2019 Ford Ranger First Drive: Welcome Back to the Stage

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It's been eight years since small pickup truck buyers had a new Ford Ranger option but given how many of the old Rangers are still being well used, it looks like Ford may have a deep and wide audience ready to take a closer look at this all-new celebrity.

It wasn't that long ago when Ford argued it didn't need a small pickup; customer tastes were moving to larger (and in some cases less expensive) half-ton pickups and other manufacturers retreating entirely from the shrinking mid-size pickup segment. Now tastes are shifting back, with manufacturers like Honda, Jeep and Nissan updating and increasing their investments in trucks for discerning lifestyle pickup buyers. Ford is the latest of the ensemble to return (some say kicking and screaming) with a version of the global Ranger (sold in many other parts of the world) and, from the looks of it, North American pickup buyers will benefit from the choice.

We recently had our first drive of the all-new 2019 Ford Ranger in Southern California to find out if this new entry will keep up with the competition, offering buyers something of a superstar — or if it will be just another face in the crowd.

We should note that Ford is being cautious, competing only in the most popular configurations. The 2019 Ranger has just one wheelbase length so it can offer two of the most common versions for the class: a SuperCab (the extended-cab choice) with a 6-foot bed or a SuperCrew (with four full-size doors) with a 5-foot bed. For simplicity's sake, the Ranger will be offered with only one engine (a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four-cylinder gas engine) and a 10-speed automatic transmission with either 4x2 or 4x4 drivelines. Buyers will have their choice of three trim levels — XL, XLT and Lariat — and will be able to select between several special packages to provide the pickup with a more unique look. Those packages include the STX, Sport and Chrome appearance packages as well as a few technology and trailering packages.

Finding Your Motivation

Some may think choosing a four-cylinder engine to power a pickup truck (even a smaller one) is a risky move, but this new twin-scroll-turbocharged 2.3-liter engine makes 270 horsepower and 310 pounds-feet of torque and delivered plenty of motivation in all the configurations we drove; in fact, the only engine with more torque in this segment is the bigger and brawnier turbo-diesel option available in the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.

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We had the chance to run through some mountain canyons and passes above San Diego, with some stretches running more than 5,000 feet above sea level. We put (and pushed) the new pickup into and out of tight corners and through long straightaways where the road meandered from hilltops into long descents. Except for an occasional hard downshift when going off-throttle into a corner, engine power and gear selection was well-matched, especially when the transmission was in Sport mode where gears held longer both up and down the rev band. We especially liked how the throttle sensitivity and steering tighten up in this mode when you pull the gearshift lever all the way back to the "S" position. The chassis itself is well-balanced; we never found a situation where the front end didn't carve into the turn or where the rear end became unsettled.

EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2019 Ford Ranger is 21/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined, making it the most fuel-efficient gas truck option in the mid-size class. We ran about 200 miles over freeways and two-lane mountain roads from sea level up above 5,000 feet and we finished our all-day run with a 21.1 mpg average — not bad given how enthusiastic we were through the fun parts of the mountain roads.

Clawing to the Top

It's also worth mentioning how well the part-time four-wheel-drive system integrates engine power with the transmission gears on nasty trails; the Terrain Management System software allows for the multiple terrain settings to change throttle response, traction control, steering feel, shift points and more. The four settings (for use in 4-high and 4-low range) are Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Normal. (Although this feature is not new to the mid-size class, Ranger is the only one that allows the system to work in both 4-high and 4-low — the Toyota Tacoma has a similar system but is accessible only in 4-low and the Honda Ridgeline uses the system as well but does not offer a low range.) Add to this system a strong FX4 Off-Road Package and you can see why we never found any obstacles on our off-road test track we couldn't conquer, even though we tried to get the Ranger stuck (full disclosure: this course was designed by Ford engineers at a private mountain ranch). FX4 includes uniquely tuned monotube shocks, a locking differential, more aggressive 265/65R17 Hankook Dynapro AT-M all-terrain tires, a rather flexible rear leaf spring (there is basically only one with an overload spring) and more.

