Ford fans in the United States have lusted for a new Ranger for seven years. Ford finally delivered, but the 2019 Ford Ranger fails to fill me with yearning.
There are glowing reviews all across the interwebs about the “all-new” 2019 Ford Ranger. While I was as excited as anyone to see this classic truck name back on American soil after a seven-year hiatus, I’m not really impressed with what I’ve seen in Ford’s new offering to the mid-size American truck market.
For sure the Ranger will be a solid offering. But for an iconic build returning after a long absence, I expected Ford to swing for the fences. Instead, we get a sensible pickup that should be a solid choice for those who don’t want a full-size truck.
2019 Ford Ranger: Big Reveal
I was at the Ford press conference in Detroit earlier this week for the truck’s official unveiling. But I have to say, even the event was a bit lackluster. Way more pomp and circumstance surrounded the new Edge ST and Mustang Bullitt reveals during the Ford press conference. While each of those vehicles should be an absolute hoot to drive, they are basically performance versions of existing models.
I admit it would be hard for the Ranger to beat the cool factor of having Steve McQueen’s original unrestored Bullitt on stage next to the new one (especially with his granddaughter there). But the Ranger was only quickly introduced with little in the way of real excitement or pizazz.
Perhaps the unimpressive reveal for a highly anticipated product was justified. The truth about the “all-new” Ranger is that Ford was pretty lazy in bringing this iconic nameplate back to the U.S. The truck is basically a modest makeover of the Ranger “T6” that has been on the world market since 2011. And that was originally built for the demanding Australian market.
Now you might say this isn’t such a bad thing, and you’d generally be right. The Ranger has proven its durability and capability around the globe for many years. It is a compact truck that is properly capable off road as well as strong, offering a fully boxed high-strength steel frame.
So while the U.S. spec Ranger has some new features and styling, we won’t be seeing many of the things truck and off-road enthusiasts have been clamoring for – features offered elsewhere in the Ranger.
Let’s look at the Australian market Ranger. They get two diesel engines, a manual transmission option on all engines, and a single-cab version of the truck. We will get none of these options – at least not yet.
Does Size Matter?
While the Ranger isn’t as small as the Hilux, the truck many American off-road and Toyota enthusiasts wish they could have, it should be the smallest truck on offer in America.
It should be about an inch narrower than any other U.S. pickup and have one of the shortest wheelbases. In theory, this results in a truck that fits down tight off-road trails and is easy to park and maneuver around the city. It also means that it will wind up with less interior room than many competitors.
The interior did seem snug when I poked my head in at the auto show. Tall, lanky Americans like me like our head, elbow, and legroom!
2019 Ford Ranger: Comfort
I found the interior of the 2019 Ranger to be a bit utilitarian, which some like. But I found it very bland and uninspiring. It looks durable but not all that comfortable or a place you’d want to spend much time.
The best thing found inside the Ranger is a proper hand brake, something only equipped on the Frontier currently. How fun will that be the next time it snows!?!?
Weight Loss Needed?
To trim weight, Ford made the hood and tailgate from aluminum. But the rest of the body is steel. This just seems lazy on Ford’s part, as the ever popular F150 has been on an extreme aluminum construction weight-saving diet for the past few years.
While I’m sure that diet would have cost the consumer quite a bit on the Ranger’s sticker price, I’m also sure it would have greatly enhanced fuel economy and performance – saving money in the long run.
One place where steel is welcome on the new Ranger is on the front and rear frame-mounted bumpers. So while the rest of the world gets plastic bumpers on the Ranger, the U.S. spec’d bumpers should be pretty durable. That makes the upgrade to aftermarket bumpers extremely easy.
Powerful, Sort Of
The 2.3L Turbo I4 EcoBoost, the only engine option in the Ranger, should also produce horsepower approximately equivalent to that of the current class-leading Chevy Colorado’s 3.6L V6 (308 HP). Therefore, it should be the class leader in torque (estimated at over 300 pound-feet).
That torque victory, of course, comes in the gasoline category only, as the Duramax diesel option on the Colorado and Canyon puts out an earth-tearing 369 pound-feet This again begs the question: Why doesn’t the new Ranger offer a diesel option?
Safety … Third?
The 2019 Ranger does come with a number of tech features that make it safer. It will be the first American pickup to come standard with automatic emergency braking (AEB) on all models. It will also offer lane departure warning, a reverse-sensing system, and a blind-spot information system with trailer coverage.
Some of these sensors are integrated into the rear taillights, which while cool are going to make for costly taillight replacement when an accident does occur.
Off-Road Cruise Control?
Ford’s all-new Trail Control technology is available on the Ranger – and it’s basically off-road cruise control. The system takes over acceleration and braking, controlling power and braking to each individual wheel, and only requires the driver to steer. It is a very similar system to Toyota’s Crawl Control, found on the Tacoma, but rumored to be able to be used at much higher speeds, possibly up to 20 mph.
While I’m all for creating a more capable off-road vehicle, I don’t think I want to relinquish my rough road driving to the computers just yet. Not only does that take away the fun of driving, it also promotes people tackling terrain that they might not actually have the skills to drive. What happens when the computer decides to stop working in the middle of a tough trail?
2019 Ford Ranger
Pros: Powerful four-cylinder engine, proven efficient 10-speed auto transmission, fully boxed steel frame, steel bumpers, small size, hand brake, short overhangs that should produce good entry and exit angles, and standard automatic emergency braking system
Cons: No diesel, no V6, no manual transmission, small size, no high-octane off-road version like the ZR2 or Raptor, no regular cab, no front locker (ZR2 has one), and an uninspiring utilitarian interior
Late to the Party
Midsize U.S. truck sales are up 83 percent since 2014, but the real story is that sales are only up one percent above last year. Forecasters aren’t expecting the market to grow much more over the next 10 years. And that doesn’t bode well for a truck entering an already saturated market – with the Tacoma, Colorado, Canyon, Frontier, and Ridgeline already duking it out.
Ford is squarely trying to appeal to entry-level truck buyers with the new Ranger, as full-size trucks like the F-150 continue to balloon in cost and size. Smaller trucks are easier to park and maneuver in urban areas and are still able to carry gear and get off the pavement on weekends. So it seems Ford is courting the same buyer leaning toward Subaru or a crossover SUV who also wants something a bit more rugged and capable.
Is There Hope?
Yes, there is hope for the new Ranger yet, as I feel Ford is holding back some pertinent info, probably to keep the buzz going until it hits dealer lots in early 2019. I for one am still going to hold my breath for an economical price point, fuel-efficient diesel, powerful V6, manual transmission, and a go-fast Raptor version.
When it’s all said and done, the 2019 Ford Ranger is still going to be a solid, capable truck. While I wish Ford had done more than small tweaks on a nameplate that has been on the world market for more than years already, it is sure to appeal to the modern U.S. “small” truck buyer.
I’ll hold final judgment until I hear fuel economy, horsepower, torque, and pricing numbers. Even then, nothing will beat getting behind the wheel and experiencing what the new Ranger is like in the real world. Fingers crossed for good news on all fronts!