LA JOLLA, Calif. — Canadians, especially Atlantic Canadians, were very fond of the Ford Ranger.
Consumers and dealers were upset when Ford decided to discontinue the popular small truck in 2012 due to sagging demand in the American market.
Good news. The Ranger is back.
During that six-year absence, the segment has more than doubled. Ford watched as GM introduced a pair of mid-size pickups — Canyon and Colorado — to join the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma.
Not one to be left behind when it comes to pickups, Ford reached out to its Australian subsidiary which developed and has been marketing a mid-size Ranger pickup for several years.
That Australian Ranger got a unique frame, suspension, drivetrain and a host of segment exclusive technologies while being updated to meet North American standards.
The 2019 Ford Ranger, now rolling off a Michigan assembly line, will arrive in Ford stores in this year.
Let’s address the elephant in the room right now — the only relationship between the 2019 Ford Ranger and its immensely popular predecessor is the name.
The 2019 Ranger is not a compact truck like the version that graced our roads from 1983 until 2012. It is a much larger “mid-size” pickup like the competitors from GM, Nissan and Toyota.
The 2019 Ranger is 200 mm longer than the old model, actually within a couple of mm of the full-size F150 of a decade ago.
Ford marketing executives here admitted there might be a market for a smaller pickup like the old Ranger.
But they told me that the tremendous growth in the mid-size segment demanded they have a player in that game.
The new Ranger is 393 mm wider and 50 mm taller than the previous version.
The new Ranger has a turbocharged, 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine that produces 63 more horsepower and 84 lb.-ft. more torque than the 4.0-litre V6 that was optional in the last of the old Rangers. That one had a five-speed automatic transmission.
The new one uses the same 10-speed unit found in the current Mustang and F150. The 2019 Ranger can carry 1,860 lbs. of payload and tow up to 7,500 lbs.
It is also considerably more expensive than the old one, starting at $32,769, including freight. Climb the trim and option ladder and you can bump that price past $44,000, before options.
In this respect, perhaps it was not a good idea to revive the Ranger name. This new pickup is a whole different animal. No longer, one of the least expensive vehicles on the market, it is a highly-refined and sophisticated modern vehicle.
Ford has set its sights set on the Toyota Tacoma, which currently dominates the mid-size segment in the United States, with a 60 per cent share. The Tacoma is also the biggest seller here, but the Canyon/Colorado combined, take first place.
For the global unveiling of the new Ranger here, Ford had several Tacomas on hand. They encouraged us to drive the Tacoma and Ranger back-to-back in everything from on-, and off-road performance, to towing and hauling capabilities.
Obviously, Ford would not do this if it wasn’t confident in the results. They were right. The new Ranger is impressive, on or off road.
As the owner of an older Ranger, I was anxious to try the new one and disappointed in its size. But then I got inside and saw how vastly superior the new one is.
The standard equipment on the lowest trim level includes: rear view camera, voice-recognition infotainment system, cargo lamp, locking tailgate, trailer sway control, air conditioning, power windows, power locks, keyless entry, automatic headlights, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, 4G LTE wi-fi hot spot, and a smart-charging USB port.
Move up the line and you add things unheard of when the last of the old Rangers rolled off the line: adaptive cruise control, 10-speaker B&O audio system, leather seats, navigation, blind spot information, 110-volt outlet, forward and reverse sensing, LED headlights, and a package that takes the strain out of towing a trailer.
Then I drove the new Ranger — the difference is astounding. This is a smooth, quiet and refined set of wheels. The noise level, ride quality, handling, and performance are of a new dimension for a truck wearing the Ranger name.
The 2019 Ford Ranger is available in three trim levels, XL, XLT and Lariat.
The XL comes in SuperCab form with a six-foot box and small, rear-hinged doors at $30,969.
The XLT comes in SuperCab at $35,539, or SuperCrew at $37,339, with a five-foot box, conventional rear doors and much more rear-seat space.
The line-topping Lariat is available only as a SuperCrew at $42,289. Delivery adds $1,800 to those prices.
As high as those prices seem at first glance, the new Ranger is less expensive here than in the U.S., and cheaper than similarly-equipped competitors
The Americans have access to a lesser trim level, with two-wheel drive. All Canadian Rangers have an electronically-controlled, four-wheel-drive system with low range.
Ford went to great lengths here to show off the $1,400 FX4 Off-Road Package available on all models. It includes unique shock absorbers, wheels and tires, heavy-duty front skid plate, and a Terrain Management system with five drive modes: normal, grass, gravel and snow; mud and ruts and sand. The FX4 package also brings Ford’s Trail Control technology. Think of it as off-road cruise control. It controls power and braking for each individual wheel through Dana Trac-Lok differentials and an electronic-locking rear differential.
The Ranger name may have resurfaced, but the truck it is attached to is a whole new vehicle.
- Model: 2019 Ford Ranger
- Engine: Turbocharged, 2.3-litre, four-cylinder, 270 horsepower, 310 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic
- NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 11.8 / 9.8 (4x4)
- Length: 5,354 mm
- Width: 2,179 mm
- Wheelbase: 3,221 mm
- Weight: 1,629-1,790 kg
- Price: $30,969 base XL SuperCab 4X4; $42,289 Lariat SuperCrew 4X4, plus freight