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The 4WD system has all the right parts, gearing and driver readouts, but what separates this new 4x4 pickup from the others is how well it all works together — you select the type of situation you're confronted with, you get to decide if you need the rear locking diff engaged, then you can engage Trail Control (Ford software that works like a super-slow-speed cruise control) if the obstacles are too intimidating. The system controls throttle inputs and braking so you only have to steer. Engage the system with a simple touch of the button and set your speed with the regular cruise control buttons, and you basically sit back and let the truck navigate the problems for you. The system is similar to Toyota Tacoma's Crawl Control (which has been around for several years), but it is much quieter, much less jerky with its movements and more easily controlled with more fine-tuned settings.

Paying Your Dues

We also did a little bit of towing and hauling with our Rangers. Of course, we know that most people who buy a mid-size pickup will not tow or haul that often but given that most of these vehicles are purchased with adventure activities in mind, it's always good know how they perform just in case they get the call. We hauled a pair of motorcycles in one 4x2 SuperCab and another with a 500 cc all-terrain vehicle in a 4x2 SuperCrew — both likely adding around 500 to 600 pounds of payload. Although not anywhere near the Ranger's maximum payload capacity (1,860 pounds for a SuperCab 4x2 and 1,770 pounds for a SuperCrew 4x2), the load did provide us with some good information. The extra weight over the rear axle was almost neutralized by the fairly aggressive Tow/Haul mode, which kept the engine revving at a higher rpm by holding gears longer before upshifts and proactively downshifting when slowing down. The rear-end suspension is a standard feature as well, not feeling too soft or tuned for empty ride quality. Ford includes the same single parabolic arched leaf spring and overload spring (as well as a set of specifically tuned Hitachi monotube shocks for every configuration) on the entire Ranger lineup to more evenly distribute weight no matter what the load or harsh input.

When we took our turn towing a 5,500-pound wakeboarding Moomba Craz Pro watercraft (not so coincidentally powered by a Ford-sourced inboard 6.2-liter V-8) on the highways and streets of La Jolla, Calif., we found our little four-cylinder engine plenty strong enough to keep its revs up and slot the right gear in the transmission to make short work of the extra weight. Our only selfish complaint is that the Ranger will not be offered with towing mirrors, so getting a full view of what's behind will be tricky for anyone who tows — unless of course the load is cement board on a flatbed trailer. We found throttle response to be almost instantaneous, without a hint of lag.

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And the Oscar Goes to ...

The safety features that are standard or available on the 2019 Ford Ranger depend on the trim level and special packages ordered. Pricing for this new Ranger starts at $25,395 (4x2 SuperCab XL) and runs up quickly through the trims and cabs to the highest starting price of $39,480 (4x4 SuperCrew Lariat; prices include destination).

This new Ranger does not try to revolutionize the mid-size pickup class by offering features or technology never before seen; however, it does offer enough feature and trim choices to satisfy the vast majority of customers. There is a lot of value in what Ford is offering in the 2019 Ranger. We'll have to wait and see whether this new addition to a moderately growing segment can attract enough attention to win awards or make it a top seller. From our time behind the wheel, the Ranger certainly seems to have promise, offering several unique and well-integrated technologies at a reasonable price. If we were going to make any predictions, we'd say this could be one of the rare new entries to watch.

Manufacturer images; Cars.com photos by Mark Williams

 

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Comments

We need good and more competition in class, so this is a better start than the anti-American worker GM midsized trucks!

I will not give up my 4x4 Tacoma's anytime soon though.

Not fond of the turbo's in 4-cylinder engines, that will prove costly down the road. What is so wrong with just a standard 4-cylinder like I have in both of my Tacoma's? The thermal efficiency and reliability of the 2.7 liter Toyota 4 is remarkable. If I need more power to pass 4 or 5 vehicles in a row on a 2-lane highway, the ECT button gets it done!

Sure I do not pull any trailers, never plan to but my 2016 gets what I need done by hauling my water tank, tractor lawn mower and other goodies, plenty for what I need.

