At the 2017 North American International Auto Show, Ford announced it would be returning to the North-American mid-size pickup segment with a Ranger. A year on, the 2019 Ford Ranger is stepping into the light.
One could be forgiven for assuming the Ranger would simply be a Euro-Ranger adjusted for North American crash and safety regulations, since it’s already a best-selling nameplate in Europe and the second-best selling truck outside of North America. That is not the case. Per Ford Engineers, the North American Ranger is only similar in its dimensions. (So much for Alan Mulally’s One Ford.)
It’s a real truck. The Ranger sits on a fully boxed, high-strength steel frame with six cross members. Suspension components of note include a double A-arm front suspension and monotube front dampers. Traditional leaf springs and shock absorbers help control a solid rear axle. Power steering will be electronically-assisted.
This Ranger gets frame-mounted steel bumpers with steel bash-plates and tow hooks. Two cab and bed options are available, but only one wheelbase is offered. SuperCab Rangers will have the longer of the two beds, while SuperCrew (full two door) Rangers will only get the shorter bed. Metal trim pieces over the wheel wells can be color matched or accented with a handsome magnetic grey color. The tailgate, front fenders, and hood are all aluminum, in keeping with one of the F-Series major brand identifiers. Engineers say that the Ranger has been tested to the same durability standards as the F-Series trucks.
The traditional argument against mid-size pickups is that they’re not much cheaper than fullsize trucks, which offer more capability. Following the success of GM’s reborn Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, Ford now expects that buyers of the new Ranger won’t be a traditional F-Series customer. Instead, they hope to bring back former customers who have owned Rangers in the past and, perhaps more importantly, newer, more adventurous customers. There was much talk about the Ranger “not just carrying your adventure gear, but becoming a part of it.” Marketing-speak translation: Ford wants buyers willing to splurge on the Ranger because they think it’s cool, even if they in no way need a pickup truck. The lack of a stripper model with plastic wheel well trim pieces leads us to believe that higher-volume, lower-profit fleet sales/work truck sales aren’t as high of a priority.
The only engine offered for the North American Ranger will be a 2.3-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder with a twin-scroll turbocharger. The crank and rods are forged steel. It will be mated to the 10-speed automatic with three overdrive gears co-developed with the folks at General Motors. Four-wheel-drive models will get a two-speed transfer case with shift-on-the-fly capabilities between 2-Hi and 4-Hi. A DANA Trac-lok rear differential and open-front diff are standard, but opting for the FX4 or FX2 off-road packages nets owners a DANA electronic locking rear diff.
Being that not every new, adventurous Ranger owner will have much off-road experience, Ford plans to offer a few pieces of tech on the FX packages to ensure that owners still have a decent chance to get where they’re going, skillset be damned. You want the off-road packs, trust us.
The FX4 pack brings Ford’s Terrain Management system, a system first found on the ultra-capable Raptor. It has four modes: Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand. Grass/gravel/snow simply numbs throttle response. Mud/ruts carries with it the throttle numbing, while also throwing the drivetrain into 4-Hi for truck stuff. Sand activates 4-Hi, tells the transmission to grab the lowest gear possible, and relaxes the traction control to allow some wheel slip.
In addition to the Terrain Management tech, a system Ford calls Trail Control will debut on Rangers outfitted with the FX4 Off-Road package. Think of this as cruise-control blended with a hill-descent control system. Trail Control will allow the driver to set and maintain a low vehicle speed (1-20 mph) while traveling through less-than perfect trails on the way to the next adventure. Where it differs from a cruise control is that pressing the brake while it’s activated doesn’t deactivate it but rather, brings the cruise speed down to whatever the driver slows to.
For times when Ranger owners are adventuring to work or on errands, there’s Adaptive Cruise and Lane Keep assistance, standard on the top-spec Lariat trim and optional on the XLT trim. FordPass Connect will give the Ranger Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities, ensuring that new adventurous owners can post their adventurous lifestyles to their favorite social media outlets, making the rest of our life feel uninteresting and void of Ranger-worthy adventure.
Ford’s Blind Spot Information System—standard on XLT and Lariat—will cover trailers. To protect precious Kayaks and mini Airstreams, drivers need only go into the instrument cluster and manually input the length of their trailer (33 feet tops) the first time they hook it up.
The interior is textbook Ford truck, with a smart looking instrument cluster and familiar center stack. Horizontal elements within the dashboard help to accentuate the width of the interior. (We weren’t allowed to climb inside, as the models on display are preproduction.) There’s waterproof storage under the second-row seating.
The Ranger will be available in three different trim levels- XL, XLT, and Lariat- in ascending order of price and included features. The FX4 off road package will offer upgraded tires, a steel front bash plate, reinforced, frame-mounted skid plates underneath to protect vital drivetrain components, off road tuned shocks, and the previously mentioned E-locking DANA rear differential. The FX2 variant gets all of the above, but only two powered wheels.
Manufacturing at the Wayne, Michigan plant will begin late 2018, with Rangers arriving in dealers staring in early 2019.