When we last encountered the Ford Ranger, circa. 2011, the small truck market was in flux. Ford promptly shelved the aging Ranger for seven years to concentrate on full-size truck sales.
Now, like the second-cousin you haven't seen since Memaw passed away, the Ranger is suddenly back — sporting a svelte new body, modern safety features and a work ethic that lets you pull up to 7,500 pounds.
No wimpy truck here.
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The Ranger will have to wedge its way back into a segment dominated by the Toyota Tacoma, a mid-size truck with a near cult following among young males. There is also formidable competition from the GM twins the Chevy Colorado and the GMC Canyon. Domestic sales of mid-size trucks is over 500,000 a year, but the new Ranger promises to not only grab market share, but also to help grow the segment.
After a test drive in a 2019 Ford Ranger XLT Supercrew, courtesy of Mountain View Ford, we can attest to the fact that the Ranger is up to the challenge. The new Ranger will be a welcome option for drivers who don't want to wrestle a full-size truck like the Ford F-150 or Chevy Silverado. The Ford Ranger is easily more "parkable" than the big boys.
› Model: 2019 Ford Ranger XLT Supercrew
› Exterior color: Oxford White
› Interior color: Ebony
› Engine: 2.3-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged
› Horsepower: 270
› Transmission: 10-speed automatic
› Fuel economy: 24 mpg highway, 20 mpg city
› Local Dealer: Mountain View Ford, 301 E. 20th Street
› Price (as tested): $42,620
Doug Cawood, new car manager at Mountain View Ford, says interest in Ford's new mid-size truck has been encouraging, especially among former Ranger owners who are eager to get a peek at Ranger 2.0.
What they'll encounter is a modern, clean design and a universal 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The competition may cling to V-6 engines, but the four-cylinder Ford Ecoboost punches above its weight class. And with gas prices creeping up, our test Ranger's 24 mpg highway rating is a blessing. The 270-horsepower engine vaults the Ranger from zero-to-60 mph in under seven seconds.
WHAT IS IT?
The 2019 Ford Ranger is a reboot of the blue oval brand's small truck line. Our Supercrew XLT tester seats five, with buckets in the front and a bench in the back. The Supercrew four-door is paired with a five-foot bed, which is sufficient for small jobs.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
The most basic 2019 Ford Ranger, in XL trim, starts at $25,395. Our upgraded XLT Supercrew has a retail MSRP of $42,620, which is admittedly in F-150 territory. Still, we believe there is a healthy market for a premium mid-size truck that presents and performs like the Ranger. Our tester includes more than $7,000 in options, including at $1,295 FX4 off-road package that features four-wheel-drive and multi-terrain driving modes.
WHAT WE LIKED?
One of our favorite features of our test truck is its forward visibility. On a test drive into Marion County tracing the Tennessee River Gorge, the Ranger offered excellent sight lines to take in Mother Nature's vistas. Actually, we found the compact design comforting — driving the Ranger you feel like you could lean over and touch the passenger door. Gauges are clear and the Ranger can channel a 4G WiFi hotspot. Also on our like list are: clear gauges, a handy dash storage tray, black running boards, a macho-looking gray grille, and near-perfect exterior proportions.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
At over $42,000 our tester has no push-button start. Hmm. Pulling through a McDonald's parking lot the truck jostled over uneven pavement, but out on the highway its ride is pure.
If you are dubious about a truck with a four-cylinder engine, please schedule a test drive of the Ranger. The small-displacement turbo is solid muscle, like the heart of an endurance runner. With 8.9 inches of ground clearance the Ranger is never going to drive like a car, but then, you're buying a truck, right?
If you were puzzled when the Ranger disappeared eight years ago, you should be cheered by the fact that it's back, better than ever, at your neighborhood Ford store.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.