Absent from the US market since 2011, Ford's mid-size pickup has been hugely popular as a twin-cab utility pickup elsewhere in the world. Now the Ranger's back on home turf, and we had a chance to get up close and personal at the International off-road and UTV expo in Scottsdale.
US customers will get any engine they like, as long as it's a 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder EcoBoost gasoline engine with a 10-speed auto transmission. That's good for 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft (420 Nm) of torque, and our man on the ground at the expo, found it surprisingly peppy and fast in a quick on-road test loop, with a very quiet cabin, an extremely impressive turning circle and perhaps a little too much jerk in the transmission when sinking the boot into it in Sport mode.
Ford representatives demonstrated the Ranger's Trail Control – a controlled crawl mode best described as cruise control for very rough terrain. This lets you set a defined speed in increments of half a mile per hour, and the car will maintain that speed, whether uphill, downhill or on rocky flat ground, while you concentrate on the steering.
The Ranger can be specified as a twin-cab, or the rear seats can be deleted to significantly extend the rear bed in a SuperCab option. There are three trim levels – XL, XLT and Lariat. All three get auto emergency braking, but you'll need to spring for the XLT to unlock lane-keeping assist, reverse sensing and blind spot warnings with trailer coverage. Stepping up to the Lariat gets you adaptive cruise control and a larger 8-inch color touch screen for the SYNC 3 voice-controlled multimedia system.
The appearance can be up-specced with Chrome or Sport packages, and there's a further FX4 package for serious off-roaders that want suspension tuned for off-roading, as well as all-terrain tires, steel bash plates, a rear locking differential and the above Trail Control modes.
Plenty of photos in the gallery.
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