2019 Ford Ranger First Drive Review

by Lawana Perkins | Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

For years, we didn’t have hope that the Ford Ranger would return. The spread between smaller trucks and their more profitable full-size stablemates wasn’t big enough. Then, a shift happened – so slowly at first you didn’t notice it happening. There are compact trucks everywhere.

2019 Ford Ranger

Of course, the Ranger never really went away. It lived on elsewhere, sometimes based on a Mazda platform and rebadged as a Ford, and sometimes the other way around. This version dates back to 2011, developed by Ford of Australia. While it was undoubtedly rugged, tastes abroad are for softer-looking, less macho trucks – it wouldn’t have worked here.

After all, here the hard-edged, decidedly macho F-150 is the best-selling vehicle, and has been for 37 years. Transaction prices are skyrocketing thanks to the rise of the luxury-oriented and plush heavy-duty end of the market. Buyers seemingly can’t spend enough on fancy trucks. The 2019 Ranger is here to soak up some sales in the space the F-150 is vacating.

Plus, buyers are used to four-cylinder engines in smaller trucks – just not as a V6 replacement. Ford already faced a similar perception issue in the Mustang, which has begrudgingly earned its place in our hearts as a suitable pony car engine. In the Ranger, it needs to feel powerful, move the truck around swiftly, and not drink too much gas – check, check, and check.

And yet, when faced with 10 gears to choose from and the truck’s not-inconsiderable mass (4,145 -4,441 lbs), matting it doesn’t cause discombobulation. A little pause and then a downshift or three, and things progress smoothly. There’s little confusion and even less hunting. There are fleeting hints that Ford may have a little calibration work left to refine what is still a very new transmission. Creeping along from a stop, there’s a little judder here and there. Overall, it feels like it belongs in a truck – no small feat for a little engine.

But the market tells us that, right now, buyers don’t want rock-bottom trucks. And that’s why Ford is smart to re-introduce the Ranger as a mid-tier truck right out of the box, with a powertrain that’s powerful, efficient, and slightly novel – all housed in a body that’s crisper inside and out than its arch-competitors, the Tacoma and Colorado. Its aggressive entry price, dimensions, and fuel economy help put enough distance between it and the F-150 that few buyers are going to feel torn.


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