My SR 4x4 was only $26,000 and my off-roader SR5 4x4 was only $25,000, so Toyota still has lower prices with its basic 4x4 configuration and a 6 foot bed option.


Both were made in the U.S., the 5-speed manual in Fremont, California and my SR in San Antonio, Texas!

Looks like this will be a solid midsize competitor. Didn’t know Hitachi was into the shock market?

Too bad there is no option for a bench front seat.For bigger folks like myself, this is a dealbreaker.

After hearing so much blather from the 2.7 ecoboost crowd I ask you---can you imagine trying to shoe-horn a V6 into that engine compartment?

The 4 cylinder ecoboost appears to use every available inch. A year ago on the comments section I proposed that the 2.3 would be a great choice for the Ranger and my comment still holds firm.

It will be a very popular truck and rest assured that a lot of small families that might have checked the box for an F150 will now have a more compact and economical choice.

I despise how standard safety features are trim specific.

Kudos to manufactures who make them standard and suck balls to those that don't.

I just don't think this ranger is going to unseat the tacoma with all these initial reviews. I also hope it never breaks a leaf spring.


"It will be a very popular truck and rest assured that a lot of small families that might have checked the box for an F150 will now have a more compact and economical choice.
Posted by: papajim | Dec 18, 2018 6:21:22 AM"

All the anti-Ford shills on here keep saying something similar to this. Did this same logic apply to gm?? Toyota? Nissan?

Or is this just something to hide that gut feeling you have that Ford will soon be out-selling gm in the full-size and mid-size game?? Papajim is a funny guy that applies his logic selectively.....

I also hope it never breaks a leaf spring.
Posted by: uh huh | Dec 18, 2018

What in HELL are you talking about? Broken leaf spring? I've been driving for fifty years, every kind of rig ever made. Never broke a leaf spring.

Ford will soon be out-selling gm in the full-size and mid-size game

@fullsize

Ford execs better figure out how to s**t new truck buyers because this is the most brand-loyal segment of Detroit's whole market in the US. Truck buyers are loyal to a fault.

So, you think dyed-in-the-wool RAM and GM guys will just drop everything and race over to a Ford dealership? Good luck.


"Truck buyers are loyal to a fault." I agree.

I don't agree with the people who insist that the Ranger will only hurt Ford full-size sales. That's why i ask and have asked before if those same people believe the 2015+ colorado/canyon hurt gm full-size sales??

It is a nice looking truck. I have never used the tow mode in my Colorado when the bed is loaded, just never thought I needed it. I have used it pulling my 22' Triton bass boat.

Mark, did you get a tape measure out and measure real world width of the truck minus the mirrors? That would have been a good time to do it.

You also mention terrain management and that Ford goes a step further. The Colorado/Canyons have AWD, 4HI and 4 LO. Does the Ranger have AWD?
I can also disable traction control and stabil-trac, and lock both diffs. Can you do that on the Ranger? I did not see any of that in the specs.

What in HELL are you talking about? Broken leaf spring? I've been driving for fifty years, every kind of rig ever made. Never broke a leaf spring.
Posted by: papajim | Dec 18, 2018 7:12:07 AM

Nor have I ever broke one either. But doesn't mean it won't happen. I've seen broken leafs on GM, Ford, Nissan, Ram(Dodge at the time), Jeep and Toyota.

Breaking a single leaf set up like this ranger is a catastrophe. Broken leaf in a pack still has some support, but on a single leaf set up, good bye.

@Dave -- All great questions and we'll be out all day with both a crew cab Ranger Lariat FX4 and double cab Tacoma TRD Sport. We'll see if we can't get those measurements and take a closer look at the four-wheel drive systems.

Nice, competitive truck. I believe there's also a market for the long-box regular cab version that's been spotted on the net in recent months. Ford's historically sold a lot of reg cab Rangers to fleets in the past.

Papa: They've been "shoehorning" engines in tight places for decades. That's what automotive engineers do.


