I used to have a Ford Ranger about 10 years ago. It was from 1997, white with grey interior, and absolutely stripped to the bone. No options, no creature comforts, nothing. Just a trusty – and somewhat rusty – work truck. It wasn’t particularly pleasant to drive, but I still remember it fondly.
Eight long years after Ford closed its Twin Cities Assembly Plant where the old Ranger used to be built, they brought the Ranger name back. The new Ford Ranger is built in Michigan now and it’s a vast departure from the truck I used to know.
Any Way You Want It, That’s The Way You Need It
While the old Ranger was available in a multitude of configurations, the new model sticks with two body styles. It’s your choice between a Crew Cab with a 6-ft box or a SuperCrew Cab with a 5-ft box. You can also choose between rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Other than that, the Ranger is only available with one driveline: a 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder and a 10-speed automatic transmission. This engine also sees duty in the Mustang and Focus RS, and it gives the Ranger a lot more pep in its step than I would’ve expected. With 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque on hand, it’s certainly no slouch either. And it’s usable power too. Ford claims the Ranger can tow up to 7,500 lbs. That’s certainly a lot more than my old Ranger could manage and basically comparable to the modern F-150.
At first, I had a hard time justifying the Ranger’s price tag. While the base price of $24,300 is perfectly in line with modern trucks in this class, it’s not hard to get into the mid-$40,000 range if you get carried away with the options list. The Ranger I drove carries an MSRP of $42,715 before discounts, while also featuring about $3,000 in added accessories. That being said, I think it looks cool as heck, and it’s nearly spot-on for how I’d order a Ranger of my own.
I especially love the Ford Performance “Chase Rack” mounted in the bed with the huge 40″ Rigid Industries light bar on top. It made me feel like I was pre-running routes for the Baja 1000 everywhere I went! These and other dealer accessories are available from the Ford Performance catalog and there are accessories to suit nearly any occasion with the Ranger. Ford offers everything from chrome trim and performance exhausts to bike racks and bed-mounted tents.
Moves Like Jagger
I wasn’t expecting driving the Ranger to be such an experience. I’ve driven plenty of capable, rough and tumble trucks and SUVs over the years but the Ranger feels more solid, playful, and comfortable than just about anything short of a Raptor. The way the drivetrain and suspension work together was simply incredible. The Ranger just chews up rough pavement and spits it out like it was nothing. I have yet to find a truck that I would describe as handling on rails but it’s a blast to chuck the Ranger into corners. It feels like you can just drive it over anything. I’m sure the Ranger would be a pleasure to drive through an open field or some wooded trails.
For those that like to explore and go offroad, there are some major improvements over the old Ranger to be thankful for. With the FX4 package, Ford gives you beefier all-terrain tires and an electronic locking differential for getting through rough trails. The package also includes some heavy-duty skid plates and red-painted recovery hooks in the front bumper. Perhaps the most useful feature with the FX4 package is the driver-adjustable Trail Control system that can be programmed for different types of terrain.
Just select the conditions you’re driving on and the Ranger will automatically control the throttle and brakes to get you through it safely. Although I didn’t find any terrain that would put the FX4 pack to good use, I’d definitely check that option box if I was buying a Ranger myself.
Baby Got Back
Compared to the old Ranger, the new model looks HUGE. The Ranger is no longer a cute little truck. It’s moved up a full class size and is now classified as a mid-sized truck. Once you’re on the road though, the Ranger has a way of shrinking around you a little bit. The big windshield and side windows help with visibility but you’ll never forget you’re driving a truck. It’s a comfy place to be, however. Everything is easy to reach and easy to use. I also appreciated that there are USB ports for every seat.
The bigger footprint translates into loads of interior space. While the front seats of the old Ranger felt pretty cramped, there is plenty of room for four 6-ft tall adults in the new Ranger. For those that need the 6-ft box, the rear seats in the Crew Cab might feel a bit cramped on longer journeys. They should be just fine for children, or as additional storage space.
Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system is a marvel in the new Ranger. In addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SYNC 3 also allows you to connect to an AT&T 4G LTE WiFi hotspot in the Ranger. SYNC 3 also has AppLink which allows you to use Waze for navigation or talk with Amazon’s Alexa assistant. There’s also plenty of safety technology including a backup camera with parking sensors, blind-spot detection, and lane-keep assist.
To be honest, the new 2019 Ford Ranger blew me away. It’s bigger than the old one but in a useful way. It’s faster, can haul more stuff, and take you places you could only dream of with its predecessor. In fact, it’s almost not fair to compare the two because the only similarity is the name. The new Ranger can do so much more than I expected.
For those considering a practical, usable truck, the Ranger is likely the perfect choice. If you need a bigger bed for hauling or need every last pound of towing capacity, the F-150 might be the better choice. For most people though, the Ranger is just right.