I recently had the chance to spend a week with the new 2019 Ford Ranger. This happened because I had the good fortune of having the press launch for the 2019 Ford Ranger occur in San Diego, which is where I live, and which is where basically every automaker does their press launches in the winter. So I borrowed the Ranger after the press launch was over, and here’s what I think of it.
I’m going to start with the absolute highlight of the entire Ranger, and that would be, unquestionably, the powertrain. When I first heard the new Ranger was coming, I was shocked to discover that the sole powertrain offering was going to be a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which, on paper, doesn’t seem strong enough for a pickup truck you’re going to use for work purposes: towing, hauling and generally keeping up with other trucks.
But then Ford published the 4-cylinder’s numbers: 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Those are excellent figures, and they don’t even fully explain just how great the Ranger’s powertrain is. I’m truly shocked — surprised, delighted — at just how peppy this truck feels, with excellent midrange power, even for highway passing. It makes easy work out of climbing steep hills, it honestly feels fast from a stop, and power is linear, smooth and muscular. I cannot possibly say enough good things about this truck’s engine.
But I’m going to say more. That’s because the Ranger’s powertrain also gives the truck an impressive 7,500-lb towing capacity, which is far more than rivals like the Chevrolet Colorado and the Toyota Tacoma, both of which are around 7,000 pounds. Yes, the diesel-powered Colorado offers a slightly higher towing capacity, but it’s also dramatically more expensive than the base-level Ranger, which starts around $25,000.
Fuel economy, too, is strong: the 2-wheel drive Ranger is rated at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway (23 mpg in combined driving), while 4-wheel drive models get slightly lower ratings (20 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined), as usual. The result here is, once again, best-in-class performance, short of the pricier Colorado diesel. Indeed, the Ranger’s powertrain has it all: excellent performance, good pulling power and good fuel economy. It’s the star of this show.
That’s nice, because the rest of the truck isn’t a huge standout. The Ranger we’re now getting here in North America is basically the same truck that’s been on sale globally for the last few years, so it already feels a bit old — consider, for instance, the physical hand brake in the center console, or the lack of a "bed step" like the Ford F-150 has been touting for several years now. There’s also the mediocre interior — not bad, to be sure, but not a standout among rivals like you might expect for a brand new model.
The driving experience, too, is mostly average aside from the powertrain. The seats are reasonably comfortable, but the ride is harsher than I was expecting. The driving position is nice and commanding for a small truck, but little different from rivals. I am pleased with the long list of safety equipment in this truck — adaptive cruise! In a midsize/compact pickup truck! — but those features come with a price. The truck I reviewed will probably cost somewhere in the $35,000 to $40,000 range, which is big money, especially considering a similarly equipped F-150 isn’t dramatically more expensive.
Styling, too, is pretty dull: the Ranger was designed to appeal to global markets, so Ford didn’t want to take any risks, meaning that the Ranger doesn’t have the same tough, "cool" look as the Toyota Tacoma. Once again, this isn’t necessarily a drawback: the Ranger looks fine, but it doesn’t stand out.
And generally, that would be the entire story of the Ranger — fine, but it doesn’t stand out — if it wasn’t for that powertrain. But the excellent powertrain is a standout, and it takes the Ranger from a decent alternative to the Tacoma and the Colorado, to an excellent pick over those vehicles. If I was buying a small truck, I’d probably get the Ranger — and I’d be thrilled to use that potent 4-cylinder every chance I got.