It's been six years, but can the Ranger continue where it started?
It's back! After a six year hiatus, Ford has finally brought the Ranger back to the US market. It seemed strange the Ford, an American company, continued to build the mid-size Ranger truck in markets such as Australia, but left its US fan base hanging for so many years. Now that the Ranger has returned, we have to measure it against the existing competition. The mid-size truck segment currently consists of the Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. We think the Ranger may be better than all of them.
We've had a chance to drive several of the mid-size truck offerings, so let's start with the oldest one on the market, the Nissan Frontier. The Frontier hasn't had a significant update since 2011, and it certainly feels that way on the inside. We don't have any power figures for the Ranger's new 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine. But we are sure that with its new 10-speed automatic, it will be quicker and more efficient than the Frontier that packs a 4.0-liter V6 making 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque mated to a five-speed automatic. What about the Ranger's closest competitors, the Chevy Colorado and the GMC Canyon?
GM brought back its mid-size trucks, the Colorado and Canyon, after a shorter three year hiatus. Both of these trucks make use of three available engines, a 3.6-liter V6, a new 2.8-liter Duramax diesel and a base 2.5-liter four-cylinder. These are the trucks that Ford likely benchmarked when designing the new Ranger. It will be difficult to predict if the Ranger will be better than the GM twins, especially since Ford made the bold decision to only offer the Ranger with one engine option. Even if the Ranger is better, it won't offer a diesel engine. This will make the GM trucks the more flexible option for certain customers.
It may not seem like it, but the Toyota Tacoma is actually the second-newest mid-size truck on the market. The Tacoma was given a refresh in 2015, which kicked off the truck's third generation. The Tacoma will always be a staple of this market thanks to its incredible track record for reliability and resale values. Unfortunately, the Tacoma only feels slightly more modern than the Frontier. The Tacoma still relies on an old school 3.5-liter V6 with 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, although it does have a more modern six-speed transmission. The Tacoma will continue to sell well, but in terms of advanced technology, Ford has the Tacoma on the ropes.
Finally, we get to the most oddball competitor on the market, the Honda Ridgeline. Honda released the second generation Ridgeline in 2016, and we have loved it ever since. A lot of "truck people" give the Ridgeline a hard time because it isn't a true body-on-frame truck, but we think this is what adds to the Ridgeline's versatility. Not everyone needs a truck to do brawny work. Some people might just need a comfortable vehicle that has a flexible bed for large items. We think that the Ridgeline requires a very specific customer, and those who are looking for a traditional truck probably won't consider it over the new Ranger.
The Ranger is entering a very crowded market, but we have confidence that it can shoot right to the top. We think that Ford made a bold move by giving the Ranger only one engine and transmission option, but this gamble may end up paying off. No other truck in this segment is using a four-cylinder turbocharged engine, except for the diesel engine in the GM twins. The Ranger also has the most gears in the segment (a 10-speed automatic), which should help it be near the top of the segment in fuel economy. We know that the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine can be flexible. After all, this is just a different version of the same engine that produces 350 hp in the Focus RS.
If the rumors are to be believed, we may be getting an off-road focused Raptor variant of the Ranger, which could have a more powerful version of the 2.3-liter EcoBoost. On the inside, the Ranger will benefit from Ford's Sync3 infotainment system, which is one of our favorites on the market. Inside and out, it seems like the Ranger is ready to instantly become a market leader once again.