by Gerhard Horn
The Ford Ranger may be fairly new to the American market, but it has been around for a decade in other parts of the world. This may make it hard to justify against midsize truck rivals like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado. Still, it's worth pointing out that the Ranger has received at least three significant facelifts since it was introduced in other parts of the world in 2011, so the pickup truck you see on US roads is the best possible version of the Ranger there is. To take the fight to the rest of the market, Ford offers the Ranger in a simple three-trim lineup, with just two cab styles available. A 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder is also the only engine available, producing 270 hp and enabling it to tow up to 7,500 lbs.
While it shares the same basic structure as Rangers sold elsewhere, the American Ranger has several unique features that you won't find anywhere else in the world. Ford put the Ranger through a rigorous testing process before it went on sale here, but was it good enough? Can the Ranger hide its age well enough to make it an excellent pickup in 2021?
In true Ford fashion, the Ranger features several enhancements to keep it attractive to the buying public. The 2.3-liter turbocharged four-pot now comes as standard with auto start-stop technology, while the ten-speed automatic has been retained.
Four new colors have been added, and four colors have been axed. The STX Special Edition package now comes with 18-inch alloys, while 17-inch alloys are standard on the Tremor Off-Road package.
On the inside, the eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat has been downgraded to a six-way power-adjustable seat - this feature is standard on the XLT and Lariat. A 110V AC power outlet has been added as an optional extra on XL and XLT models. The XL now features dual-zone climate control if you add the optional SYNC3 infotainment system. Power-folding side mirrors with power glass are now standard on the XLT and Lariat.
On the tech side, the forward sensing system is now included in the Technology package. Simultaneously, the reverse sensing system is now available as an optional extra on XL and XLT models but standard on the Lariat.
Finally, there are some new packages aimed at particular customers for the new Ford Ranger lineup of trucks: the Tremor Off-Road Package and the STX Special Edition Package.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.3L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.3L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.3L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The Ranger is available in three trim levels and two body styles. Ford calls the 2-door extended cab the SuperCab, while the crew cab, or 4-door Ford Ranger, is called the SuperCrew. The extended cab has two doors and a six-foot bed, while the four-door crew cab has a five-foot bed. The entry-level XL has black plastic bumpers, wheel arches, door handles, mirrors, and a black grille, coupled with 16-inch steel wheels. The XLT adds body-color bumpers and arches, along with 17-inch alloys. The top-end Lariat includes LED lights all around, its model-specific grille, body-color mirrors, and 18-inch alloys.
Like most other trucks, the Ranger's dimensions depend on the model you choose. The Ford Ranger 4-door SuperCab has a six-foot bed. The 4x2 models are 70.7 inches tall, while the 4x4 models are 71.1 inches high. The bed is 20.8 inches tall, 72.8 inches long, 44.8 inches wide at the narrowest point, and 61.4 inches wide at its widest point. It has a load volume of 51.8 cubic feet.
The SuperCrew 4x4 measures 71.1 (4x2) or 71.5 (4x4) inches in height. It comes with four doors and a five-foot bed measuring a shorter 61 inches in length. The bed has a height of 20.8 inches, while the rest of the measurements are the same as on the SuperCab. However, due to its shorter length, the cargo volume is 43.3 cubic feet.
All Rangers have a maximum length of 210.8 inches, with maximum width measured at 73.3 inches excluding the mirrors. The wheelbase of 126.8 inches is also the same on all Ranger models. The 4x2 models have a ground clearance of 8.4 inches, while the 4x4 models are rated at 8.9 inches.
With the all-new Tremor Package included, the overall length shrinks by 0.1 inch. It's taller, standing 73.2 inches tall, and the track width is a full inch longer both front and rear for added high-speed stability on gravel. The ground clearance also goes up from 8.9 inches on standard 4x4 models to 9.7 inches. The standard 4x4s approach/breakover/departure angles are increased from 28.7/21.5/25.4 degrees respectively to 30.9/24.2/25.5 degrees with the Tremor package.
The payload is 1,860 pounds for the lightest SuperCab 4x2, going down to 1,430 lbs for the heaviest SuperCrew Tremor.
The lightest Ranger weighs in at 4,145 lbs, while the heaviest is the Tremor SuperCrew at 4,571 lbs.
The four new colors include Cactus Gray, Carbonized Gray, Cyber Orange, and Velocity Blue. Lightning Blue, Magnetic, Saber, and White Platinum Tri-Coat have been dropped from the lineup.
The XL trim now features a more comprehensive color palette with eight available colors. Race Red, Velocity Blue, Iconic Silver, Carbonized Gray, Cactus Gray, Oxford White, and Shadow Black are all no-cost options. Rapid Red will cost you an additional $395. XLT and Lariat trim levels add one additional color called Cyber Orange, which costs $595. There's a catch, however. In order to get a Cyber Orange truck you also have to add an optional package. On the base XLT SuperCab, this will raise the price by $1,765 in total.