"The Colorado/Canyons have AWD, 4HI and 4 LO."

Posted by: Dave | Dec 18, 2018 8:22:45 AM

So you are saying that gm makes a colorado where all 4 wheels are powered full time (AWD) with no ability to switch to only 2 wheels being powered?


Wow, that engine compartment is a mess. I know the Ford techs will have their hands full repairing high oil consumption and smoking complaints with this truck engine.

@ fullsize

Thats what AWD means. Its better than 4 wheel drive bc all 4 wheels are constantly engaged. Yes it still has regular 2WD mode as well.

My 2018 sierra has an auto which distributes power to wheels. Kinda neat when u have slippery roads but dont want to be in 4 high

More info:

https://www.gmc.com/gmc-life/how-to/when-to-use-four-wheel-drive

That 2.3 four cylinder engine was great in my 1978 Pinto.

@fullsize

Yes. There are GM truck buyers who opted for the smaller truck. It probably took sales from the half ton ranks. Ford will have the same experience. There's one difference---Ford is awfully late to the mid size dance in the US.

GM brought a product to market sooner although GM's truck disappointed me in the drivetrain department. Ford had a better idea.

A solid gas powered turbo 4 cylinder was the right thing for GM (who knows why they didn't choose that approach) and as nice as the GM diesel option is, only about five percent of GM buyers go that route in the midsize space.

All that said, make no mistake---the new Ranger will take sales from the F150

"Wow, that engine compartment is a mess. I know the Ford techs will have their hands full repairing high oil consumption and smoking complaints with this truck engine.
Posted by: GMSRGREAT | Dec 18, 2018 9:18:25 AM"

I guess Ford is trying to imitate gm with all those 07-13 5.3L's with oil consumption issues.....

I have one word: Game Changer!!

It would be In interesting to know the top three vehicles traded in on the Ranger. It could even be a car as people are leaving cars for trucks and SUVs.

I saw one in socal last week headed northeast-ish toward the desert, a white base model that looked 2wd. Very boring looking compared to the base model Colorado/Canyon and even the base Tacoma with the standard black plastic front end which I consider cheap-looking. This looked like a Ford Taurus with a bed.

Tnt

"Thats what AWD means. Its better than 4 wheel drive bc all 4 wheels are constantly engaged. Yes it still has regular 2WD mode as well."

Im gonna say you are confused here, AWD means no 2wd is available such as in a Forester (subaru) some Porches and even available in the SS Silverado and trailblazer years ago. Now having what engages the 4wd system automatically does mot make a vehicle AWD.

So thats why i asked dave if gm makes a AWD colorado like he stated. I suspect he dosen't know what he is talking about and simply blabbered about it here.

oil consumption?

FullSize_only | Dec 18, 2018

My 2009 Silverado rarely needs a top off between changes. Maybe I'm just lucky. What's the source of your info?

I was surprised to see that the Colorado didn't cannibalize a larger percentage from Silverado, although I'm sure it did happen. The two people I know that have a Colorado. One traded in a Silverado and the other bought one in addition to his f150.

I'm excited about the fuel economy of this truck. It's not the 25-26 I average with my old ranger, but anything over 20 is good. I could see finally replacing my old ranger with a used one of these in a few years as a farm run around truck. A used regular cab f150 will probably be better in a lot of ways though.

That's what automotive engineers do.
Posted by: redbloodedxy | Dec 18, 2018

What a stupid statement.

Do you remember the GM coupe back in the 1970s that required the motor mounts to be loosened and the engine jacked up to change the rear spark plugs?

Engineers should be designing vehicles that don't require brain surgery to effect basic maintenance chores like oil changes and spark plugs.

"My 2009 Silverado rarely needs a top off between changes. Maybe I'm just lucky. What's the source of your info?
Posted by: papajim | Dec 18, 2018 10:11:26 AM"

I'm sure there were good and bad ones made (like anything else) but if you are truly unaware just google this:

gm 5.3 engine problems afm

AFM is a valve-train discussion.

