First Look

2019 Ford Ranger First Look Review: The Return Of An American Workhorse

Welcome back, old friend.

After a seven-year hiatus from the American market, the Ford Ranger is finally making its return to the resounding cheers of small-truck fans—your humble author included. As a former Ranger owner myself, seeing the nameplate return to its native land is nothing less than a prayer answered by the Blue Oval and one I hope the Dearborn automaker will continue to answer for years to come. Still, even though it was shown at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show in January, details are still thin and a lot could change between now and its January 2019 arrival.

While this Ranger generation is new to North America, it finds its roots in the global Ranger, which has enjoyed continued production during the North American model's leave of absence. To put it lightly, this is not your father's—or my—old Ranger. Underneath its new skin sits a modified version of the global Ranger frame developed by Ford in Australia, now fully boxed and altered to ace American crash standards. Both the global T6 Ranger and the North American model share the same 127-inch wheelbase and a number of common design features, such as headlight designs and overall body styles.

Unlike the previous Ranger, the new model is decidedly a midsize truck, similar in size to the current Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. (Incidentally, both those models also find their origins in global models after being absent from the American market for a number of years.) Gone is the regular-cab Ranger, replaced with SuperCab and SuperCrew models—the latter offered for the first time with the nameplate in the US. Doing the hard work of keeping this truck going is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, and while Ford did not detail output figures, it should produce about 250 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Still, a number of other engine options could come to fruition later.

One of those engines could be the 3.3-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine used as the base powerplant in the Ford F-150. Ranger could also gain a more stout 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 or the newly introduced 3.0-liter PowerStroke V6 turbodiesel for a Raptorized model. For Ford to rely on just a single, four-cylinder powerplant isn't likely considering every single one of its competitors also offers six-cylinder motivation. The 2.3-liter inline-4 is paired to the same 10-speed transmission found in the Ford F-150, Mustang, and a number of General Motors products as the gearbox was a joint development project between the two companies. This is also the best indication yet that Bronco will get the same gearbox.

The 10-speed automatic will transmit power to the rear or all four wheels. Further enhancing Ranger's off-road credentials are wide approach and departure angles provided by its bodywork, skid plates from front to rear, an electronic transfer case, and solid front and rear axles with an optional electronically-lockable rear differential. Those seeking more hardcore off-road thrills can option Ranger with an available FX4 Off-Road Package, which includes bash plates, upgraded tires, off-road-tuned shocks and suspension, and Ford's Terrain Management System and Trail Control, similar to the same system found in F-150 Raptor including drive modes for grass; gravel and snow; mud and ruts; and sand.

Back on road, the Ranger's double-wishbone suspension and monotube shocks should make easy work of small road imperfections while parabolic leaf springs could give it an edge in payload capacity. However, it's inside where the Ranger will really stand apart from its predecessor. For those who've ever been in a previous Ranger, you may remember a stark interior with only an AUX input for playing your mobile tunes. The new Ranger ups the infotainment level with an available 8-inch touchscreen running SYNC 3 and many of its functions are also mirrored on the driver's instrument panel by way of an LCD screen wedged between the speedometer and tachometer dials.

Infotainment is further enhanced with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Ford+Alexa personal assistant functionality. An LTE 4G wifi hotspot is available through FordPass Connect, and owners can additionally option AC power outlets and a B&O Play premium audio system. The 2019 Ford Ranger will arrive in January 2019 in three different trims: XL, XLT, and Lariat. Engine output, capacities, and fuel economy ratings will be released closer to launch.

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