The Ranger is only available with one engine, and it's a good one. While there are multiple engine options available in other parts of the world, only the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder was deemed good enough for the USA. That's the main reason why we don't get the Raptor version of this truck, as it's available with a diesel engine only.
The engine is essentially a detuned version of the 2.3-liter unit used in the Mustang, and it's mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Even detuned, this engine feels lively and has good specs. It packs a 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft punch. That's good enough for a 0-60 mph sprint time of less than seven seconds based on independent testing. That's not bad for a pickup. It's slightly slower once you add the SuperCrew cab's weight and a part-time 4x4 system, but even then, it pulls strongly. All Rangers have a towing capacity of 7,500 lbs with the optional towing package fitted.
With ten ratios on offer, the gearbox isn't easily flummoxed. All 4x4 models are equipped with a part-time four-wheel-drive system, which means you can power either the rear axle or all four wheels. A low-range transfer case is also standard for those serious off-road obstacles.
Ford's 2.3-liter engine is a superb powertrain. It was used in the manic Focus RS, and it currently powers the base Mustang. It has a broad range of abilities, depending on how you tune it. In the Ranger, it develops 270 hp and 310 lb-ft. The main focus here was to give it low-down grunt, with the performance potential being an added bonus.
It's not available with a manual gearbox, which some may consider an oversight. Given what this car will be used for most, an automatic gearbox does make more sense, though. Changing gears is one less thing to worry about when off-roading or towing.
The Ranger can be slightly hesitant to gear down in Sport mode, but that's hardly the point of a pickup. In all other scenarios, including running down the highway or carrying a load, the Ranger's powertrain feels entirely up to the task.
The Ranger has some sporty potential, but it's not a sports car. It is fun on a daily basis, especially if you get a kick out of racing from one set of traffic lights to the next. It offers a perfect balance between everyday comfort and the ability to carry a load. It can feel on the floaty side, and it rolls a bit in the corners, but what pickup doesn't? The steering is light and provides little in the way of feedback, and that's perfectly fine for a pickup. It makes it much easier to maneuver around town.
Ford has a number of packages that allow you to tailor a Ranger to your specific needs. The FX2 Package, for example, adds some chunky off-road tires and a beefed-up suspension. The Sport Package gives you a Ranger more suited to tarmac driving, while the all-new Tremor Package aims to make the Ranger as off-road capable as possible. It adds a lifted suspension with dampers from Fox and 17-inch alloy wheels with off-road rubber.
The rear-wheel-drive Ford Ranger pickup truck has EPA-estimated figures of 21/26/23 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. The standard 4x4 model is rated at 20/24/22 mpg, while the 4x4 with the Tremor Package does 19/19/19 mpg. A 2.7-liter four-pot sans turbo powers the most frugal Tacoma, and it's a terrible engine, offering only 159 hp and 180 lb-ft. This particular model gets closest to the Ranger's EPA figures and manages 20/23/21 mpg. The 3.5-liter Tacoma 4WD automatic is much closer to the Ranger in terms of performance, and it has EPA-estimated figures of 18/22/20 mpg. There's also a case to be made for the Honda Ridgeline, which has a powerful 3.5-liter engine and only consumes 18/24/21 mpg - the best figures in the midsize segment.
The Ranger's fuel consumption figures aren't vastly different, but it does prove that there's something to this small capacity, turbocharged engine malarky, at least as far as gas is concerned. The mpg rating of the Ford Ranger is a bit undone by the annoyingly small tank of only 18 gallons, though. That leads to an average range of between 342 to 414 miles between refills, which is on the low side for a workhorse.
The ambiance of the Ranger depends on the trim. In base models, you get cloth or vinyl upholstery, while top-spec models come with genuine leather. Unfortunately, there is one thing they all have in common: Hard plastics throughout the interior. Unfortunately, this is one thing Ford didn't focus on while preparing the Ranger for America. The base model is particularly bleak. Its infotainment screen is tiny, and its interior is fifty shades of gray. Equipment levels are adequate on the XLT and Lariat trims, however. The Ranger may not be as car-like as its rivals in this department, but it does at least feel as if it will last a long time.
The SuperCab and SuperCrew fit four and five people, respectively. The seats are nothing special, but they do provide ample support. The cabin feels big for a mid-size pickup, and all but the tallest passengers should be able to sit comfortably on extended journeys. Legroom is acceptable on both SuperCrew and SuperCab models. Front legroom in the SuperCab is 43.1 inches, while rear legroom is 30.4 inches. The SuperCrew has the same front legroom as the SuperCab, but the rear legroom is increased to 34.5 inches. Headroom in the front is the same for both models (39.8 inches), while rear headroom in the SuperCab is 35.9 inches, and 38.3 in the SuperCrew.
