Ford has been content for years to allow other automakers to profit from midsize pickup trucks. When the company discontinued the compact Ranger in 2011, after a 27-year run, it was convinced buyers would transition to full-size trucks as the F-150 received a suite of new, fuel-efficient engines.
However, the midsize market has grown 83% in the U.S., on the outright success of GM's Colorado and Canyon models and the ongoing popularity of Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. This spurred Ford planners to recognize demand for a more package-efficient and maneuverable truck option. So the Ranger returns in midsized form for 2019, bringing a bevy of new technology with it.
“Ranger has always held a special place in the hearts of truck fans,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford executive vice president, Product Development and Purchasing. “The all-new Ranger is designed for today’s midsize truck buyer, delivering even more utility, capability and technology for those who blend city living with more off-the-grid adventures on weekends.”
The new North American Ranger relies heavily on its global market namesake, based on the T6 platform, that has been available since the old model retired. However, the 2019 model incorporates updated front and rear body styling and an advanced engine option to keep the truck contemporary and compliant with U.S and Canadian regulations. More significant than the updated exterior, though, is what is mounted underneath its aluminum hood.
Borrowed from other Ford products is the 2.3-L Ecoboost four-cylinder, with forged-steel crankshaft and connecting rods for greater durability carried over from the Mustang Turbo application. It's paired with the 10R80 10-speed automatic transmission co-developed with General Motors and steadily spreading through both OEMs' truck and performance-car portfolios.
That powertrain offers "a torque target on par with competing V6 engines, but with the efficiency of a four-cylinder,” Thai-Tang said.
Ford is touting the toughness and capability of the new Ranger to be worthy of its larger siblings. Steel bumpers and skid plates are mounted directly to a fully-boxed frame engineered entirely with high-strength steel. A 126.8-in (3220-mm) wheelbase underpins steel-intensive Crew Cab and Super Cab bodies with 5-ft (1.5-m) and 6-ft-long (1.8-m) cargo boxes. Aluminum is used for the front fenders, tailgate and hood.
Front and rear suspensions are, respectively, by control arms/coil springs and leaf springs and hydraulic shocks. Power is distributed through Dana Trac-Lok differentials on both 2WD and 4WD models along with an available electronic-locking rear differential.
Along with the new hardware comes a suite of new software. Ranger's FX4 Off-Road package introduces Ford’s all-new Trail Control technology, which functions like a cruise control for low-speed driving on rugged terrain. Trail Control manages acceleration and braking – sending power and braking to each individual wheel to allow the driver to focus on steering. In addition to the off-road systems come driver-assist, passenger convenience and connective technologies.
All 2019 Ranger models include Automatic Emergency Braking while middle to upper trims receive Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning, a Reverse Sensing System and class-exclusive Blind Spot Information System with trailer coverage as standard. Top-trim Rangers also feature Pedestrian Detection and Adaptive Cruise Control driver-assist technologies.
For passengers, Ford's SYNC 3 media system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Ford+Alexa personal assistant functionality and optional navigation. Also available is a FordPass Connect 4G LTE modem, which provides Wi-Fi access for up to 10 devices. AC power and USB outlets provide more options for passengers to connect.
Ranger SOP is later this year at Ford's Wayne, MI, assembly plant with the vehicle on sale in 1Q19.