2019 FORD RANGER
Our first glimpse of the new mid-size pick-up entry from Ford came on January 15th in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). A few years ago, the midsize truck segment in North America had been whittled away to one significant choice - the Toyota Tacoma. Fast forward to 2017, and we’ve seen Chevrolet introduce the Colorado, with the stunning ZR2 trim level for outstanding off-road performance. Meanwhile, Ford had been selling the Ranger in 180 markets around the globe - making it the number two selling compact pick-up truck globally (a close second to the Toyota Tacoma) - but not available in North America.
Why has it taken so long? Why not bring a few here? This is not the same truck that has been sold globally. According to Jeff Siemen, Brand Manager for the Ford Ranger, “It was about taking the good architecture that we have that’s been proven out, tearing it down to its very core and then building it back up for the North American market. With the growth in the segment (compact pick-up) this is the optimal time.” One visible North American change is the front and rear steel bumpers, a significant improvement from the plastic integrated front fascia.
The bronze (Saber) coloured truck in the photos has the FX4 Off-road Package with the Sport Appearance Pack. While all the details haven’t been released, there are some key features that are off special interest to the folks who want to do more than run to the grocery store or pick-up the kids from hockey practice.
Starting from the ends and working inwards, we noticed the framemounted steel bumpers front and back. Rigidity comes in the from the high strength steel frame with six cross-members. High strength steel lower control arms beef up the double wishbone suspension system in the front end, while a solid axle on parabolic leaf springs holds up the rear. The cab and bed are not aluminum; just the hood and tailgate while
the balance of the body and frame are steel.
The 4x4 version (the Canadian favourite by a massive margin) will come with a steel front bash plate, underbody skid plates and a shift-on-the-fly 4x4 transfer case. The suspension will also be tuned for offroad adventure and grab the dirt with All Terrain tires. We can also expect to see solid approach and departure angles, and Ford says they have prioritized ground clearance, although these numbers haven’t been released yet.
Before you start analyzing the images in an attempt to calculate these numbers and determine if you can fit a larger tire in the wheel wells, don’t bother. When I thought no one had time to stop me, I dropped to ground and started taking photos under the body in the front and then the back. Jeff Siemen politely tapped me on the shoulder and explained that this was not the Ranger frame and suspension system. In other words, the truck shown is not a real Ranger - just a preproduction unit built for the auto shows. With that caveat in mind, we expect the dimensions of the North American Ranger to be nearly identical to the global models.
FX2 and FX4 come standard with Dana®Trac-Lok differentials, which feature an electronic locking rear differential, however given all the off-road features, we were disappointed that there is no option for a front locking differential, which we get with the Colorado ZR2.
Although the Terrain Management System in the FX4 Off-Road package is similar to the Raptors’, and it has many off-road design features, it is not a mini-Raptor. “It is not an evolution of the Raptor”, Siemen explains. But, “it is proven out along side the F150. It runs all of what we call, the four torture testing requirements, we do our cold weather work as they know, in Manitoba.” Trail Control technology is new for Ford and appears in the FX4 Off-Road package as well. Designed for novice off-roaders, it takes over the acceleration and braking, leaving the driver to focus on steering.
There is only one power and drivetrain choice and that is an inline four-cylinder (I4) 2.3L GTDI (gas turbo direct injection) Ecoboost, which will provide the fuel economy of a four-cylinder with the performance of a V6, mated to a class exclusive 10-speed automatic transmission.
Horsepower, torque, payload, towing and fuel economy numbers aren’t available yet, although a similar engine in the Ford
Mustang produces 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. In comparison, the Toyota Tacoma has a 3.5L V6 with 278 hp and 265 lb-ft, and GM’s Colorado/Canyon has a 3.6L gas V6 generating 308 hp and 275 lb-ft. Add up the numbers and the Ford engine has the potential to be a contender in the gas category.
One advantage of arriving last on the field means Ford can tune the engine to be top of the class in one or more areas. Since Ford is targeting folks who need the maneuverability and fuel economy of daily driving, along with a desire for offroad adventures, we expect competitive numbers across the board.
Three trim levels will be available when the truck goes on sale in early 2019, the XL, XLT and Lariat, in SuperCab or SuperCrew cab configurations. Automatic Emergency Braking comes standard across Ranger lineup, while Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Reverse Sensing System and Blind Spot Information System with trailer coverage (trailers up to 33’) are standard on XLT and Lariat. Pedestrian Detection and Adaptive Cruise Control are standard only on Lariat. Available SYNC® 3 features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Ford+Alexa functionality and optional navigation. Available FordPassTM Connect provides up to 10-device Wi-Fi access.
What makes us think the Ranger will be a winner? First is the legion of Ford fans and the Ranger faithful, who will look at this truck as part of any shopping experience with a healthy dose of confirmation bias - they already believe it is the best. Second is the Ford promotional machine, easily one of, if not the best, in the business. And finally, Ford experience. They can draw on their knowledge building North America’s most popular truck, the F150, and selling and testing the Ranger overseas.
What could hurt sales of the Ranger is the lack of powertrain options. Drivers looking for max torque can buy the Colorado with a 2.8L Duramax I-4 diesel and get 369 lb-ft @2000 rpm. Other truck owners still feel the key engine attribute to reliability and longevity is more cylinders and no turbo, which makes a V6 gas the ultimate choice, and Ford’s 2.3L inline four turbo a deal breaker.
Although fuel economy, pricing, payload and max towing numbers haven’t been released, you can bet they will compare or beat the Chevy Colorado. Which means you can expect a highway mileage of 7.9 L/100km (30 mpg), a base model price point of $23,000 CAD and a max towing of just a hair over 3493 kg (7,700 lbs).
What we do know for certain, is that Ford has had plenty of time to determine what the world loves about the Ranger, and where and how the competition has been successful in North America. It may or may not be the best truck for you. But it will be well built and well designed to be a strong contender in the North American market.