Howard J. Elmer (Howard J. Elmer of PowerSports Media Services is a Canadian automotive journalist, truck writer and RVing specialist.)
For 28 years, the Ford Ranger was a key player in the midsize pickup truck market. Its size and price were an attractive alternative to the full-size trucks available in the decades from 1983 to 2011 – and, as it got older, it’s steadily dropping cost kept driving sales.
In 2010, I was attending an industry event in San Diego when I saw a local dealer’s newspaper ad for a Ford Ranger. A new bare-bones Ranger was US$9,999. I remember one of my colleagues remarking, “I could put one on my credit card at that price.” Maybe he should have.
The next year, Ford ended the Ranger run and for the next seven years kept telling auto journalists that the F-150 served “all” the needs of truck buyers – there was no longer a need for a midsize pickup. Well, they were almost right.
In the early part of this decade, one by one, each of the American manufacturers dropped production of their midsize trucks. The only exception were the Japanese: Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. For a short time, they were the only midsize pickups on the market, and they sold well.
Then, after a short break, GM reconsidered and brought back its midsize twins – the Colorado and Canyon – and sales took off. Frankly, I think there was always a demand for midsize trucks; there was just a lack of product. Now that the new Ranger is back, we once again have a decent selection of midsize trucks, and that’s good for Canadian truck buyers. Now, if only Ram would resurrect the Dakota.
I recently drove the 2019 Ford Ranger in San Diego, not far from where I remember staying almost a decade ago and reading that discount Ranger sales ad. Mind you, this new Ranger has nothing in common with that earlier model, and neither does its new price.
The Canadian base price on the entry-level model is pegged at $30,969 for a XL SuperCab 4×4. It’s also available in an XLT trim (SuperCab or SuperCrew), and the top Lariat SuperCrew 4×4 will cost you $42,289. Of note: Only 4×4 models (regardless of trim package) are offered in Canada. Truck bodies are available as a SuperCab (four-door clamshell configuration) or a SuperCrew (four normal doors). In addition there are two box sizes: either 5 or 6 feet.
In addition, Ford is making its well-known FX4 OffRoad package available on the new Ranger. This adds protective skidplates, upgraded tires, plus off-roadtuned shocks and suspension. Also, Ford’s standard Terrain Management System and Trail Control will help navigate challenging conditions.
On the outside, the 2019 Ranger evokes a muscular body, with a high beltline that emphasizes strength, while a raked grille and windshield are said to give it an “athletic” appearance. This raked feature also aids in aerodynamics and reduces wind noise. From the rear, the Ranger identifies itself loudly with its name stamped into the tailgate. New headlamps and taillamps are available as LEDs.
Inside, the Ranger blends comfort and functionality with room for up to five people, their gear and accessories. The center stack is home to an 8-inch touchscreen for the available SYNC 3 system, while the instrument cluster features dual LCD screens for real-time vehicle, navigation and audio information.
It’s important to note that while the Ranger was absent from the North American Ford truck lineup these past eight years, there was always an “international Ranger” being sold around the world.
The model we saw in San Diego, however, was developed exclusively for the North American truck market, says Ford. It’s being built alongside the F-150 at the Michigan truck plant – and tested in the same way.
This new Ranger is built with a high-strength steel frame, fully boxed with six crossmembers, modern parabolic leaf-spring rear suspension, front and rear steel bumpers, short overhangs for off-road clearance and a hitch platform that is through-welded to the frame. It has a 126.8-inch wheelbase with an overall length of 210.8 inches (compared to the full-size F-150’s 157- inch wheelbase and length of 243 inches).
The standard powertrain consists of a 2.3L EcoBoost engine with 270 hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque, 10-speed automatic transmission and auto start/stop. This new engine is designed with direct fuel injection, a twin-scroll turbocharger and a 16-valve design. For durability, it features a forged-steel crankshaft and connecting rods, and chain-driven dual overhead cams. This chassis and powertrain combination offers best-in-class (gas) towing of 7,500 lb. Payload is a very respectable 1,860 lb.
Where this new Ranger certainly differs from its extinct former version is in the realm of electronics. It incorporates smart driver-assist features not even thought of a decade ago. These include standard automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, a reverse sensing system and class-exclusive blind-spot information system with trailer coverage; most are standard on XLT and Lariat trim levels. Additional tech on the Lariat includes pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control.
Infotainment (on that 8-inch touchscreen) is cutting edge with SYNC 3 that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Ford also offers 4G LTE WiFi to support access for up to 10 devices. AC power outlets allow for charging and USB outlets let passengers connect. Bang & Olufsen PLAY premium audio (specially tuned for the Ranger cab) is also available.
Ford always has been good at offering a vast variety of optional features and purpose-built packages for its trucks. This Ranger is no exception. In addition to the FX4 package already mentioned, buyers can also order an STX Appearance Package, XL Chrome Package, Technology Package or Sport Appearance Package. By combining a choice of these packages and various body configurations, it’s possible to order over 30 distinct versions of the new Ranger. These trucks are arriving at dealerships across Canada now.