XLT, and Lariat. As you might expect, the XL will be a work truck–grade stripper, but even that Ranger will come standard with automatic emergency braking (AEB). The XLT adds lane departure monitoring and mitigation, as well as a Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with trailer coverage. The top-spec Lariat rounds out driver aids with Pre-Collision Assist pedestrian detection, and active cruise control. Impressively, the 2019 Ford Ranger is the industry’s first pickup to come with AEB on all trim levels, joining the likewise-new 2019 Edge in Ford’s AEB-standard arsenal (the company expects 50 percent of its vehicles sold in 2019 to come standard with the feature).
The new Ranger should be pretty capable off-road, with short front and rear overhangs and no clearance-robbing front chin spoiler (the regular Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon could take a lesson). An available FX4 Off-Road Package bolsters the Ranger’s fire-road credentials further, with distinct shock tuning, all-terrain tires, added skid plates, the requisite “FX4” badging, and some interesting software wizardry.
Borrowed from the mighty F-150 Raptor, the FX4-specific Terrain Management System includes four separate drive modes—normal; grass, gravel, and snow; mud and ruts; and sand—tuning the throttle and traction control settings to maintain forward momentum. For example, sand mode allows for lots of wheelspin, keeping the truck moving forward in loose sand and preventing it from getting buried. Also standard on the FX4 is Ford’s all-new Trail Control technology. Like the similar Crawl Control system available in the Toyota Tacoma, Trail Control is like cruise control, but for low-speed, rugged terrain. Unlike Crawl Control, however, Ford’s system operates at speeds up to about 20 mph, making it perfect for smooth dirt roads where such speeds are prudent. It also operates at lower speeds for easier obstacle avoidance or rock crawling.
All Rangers get Dana Trac-Lok differentials on both 4x2 and 4x4 models. The FX4 (and similar FX2 two-wheel-drive package) gets an electronic-locking rear differential. Obviously, four-wheel-drive Rangers get a two-speed transfer case, with a low range for improved wheel torque in sticky situations.
The Ranger, available in one wheelbase with either a SuperCab and 6.5-foot bed or a SuperCrew and 5.5-foot bed, is in many ways a one-size-fits-all solution. The Colorado/Canyon twins offer a long bed/crew cab configuration, as does the Toyota Tacoma. However, Ford is banking on its Built Ford Tough branding to resonate with Ranger buyers, many of whom will be lifestyle truck owners who live in places where long beds are a parking nuisance more often than a cargo carrying boon.
The 2019 Ranger should hit dealers late in 2018, built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. Pricing, fuel economy, and official power and capability ratings will be available later this year, but we presume it’ll start around $25,000 for a base model and top out at about $40,000 for a Lariat FX4. And given Ford’s penchant for class-beating towing and payload numbers, expect ratings to hit about 7,000 pounds and 1,600 pounds, respectively.
Sigh… In this business, the speculation never stops.