Ford's mid-size pickup rolls through Dearborn.
by Andrew Wendler, February 2017
What It Is: A 2019 Ford Ranger test mule spied in action near Ford’s Dearborn headquarters. Despite wearing a black-and-white coating of wavy dots, the sheetmetal is very similar to that of the Ranger currently sold overseas. This is far from shocking, as we’ve long expected that when the Ranger returned to the United States it would be closely related to that vehicle. Yes, there is a small chance that the truck pictured here could just be using the global Ranger’s body for testing and evaluating foreign-market powertrains, but some visual cues point to American aspirations: The test mule’s twin-bar grille looks to be a downsized version of the unit found on the refreshed-for-2018 Ford F-150, and the same can be said of the taillights—indications that the finished product we’ll soon get won’t stray far from the truck seen here.
Why It Matters: After years of rumor and speculation, Ford confirmed in January that the long-departed Ranger pickup would stage a comeback in the U.S. market. Discontinued in 2011 after nearly 30 years of service, the Ranger left a vacuum in Ford’s lineup. Ford thought that without a small or mid-size truck, buyers would just move up to an entry-level version of its full-size F-150. Satisfied with its chart-topping F-150 sales and figuring that the mid-size-truck segment was nearly dead, Ford seemed content to let Toyota, Nissan, and the aging General Motors mid-sizers fight over whatever shrinking market was left. But then GM faked right and introduced all-new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks for 2015, and the two largish and not-that-inexpensive mid-sizers sold far better than nearly anyone anticipated. When even Honda brought back its Ridgeline, it became obvious Ford needed to get back in the game.
More than just incremental sales generators, smaller trucks are loved by suburban weekend warriors who value a vehicle capable of performing duties including camping, kayaking, antiquing, gardening, and the occasional drywall project without the driveway-hogging footprint of a full-size truck. With the return of the Ranger, Ford once again will have a truck for those buyers, as well as for those moving up from cars and down from full-size trucks, before they defect to another brand.
Platform: The domestic Ranger will be related to the overseas Ranger, which was developed by Ford of Australia and is sold in numerous markets around the world. Currently scheduled to be built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, the new Ranger will feature mild revisions to the global model’s body-on-frame platform to optimize it for domestic duty.
Powertrain: We expect Ford to launch the Ranger with a turbocharged EcoBoost 2.3-liter inline-four as the standard powerplant and to utilize its EcoBoost 2.7-liter or 3.5-liter V-6 engines for premium or sport models. Ford also could call on its naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V-6 for lower-priced models, and diesel power could come in the form of either the 3.2-liter inline-five currently used in the Transit van or the 3.0-liter diesel V-6 that’s headed for the 2018 F-150, both of which are badged Power Stroke. At this point it’s not clear how or when Ford’s new 10-speed automatic might fit into the equation, but it’s a good bet that the automaker will want to use it eventually in as many models with longitudinal engine orientations as it can. Rear-, four-, and possibly even all-wheel-drive versions will be offered.
Competition: Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma.
Estimated Arrival and Price: The 2019 Ford Ranger is set to debut sometime in 2018, and the new 2020 Bronco based on the Ranger will appear a year later on the same chassis. For the Ranger to remain a viable proposition versus competitors and alongside Ford’s full-size trucks, base pricing will need to be around the $25,000 mark. That said, don’t be surprised to see heavily optioned or possible off-road-focused variants approach and even exceed $40,000.
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