2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

Once declared dead, the midsize pickup truck segment has been reinvigorated over the past few years by new or updated entries from General Motors, Honda, and Toyota. But Ford has been noticeably absent, having axed its Ranger in 2011. But now, finally, the Ranger is back.

The 2019 Ford Ranger debuted at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show roughly a year after Ford announced the truck’s return to the United States. Ford has actually sold Ranger models internationally since 2011, but insists the new model unveiled in Detroit was heavily re-engineered for the North American market.

On the outside, the Ranger is fairly generic looking. Flared round wheel arches and a grille that vaguely resembles the larger F-150’s are the only real hints at character. Like rival Chevrolet, Ford opted not to just make its midsize truck a mini version of its full-size model. The 2019 Ranger will be offered in SuperCab or SuperCrew configurations, with rear half doors and four full-size doors, respectively.

The Ranger will be offered with a 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, producing 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The EcoBoost engine will be coupled to the same 10-speed automatic transmission used in the F-150, with standard rear-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive. Given that most competitors offer multiple powertrain options, it’s possible that Ford will add other engines to lineup at a future date.

Horsepower is less than V6 versions of the Toyota Tacoma (278 hp) and Chevrolet Colorado (308 hp), but Ford offers far more torque than either truck. The Toyota can only muster 265 lb-ft, while the Chevy makes 275. However, Chevy also offers a four-cylinder diesel producing 369 lb-ft (the same figures apply to the Colorad’s GMC Canyon twin). The aging Nissan Frontier’s V6 produces 261 hp and 281 lb-ft.

Ford claims the Ranger will have a payload of 1,860 pounds, and a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds, when properly equipped. Both figures put the Ranger ahead of most other midsize trucks, although the Chevy Colorado diesel can tow up to 7,700 pounds.

The main reason for offering a turbo four-cylinder engine instead of a V6 is fuel economy. Ford claims the Ranger will get 23 mpg combined (21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway) with rear-wheel drive, and 22 mpg combined (20 mpg city, 24 mpg highway) with four-wheel drive. Those figures put the Ranger ahead of gasoline-powered competitors, albeit by a small margin in some cases.  However, the Chevy Colorado diesel remains the fuel-economy champ at 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway) with rear-wheel drive, and 23 mpg combined (20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway) with four-wheel drive.

At launch, the Ranger will get an optional FX4 Off-Road Package, including a Terrain Management System derived from the one in the F-150 Raptor. Like similar systems offered by numerous other manufacturers, Ford’s automatically tailors different vehicle settings for different types of terrain. The FX4 package also includes Trail Control, which acts like off-road cruise control by handling acceleration and braking on rough terrain. There’s no word yet on whether the U.S. will get the Ranger Raptor performance model already revealed for international markets.

Like larger Ford trucks, the Ranger will be offered with an array of driver-assist features. The list includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring (which works even with a trailer attached), and adaptive cruise control. Tech features include available Amazon Alexa connectivity, a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The 2019 Ford Ranger will start production at the end of this year. The truck will be built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, alongside a new version of the Bronco SUV. Ford dealers are currently taking orders for the Ranger, with pricing starting at $25,395.

Updated on December 11, 2018: Added fuel-economy estimates.

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