Ask any GM dealer mechanic how much work is done on 5.3 engines for oil leaks (seals) or bad piston rings. Well maintained engines that have not been abused do not leak at the rear main seal, unless the seal was defective or improperly installed.

You're really barking up the wrong tree. The LS engine family is a great V8 and they routinely live past 200k miles. Noisy valve trains? Maybe.

Oil consumption? Wrong. I hear people bit*ching about a quart between changes, which is nothing.

@Dave
TFL Truck has a video that goes pretty in depth describing and comparing the drivetrain controls vs a Tacoma. It’s clear to me anyway the Tacoma is what Ford is aiming at.

Hey fullsize, a google search would have answered your questions
"So thats why i asked dave if gm makes a AWD colorado like he stated. I suspect he dosen't know what he is talking about and simply blabbered about it here.

I own a Colorado so I would think I would know.

The (4wd)Colorado's and Canyon's come with 2WD, AWD, 4Hi and 4LO

the AWD works just like an AWD Traverse or Equinox, look it up.
2WD I can smoke the tires and do donuts on mud,snow and farmers fields
4hi and 4lo has a locking rear dif

my ZR2, has electric locking difs, in 4hi I can lock the rear dif, in 4 lo I can lock the frond and rear dif's

Hey Mark, while you are out driving the Ranger, could you mearsue the depth of the bed. Some guys that have Colorados cannot reach the bottom of the bed from the sides (cause they are short).

I guess Ford is trying to imitate gm .......

Posted by: FullSize_only | Dec 18, 2018 9:49:34 AM

Why do you think Ford is bringing back the Ranger if it wasn't so.

@dave

"Hey fullsize, a google search would have answered your questions

I own a Colorado so I would think I would know.

The (4wd)Colorado's and Canyon's come with 2WD, AWD, 4Hi and 4LO"
Posted by: Dave | Dec 18, 2018 11:27:09 AM


Apparently owning a colorado does not mean that you know what AWD actually means. Why dont you tell me what is the difference between 4hi and "AWD" in your colorado??

@ fullsize

Here is a break down of the 2

https://www.carsales.com.au/editorial/details/what-is-the-difference-between-4wd-and-awd-7530/

@papajim

"AFM is a valve-train discussion."

Hahahahaha that is some funny $hit right there!!! So you are saying that the valve train is not part of the engine?? Last i checked most conventional internal combustion engine's cant really operate without a valve train. AFM is the gm designed garbage that lives in millions of 07-13 trucks that those gm mechanics you speak of will tell you is such a failure and has caused so many piston ring and internal engine problems because of oil consumption.

Yes the LS is a good V8 i'm not denying it, but when gms chose to poke fun of a Ford motor with of all things oil consumption i just couldn't resist.

@tnt

I guess i didnt do a good job adding sarcasm to my question to Dave, but i for one do know the difference. The Australian article you cited i would say is not the accepted explanation here in the US, but see below for what i believe is the more accurate explanation of the 2 (AWD vs 4wd).

Of course there is always the oddball system by some carmakers but that is not the system any gm truck uses so the R&T explanation holds true....

https://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/a24663372/all-wheel-drive-four-wheel-drive-differences-explained/

I saw one in socal last week. It was a white base model 4x4. It looked good. The manly steel bumpers made my Colorado look like an Equinox. I'm so gay.

@ fullsize

I believe it was really just 07 and early 08 AFM V8s had oil consumption issues?

Second GM handled it through warranty or being a loyal cuctomer. Guy had 60K on his but out of years warranty. GM still took care of it and put in new engine for him

Third, the new 5.2L vodoo motor from Ford is having huge oil consumption issies and ford says its normal?? Atleast GM didnt do that. I do agree with you that each manufacturer has issues....its when they wont stand behind you or say its normal is what frustrates me!

Here is car and driver and also research mustang forums. MANY are frustrated with the oil consumption

https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2017-ford-mustang-shelby-gt350-long-term-test-update-2-review


@ fullsize

I believe it was really just 07 and early 08 AFM V8s had oil consumption issues?

