The long rumored and highly anticipated 2019 Ford Ranger pickup has finally arrived. Officially confirmed last year, the Ranger has had a convoluted path back to U.S. showrooms that has been well documented: Customers decried its demise in 2011, Ford denied its return for a couple of years, and then General Motors released its revised Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickups and sold more than 145,000 units combined in 2016, the second year of production. It was right around then that the return of the Ranger began to be publicly discussed in earnest.
While the Ranger was MIA in the States, however, an international version was racking up big numbers elsewhere (Europe, New Zealand, and South Africa, in particular). That is where the domestic Ranger’s journey begins.
A fully boxed ladder frame with six crossmembers constitutes the backbone of the Ranger. Ford tells us that although the new truck’s frame appears to be a near doppelgänger of the frame of the overseas Ranger, a side-by-side inspection reveals that it has been configured specifically for stateside duty. Significantly for the domestic market, the frame has been modified to provide a sturdy mounting location for the front and rear steel bumpers. An integrated trailer-hitch receiver is available as an option.
Sitting atop the frame is a mostly steel body with an aluminum hood and tailgate. Comprehensively tweaked for tighter and more consistent panel gaps than in the global version, it sports a refreshed fascia and lighting elements. Short overhangs front and rear were specified to ensure good approach and departure angles. Monotube dampers reside at all four corners, with a control-arm front suspension and a live-axle setup at the rear.
Ford is keeping things simple in the powertrain department, offering a 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four mated to a 10-speed automatic as the sole powertrain. Featuring a forged crankshaft and connecting rods and a double-roller timing chain, the aluminum 2.3-liter has been beefed up for truck duty. While Ford hasn’t yet revealed any output figures, it’s no secret that the Ranger’s 2.3-liter is closely related to the 280-hp 2.3-liter in the current Explorer and a shirttail relative to the 310-hp version that lives under the hood of the Mustang. Based on that, we figure it will land at somewhere around 300 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque in the Ranger.
The 10-speed automatic transmission employs essentially the same components as that in the F-150 but uses a smaller case to fit the Ranger’s slightly smaller footprint. The Ranger will be available in both two- and four-wheel-drive configurations. The latter has a shift-on-the-fly two-speed transfer case to provide 2 High, 4 High, and 4 Low capability. Dana Trac-Lock differentials reside in the rear axles of both two- and four-wheel-drive versions; an electronically locking rear diff is optional—and standard on the FX4 and FX2 models.
Models and Equipment
The FX2 (two-wheel-drive) and FX4 (four-wheel-drive) off-road versions get the aforementioned E-locker as standard, as well as other goodies including all-terrain tires, dampers tuned for off-road activity, a steel front bash plate, steel skid plates, and, of course, FX badging. Although tuned for more adventurous activities, the FX models have a ride height that remains the same, as Ford engineered the entire Ranger lineup to qualify as “high riders.”
Taking a page from the Raptor playbook, the Ranger FX4 also comes with a Terrain Management System to optimize off-road travel. Consisting of four modes—Normal; Grass, Gravel, and Snow; Mud and Ruts; and Sand—it alters throttle response, transmission shift points, and traction and stability control. A new Trail Control system offers cruise-control-like convenience for low-speed and off-road driving by taking over braking and acceleration functions to maintain a set speed. It’s capable of meting out torque and braking to each individual wheel to allow the driver to focus on vehicle direction. Additionally, it allows the driver to set a lower travel speed by tapping the brakes until the desired speed is achieved without deactivating the system.
Available in both SuperCab and SuperCrew configurations, the truck has a trim-level hierarchy that will seem familiar to anyone who follows Ford trucks: XL is the entry point, XLT is mid-level, and Lariat is the high-luxe version. Additionally, Chrome and Sport appearance packages will be available. The Ranger will launch with eight exterior color options and eight different wheel designs in 17- and 18-inch sizes. LED headlights and taillamps are on the options list, as are puddle lamps, cargo lighting, and Ford’s Smart Trailer tow connecter that alerts drivers to sketchy trailer-wiring issues.
The interior features room for five, underseat storage in the rear, and dual LCD info screens in the instrument panel. Available Sync 3 brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Ford+Alexa personal-assistant functionality, optional navigation, and an 8.0-inch center touchscreen. 4G LTE connectivity with support for up to 10 devices is optional. Available B&O Play premium audio and AC power outlets are also on the options list. Automated emergency braking is standard across the board. Lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, a reverse-sensing system, and blind-spot warning with trailer coverage are standard on XLT and Lariat trims, and the Lariat alone gets pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control as standard.
Although Ford is proud of the fact that the Ranger was subjected to—and passed—the same testing regimen as the F-150, the automaker strived to configure it more toward the outdoor enthusiast than hardcore commercial users. Look for the new Ford Ranger to hit showrooms in early 2019.