Visibility is good, but the bed has a tendency to block smaller cars. Luckily, the Ranger can be equipped with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist, which is a must if you want to daily a Ranger in the city.
The base XL has Ebony cloth as standard. The quality can be improved by adding premium Ebony cloth or vinyl. The XLT comes standard with premium cloth in either Ebony or Medium Stone. The Lariat comes with a full leather interior, also in Ebony or Medium Stone. The Lariat also includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter.
The new Ranger is a practical option, even if you opt for the SuperCrew with the smaller, five-foot bed. The bed on this particular model is suitable for 43.3 cubic feet. You can load a pair of dirt bikes if you fold the tailgate down. The longer six-foot bed offers more practicality (51.8 cubes) and is the model to go for if you're after a workhorse rather than a leisure vehicle. Whichever model you choose, the Ranger has enough space for the adventurous. The SuperCab 4x2 has the best payload figure of 1,860 lbs.
The Ranger's cabin is on the small side, so packing space is limited. The center console and door cards are on the small side, but you do at least get cupholders for four people.
The Ranger XL is obviously a workhorse, but Ford has made it easier to kit it out with the basic necessities. There's a new STX Special Edition Package (a total outlay of $3,225 is required), which adds a decent amount of kit, including the more extensive SYNC3 infotainment system, voice recognition, dual-zone climate control, and 18-inch alloys, to name just a few. It's a nifty hack to get 90% of the XLT's features while still coming in at a few hundred dollars less.
Standard features on the base model include auto headlights, a rearview camera, an eight-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, and a 2.3-inch productivity screen. On the safety side, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking are standard. Blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist are optional. The XLT adds dual-zone climate control and Ford's Co-Pilot 360 safety technology. The top-spec Lariat adds leather bucket seats with power adjustment and heating, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, and LED headlights.
The base XL comes with a tiny 3.5-inch infotainment screen surrounded by quick access buttons. It's okay, but once you use the rearview camera, you realize how hopeless it is. It's equipped with four speakers, but you can upgrade it to a six-speaker system. At least even this model enjoys a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a USB port, and Bluetooth connectivity.
The XLT and Lariat have an eight-inch touchscreen interface, which not only looks better but is easier to operate as well. It runs the Ford SYNC3 operating system, which is a generation behind the latest Ford products. Even so, it still supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM. At this level, the sound system gains an additional two speakers and another USB port is added as well.
Navigation is available as an optional extra, as is a ten-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. These features are standard on the Lariat SuperCrew.
J.D. Power gave the 2021 Ford Ranger an impressive 82 out of a possible 100 marks. It scored a "great" rating across the four main categories, including 88/100 for quality and reliability. The 2021 Ranger is so far recall-free.
The 2019 Ranger didn't do as well as it was recalled six times. It suffered some initial teething problems, such as the shifter position incorrectly displaying park, an improperly assembled front passenger seat belt, and a blower motor that might short. The recall count lowered to for the 2020 Ranger. The first recall was for an incorrect gear position display and there was another for a distorted or inoperative rearview camera.
All Ford Ranger models come with a limited three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. The Ranger does not come with complimentary scheduled maintenance, which some of its rivals do offer.
The NHTSA's review of the Ford Ranger returned mostly good results for the Crew Cab. In this configuration, the truck received four out of five stars overall. For the driver's and passenger side impacts, it received five stars. The Extended Cab has a three-star rollover rating.
Following an evaluation by the IIHS, the Ranger SuperCrew received a Good rating in all crashworthiness categories, except for the small overlap front on the passenger side, where it received an Acceptable rating. The headlights and the LATCH system both received a score of Marginal.
The Ranger truck lineup comes as standard with a rearview camera, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. It also has six airbags, ABS, tire pressure monitoring, and stability control. From the base model upward, you can add advanced driver assist systems, but you have to be careful with the configurator. The Ford Co-Pilot Package may retail for $625 on the base model, but to add it you also have to add other features and the end result is $1,760. This package is standard on the XLT and Lariat and includes blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, trailer tow monitoring, and lane-keep assist.
Adding safety features to top models is even more expensive because certain standard items need to be removed and replaced. So while the Technology Package has a price of $995 on the website, it actually costs around $2,100 in total to fit it, although the price will vary depending on the body style you're working with. The Technology Package does cost only $995 on the Lariat, however. This package includes adaptive cruise control.
It's quite clear that the Ford Ranger was never intended for the American market. Ford only decided to offer it years after its initial launch when a gap in the market appeared. While Ford tried its best to hide the Ranger's agricultural, old-school roots, it's blatantly apparent in certain places. The hard plastics, the small cupholders, and the awkward placing of some buttons result from a right-hand-drive-developed vehicle being converted to a left-hand-drive vehicle.