Second GM handled it through warranty or being a loyal cuctomer. Guy had 60K on his but out of years warranty. GM still took care of it and put in new engine for him

Third, the new 5.2L vodoo motor from Ford is having huge oil consumption issies and ford says its normal?? Atleast GM didnt do that. I do agree with you that each manufacturer has issues....its when they wont stand behind you or say its normal is what frustrates me!

Here is car and driver and also research mustang forums. MANY are frustrated with the oil consumption

https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2017-ford-mustang-shelby-gt350-long-term-test-update-2-review


AFM issues are ongoing. Oil consumption is just one issue. Some other issues are cam and lifter failures and carbon on pistons damaging blocks.
DFM has resolved the issues.
Now the GM boys will go into denial.

@ full of $h!t

Please site a source to prove your claim. I showed mine and its car and driver. Read the article! Its complete nonsense what Ford claims.

Now, site a source for your claim. And dont say im having a hissy fit bc i dont. I BACK my claims with articles. You on the other hand never do

You can change that

@ tntOnline Your being rude crude and socially unattractive does not prove anything except that you are the quintessential idiot of this forum. If you do not know of the AFM and DFM problems you are either in denial or hid under a rock.

The facts are easy to find on GM's oil consumption issues. It affects a LOT of people like including me. There are many articles, service bulletins, and tons of upset people on forums like this. Here are a few links if you don't believe:
https://www.carcomplaints.com/news/2016/gm-53l-oil-consumption-lawsuit.shtml
https://www.silveradosierra.com/vortec-5-3l-v8/5-3-l-chev-and-gmc-oil-consumption-issue-t21017.html
http://www.chevroletproblems.com/excessive-oil-consumption/

Go online and look.

Anybody who's not a complete fool agrees that LS engines are not perfect, but they are super reliable and don't leave drivers stranded by the side of the road the way that Brand X and Brand XXX do.

You guys know who you are!

@papajim
"hearing so much blather from the 2.7 ecoboost crowd I ask you---can you imagine trying to shoe-horn a V6 into that engine compartment?"

Yes one better in Australia you can get a supercharged 5 litre Coyote V8

@papajim
The Coyote V8 is a common enough conversion
http://www.australiastoughestcars.com.au/videos/ford-ranger-with-a-v8-5-0-supercharged-fpv-coyote/

Morons.

I can grease up an old 7.3 Powerstroke and jam it in there too, but who would want it.

There is a nice thing called proportionality. There is also a point of diminishing returns and Mr Ryan has (once again) managed to find it.

@papajim
"hearing so much blather from the 2.7 ecoboost crowd I ask you---can you imagine trying to shoe-horn a V6 into that engine compartment?"

Yes one better in Australia you can get a supercharged 5 litre Coyote V8


Posted by: Robert Ryan | Dec 18, 2018 2:25:07 PM

Thank you for that info! The 2.3 will likely do very well. My argument is the 2.7 would be crazy powerful and return the same or maybe even better mpg. It would do EVERYTHING better than the 2.3 will. No sense beating the horse tho as the 2.3 was the choice for various reasons. That's not to say the 2.3 won't be good, I believe it will be class leading in performance. I also believe other manufacturers will follow, especially GM. The 2.7 4cyl will be a flop in the Silverado, especially with it's dismal fuel economy rating. It should be reserved to 2wd work/fleet sales. It would be a great engine, on paper, for the GM mid sized trucks. The real breaker for me is the price. Things have gotten out of control. My (F-150) 16' MSRP was $43,595. The exact same truck now has an MSRP of just over $48k. The mid sized trucks hit $45k pretty quick in 4wd and exceed it in some top of line configurations. No thanks. If I could get a Ranger XL FX4 optioned out for about $32-$33k ( sticker is $37k) I'd consider one when the time comes.

the 2.7 would be crazy powerful and return the same or maybe even better mpg. It would do EVERYTHING better than the 2.3 will.

Please answer: Why not just bolt in the 3.5 ecoboost instead. It does everything better.



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