Ford unveiled an upgraded old friend at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) to do battle in the U.S. midsize pickup market segment – the 2019 Ranger. The Ranger was an integral part of Ford’s truck lineup between 1983 and 2011, and has been sold overseas since 2011. But for 2019, the exterior design, chassis, and powertrain have been specifically tailored for North American truck customers. During development by Ford’s engineering team, the Ranger survived the same torture tests as the leading full-sized pickup, the Ford F-150. Ranger production is scheduled to begin at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in late 2018.
The 2019 Ford Ranger – filling a gap in Ford’s truck lineup
Ford Motor Company resurrected a truck with a successful past to take on the competition in the midsize pickup market. The first-generation Ford Ranger was built between 1983 and 1992, followed by an upgraded second-generation truck from 1993 to 2011. Production and sales in North America ended after 2011, but the model remained in production in other parts of the globe. The Ranger may have been gone, but it was never forgotten here in the United States.
The new 2019 Ranger uses architecture similar to the Ranger that Ford sells in dozens of overseas markets, but it’s developed for the business and vacation needs of American truck customers. “Ranger has always held a special place in the hearts of truck fans,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford executive vice president, Product Development and Purchasing. “The all-new Ranger is designed for today’s midsize truck buyer, delivering even more utility, capability and technology for those who blend city living with more off-the-grid adventures on weekends.”
The Ford F-150 is the most successful vehicle in American sales, having been the nation’s best-selling pickup for 41 straight years. But the F-150, like other full-sized pickups, has grown in size over the years, making it difficult for some to maneuver in an urban environment, and the cost has increased to a point where it’s unobtainable for many entry-level drivers with a hankerin’ for a pickup truck. Competitors have stepped up their midsize trucks to fill the perceived void at the lower end of the pickup truck scale and have attracted new buyers. While Ford’s F-150 is the clear leader in the full-size pickup truck field, Ford must attract entry-level truck buyers to get them into, and keep them in, the Ford truck family until they can move up to the F-150.
Ford Ranger features for 2019
The 2019 Ford Ranger is available in three trim levels, the entry-level XL, the mid-level XLT, and the top-of-the-line Lariat. Chrome and Sport appearance packages, and FX Off-Road packages are available options. The Ranger comes in either a two-door SuperCab or a four-door SuperCrew cab configuration, each roomy enough for five people. The raked grille and windshield are designed to aid in aerodynamics and to reduce interior wind noise level. The designers kept the front and rear overhangs short to clear obstacles during off-road adventures.
The Off-Road package includes a protective skid plate, off-road tuned shocks and suspension, and all-terrain tires. A Terrain Management SystemTM and Trail ControlTM help navigate challenging off-road conditions. The Terrain Management SystemTM includes four distinct drive modes: Normal; grass/gravel/snow; mud/ruts; and sand, and can shift on the fly to automatically change throttle responsiveness, transmission gearing, and vehicle controls, tailoring traction, driveability, and performance to any given terrain or weather condition. Trail ControlTM is similar to cruise control, but designed for low-speed, rugged terrain. It controls acceleration and braking of each individual wheel, allowing the driver to focus on steering.
All Rangers come standard with Automatic Emergency Braking to help avoid collisions, and a 4G Wi-Fi hot spot. Options include LED headlamps and taillamps; exterior lighting such as puddle lamps and cargo bed lighting; and Smart Trailer Tow connectors to alert the driver of faulty trailer connections. The XLT and Lariat trim levels also include as standard equipment Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Reverse Sensing System, and a class-exclusive Blind Spot Information System with trailer coverage. In addition, the Lariats have standard Pedestrian Detection and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Ranger powertrain and chassis
The Ford Ranger will be among the minority in the midsize market, offering only one engine/transmission combination. The only powertrain offered is the 2.3L, 16 valve, EcoBoost four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger coupled to Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission. “Ranger’s proven 2.3-liter EcoBoost provides a torque target on par with competing V-6 engines, but with the efficiency of a four-cylinder,” said Hau Thai-Tang. “When you pair that with its 10-speed transmission, you’ve got one of the most versatile, powerful and efficient powertrains in the segment.”
Ford has not yet released the power figures for the 2.3-liter powerplant, which is also used in the Ford Focus RS and the Mustang GT. In those applications, the engine is rated at 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque in the Mustang, and 350 horsepower with 350 lb-ft of torque in the Focus RS. Those are pretty impressive figures, but remember, the Ranger 2.3L engine has been modified for truck duty with a forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods, so the power ratings may vary. The EPA fuel mileage ratings have not yet been released by Ford.
The Ranger chassis is formed from high-strength steel to which front and rear steel bumpers are mounted. Independent front and solid rear axle suspensions are used to give the driver a strong sense of the road and keep the truck firmly planted when venturing off-road. An available electronic-locking rear axle, standard with the FX2 and FX4 Off-Road packages, increases the Ranger’s all-terrain traction.
The midsize pickup market and the competition
Major manufacturers such as Chevrolet, GMC, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda are already well established in the North American midsize pickup truck market. This brings up a question about the potential success of Ford’s new midsize pickup: Is the Ranger merely fashionably late to the party, or has it missed the boat altogether? Ford reminds us that “U.S. sales of midsize trucks are up 83% since 2014” which, while true, doesn’t give us any indication of the future potential for this market. Ford getting a leg up in the market after an eight-year hiatus could be a tough proposition if the market declines or remains flat.
The January 4, 2018 edition of Automotive News indicates that the midsize pickup market may have peaked at 1.32 million units back in 1986, despite undergoing a modest rally in recent years. U.S. sales haven’t topped one million trucks since 2000, nor have they exceeded 500,000 units since 2007. These figures don’t bode well for Ford establishing a leadership position in the market segment, especially with a truck that offers only a single engine/transmission combination. Chevrolet, GMC, and Toyota each offer midsize pickups with multiple engine choices, including a diesel option. Ford may need a “halo”’ truck with a lot more pizazz and marketing buzz than the standard Ranger to make a big splash in the market. Which leads us to the question…
Is the Ranger Raptor coming to North America?
Chevrolet and Toyota already offer high-speed off-road versions of their midsize pickups with the Colorado ZR2 and the Tacoma TRD-Pro. Rumors strongly suggest that a Ranger-sized version of Ford’s full-sized off-road hot rod, the F-150 Raptor, will be coming to America in 2019, but so far these are only rumors. It’s a fact that a 2018 Ranger Raptor will be offered in Australia. Ford has released a video for the Ranger Raptor showing a camouflaged four-door truck flying around a sandy, off-road course in the Australian outback.
Drive Mag believes the Ranger Raptor is coming to the U.S. in 2019. “Finally, the upcoming Ford Ranger Raptor fell into the R&D responsibility of Ford Australia’s engineering division, which makes us believe it will initially be launched on the Australian market mid 2018 before making the jump to the USA come 2019.”
To get your high-speed, off-road genes all excited, we’ve included the Ford video of the Ranger Raptor. Let’s keep our fingers and toes crossed that it makes the long journey from the Land Down Under to North America.
Automotive News – http://www.autonews.com/article/20180114/OEM/180119857/
Gear Junkie – https://gearjunkie.com/2019-ford-ranger