Having said that, the changes Ford made are quite significant, especially if you've had the misfortune of driving a third-world Ranger. The enhancements to the structure, for example, are quite significant. Not to mention the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-pot, which is a great engine.
The top models in this review of the Ranger are expensive when you compare them to their direct rivals, and the driving experience isn't as polished as we would have liked. However, if you stick to the bottom end of the range, the available packages make it easy to tailor a Ranger to your exact needs.
The price of the Ford Ranger begins at $25,070 for the XL. This is followed by the mid-range XLT at $29,120 and the more luxurious Lariat at $33,160. Pricing here excludes the destination charge of $1,195 in the US and are for the trims in their cheapest 4x2 guise with the SuperCab body style.
Upgrading from the XL SuperCab to the XL SuperCrew will add $2,400 to the price. On the same model, upgrading from 4x2 to 4x4 will cost $3,855. It's easy to send the price of the new Ford Ranger soaring. For example, the Lariat 4x4 SuperCrew with the Tremor Package will cost over $45,000.
The Ford Ranger lineup consists of three trims: XL, XLT, and Lariat. All these trims are available with the SuperCab or SuperCrew body styles, and a choice of either 4x2 or 4x4. All models are powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-pot mated to a 10-speed automatic gearbox.
The XL comes with plain cloth seats, a 3.5-inch infotainment screen, manual air conditioning, and a four-speaker sound system. On the outside, it has 16-inch steel wheels and plastic bumpers. Surprisingly, forward collision warning and auto emergency braking is also standard.
The XLT trim adds body-color bumpers, fog lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The interior has an eight-inch touchscreen as part of the SYNC3 infotainment system, better cloth upholstery, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, blind-spot monitoring, pedestrian detection, and lane-keep assist.
The Lariat's exterior boasts 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, and a unique chrome grille. Inside, it adds six-way power-adjustable seats (down from eight-way power-adjustable seats in 2020) and heating for the front seats. This variant also gets the 10-speaker B&O sound system if you opt for the SuperCrew.
There are some new packages for the 2021 model year, but the Sport Appearance Package, FX2 Package, and FX4 Package are still available. The XLT and Lariat can be equipped with the new Black Appearance Package, as well as a new Tremor Off-Road Package (SuperCrew only). The former adds some nice additions in black, such as the alloys, bedliner, grille surround, and bash plates, to name just a few.
The Tremor Package - requires various extras and a total $6,295 outlay on the Lariat 4x4 SuperCrew - is the big news this year. It's the closest thing to a Raptor the USA will ever get, as it comes with Fox dampers and reservoirs, a terrain management system, an electronically locking rear differential, model-specific alloys, off-road biased tires, and skid plates, to name just a few.
The most interesting package, as far as we're concerned, is the STX Special Edition Package, only available on the XL. It retails for $3,225 (including various other extras), but it adds most of the niceties you'll find on the high-spec models, including 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, and SYNC3 with an eight-inch touchscreen. It might seem a bit pricey, but you can't have it as a standalone option. It also adds the standard STX Appearance Package.
All Rangers are powered by the same 2.3-liter turbocharged four-pot engine and 10-speed gearbox combo, so you'll be getting a decent powertrain no matter what model you choose. We'd go with an XL SuperCrew, as it offers nearly as much space in the bed but with added space for the passengers. Unless you live in a state that demands it, or you enjoy a spot of off-roading, there's no need to go for a 4x4.
To that XL, we'd add the new STX Special Edition Package to get all the nice toys and the Ford Co-Pilot 360 to get all of the advanced driver assistance features. That way, you end up with a well-equipped Ranger 4x2 for just $31,320.
The Chevrolet is a better choice from a reliability standpoint. Not because the Ranger is unreliable, but because the Chevy has been available for much longer. The Chevy is also available with a torquey turbocharged diesel powertrain, which means it has a superior 7,700 lbs tow rating. The Colorado has a starting price of just $25,200, just marginally more than the Ford. At that price, Chevrolet only gives you a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four-pot engine, and the Ford will run circles around it. If it's a reliable, comfortable, and capable workhorse you seek, the price difference is good enough to swing favor in the direction of the Chevrolet.
The Toyota Tacoma starts at a higher price than the Ranger, and you don't really get much in return. At $26,400, you get a naturally-aspirated 2.7-liter four-pot engine. The outputs are a low 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. You do get more kit as standard, but rear legroom is a bit on the low side compared to the Ranger.
The Tacoma has a larger standard touchscreen infotainment system, and you can have it with a manual gearbox. The Tacoma was obviously designed for the American market. It has full-size cupholders big enough for a Big Gulp. The Tacoma is a better day-to-day and off-road companion, while the Ranger is a better workhorse.
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