Ford has long sat at the top of the American auto market with the F-Series pickup truck. But while it continues bringing in the dough with its larger pickups, it hasn't had a US-market midsize pickup since it discontinued the Ranger back in 2011. Six years and change later, that drought comes to an end with the new 2019 Ranger, which is preparing to rumble with midsize leaders like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevy Colorado.
Weakening numbers across the US midsize truck segment and cannibalization of F-Series sales prompted Ford to get out of the American midsize pickup business back in 2011. The Ranger, however, lived on in other markets around the world.
Since that time, Ford has watched the midsize market bounce back. In 2016, the fast-growing midsize segment grew by over 25 percent, doing its part in making the year a US record-breaker with total auto sales of 17.55 million vehicles. More specifically, Ford cites an 83 percent growth in midsize pickup sales since 2014 as a key reason for its decision to bring the Ranger back. It's no longer interested in watching from the sidelines as Toyota, GM, Nissan and Honda divvy up that pie.
While it does have roots in the global Ranger, the 2019 Ranger currently on show at the North American International Auto Show has been reworked specifically for the North American market, carrying its own distinct styling cues, chassis design and powertrain. Unsurprisingly, Ford is eager to link the new Ranger to the best-selling F-Series, stressing that the new truck goes through the same torture testing as the bigger F-150.
It all starts with a high-strength steel frame with direct-mounted steel bumpers, front and rear, while Dana AdvanTek independent front and solid rear axles hold that frame off the ground and keep the wheels spinning. The Ranger will come in both 2- and 4-wheel drive flavors, and an electronic-locking rear axle will be available.
At launch, the Ranger will be offered with Ford's 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo under its twin-power dome hood. That engine will work with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
"Ranger's proven 2.3-liter EcoBoost provides a torque target on par with competing V6 engines, but with the efficiency of a four-cylinder," Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's executive vice president for product development and purchasing, said when introducing the new truck. "When you pair that with its 10-speed transmission, you've got one of the most versatile, powerful and efficient powertrains in the segment."
The Ranger has moved with the times and includes a suite of driver-assistance technologies. Both the XLT and Lariat trim levels come standard with features like lane keeping assist, auto emergency braking, reverse sensing system, and blind spot information system with trailer coverage. The Lariat also includes adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection as standard.
The Ranger has a modern interior complete with an 8-in touchscreen, available Sync 3 infotainment system, and dual LCD productivity screens in the instrument cluster for display of vehicle, audio and navigation information. The available FordPass Connect 4G LTE modem delivers Wi-Fi to up to 10 devices, and an available Bang & Olufsen Play audio system fills the interior with custom-tuned audio.
Outside, the Ranger's styling comes in fairly vanilla "pickup truck." Ford has done some raking on the front-end and windshield, differentiating the midsize truck from the sturdier, more squared-off looks of its larger pickups. This raking is also designed to improve aerodynamics and cut wind noise. The "Ranger"-stamped tailgate is built to support both cargo and people, and short overhangs help in off-road obstacle clearance.
The Ranger will launch in three trims, the base XL, mid-level XLT and top-end Lariat, along with SuperCab and SuperCrew cab options. The available FX4 Off-Road Package brings a host of off-road-specific upgrades, including the locking rear axle, skid plates, off-road-tuned shocks, all-terrain tires, and a four-mode Terrain Management System similar to the one on the F-150 Raptor. The FX4 package also includes a new Trail Control feature that operates like a low-speed, off-road cruise control, taking over acceleration and braking at each wheel while the driver focuses on steering.
Ford will begin Ranger production in late 2018 at its Michigan Assembly Plant before rolling the truck out in early 2019.
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