G. Chambers Williams

Ford rolls out its reborn Ranger pickup for 2019, including the trail-ready FX4

The Ranger midsize pickup has returned to the Ford truck lineup 2019 after an eight-year hiatus, taking on the recently re-introduced Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon models, among others.

This revived Ranger has a new exterior design, chassis and powertrain developed specifically for North America, and, like other newer Ford truck products, makes extensive use of aluminum in the body to reduce weight and improve fuel economy.

Available now, the Ranger comes in two cab configurations, SuperCab and SuperCrew, with three main trim levels, XL, XLT, and Lariat, with the FX off-road packages available on both versions.

Both body styles have seating for up to five people, but the SuperCrew has more rear cabin space with better legroom, and it has four doors. SuperCab models have a six-foot-long cargo box, while Super Crew versions have a five-foot box.

Prices start at $24,300 (plus $1,195 freight) for a two-wheel drive XL SuperCab model, and base prices climb up to $38,565 for the top-spec four-wheel drive Lariat SuperCrew.

Stepping up to SuperCrew for the XL costs $2,400 more, while it’s $2,175 more for both the XLT and top-level Lariat SuperCrew models compared with their SuperCab versions.

Rear-wheel drive is standard, but four-wheel drive can be added for $4,000 on the XLT and Lariat, and $4,160 on the XL.

Our test model for this report was the midlevel XLT SuperCrew with shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive (base price $34,295) and the FX4 Off-Road Package ($1,295), including an electronic-locking rear differential.

The new Ranger is powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The engine is rated at 270 horsepower and 310 foot-pounds of torque.

A twin-power dome hood accommodates the EcoBoost engine, which comes with a twin-scroll turbocharger. The engine has a forged-steel crankshaft and connecting rods, and chain-driven dual overhead cams.

EPA fuel-economy ratings are 21 mpg city/26 highway/23 combined for rear-wheel-drive models, and 20/24/22 for four-wheel drive, such as our tester.

While the Ranger body is mostly aluminum, the truck has a high-strength steel frame, and frame-mounted steel bumpers front and back.

As with most midsize pickups, Ford expects the new Ranger to be used as a personal-transportation vehicle rather than as a work truck, with weekend sporting adventures and light DIY hauling in mind.

The Ranger was designed with a muscular body with a high beltline to emphasize strength, Ford says. There also are a raked grille and windshield, adding to the Ranger’s sporty look. The design also helps improve aerodynamics and reduce wind noise.

Off-road customers are clearly in mind, as the new Ranger has short front and rear overhangs for clearing obstacles on the trail.

Available is a rugged steel bumper with an integrated trailer hitch receiver, allowing the Ranger to tow ATVs, travel trailers or boats. Maximum towing capacity is 7,500 pounds with the Trailer Tow Package ($495) included on our test model.

Inside, there is a front center dash stack that has an eight-inch touch screen, and there is an instrument cluster with dual LCD screens for vehicle, navigation and audio information.

The FX4 Off-Road Package makes the new Ranger trail ready, and includes off-road shocks, all-terrain tires, a heavy-gauge steel front bash plate, frame-mounted skid plates, FX4 badges, and a Terrain Management System similar to that of the F-150 Raptor.

Features include normal; grass, gravel and snow; mud and ruts; and sand driving modes. The system automatically adjusts throttle response, gearing and vehicle controls to match the terrain or weather conditions.

Also included in the FX4 package is Ford’s new Trail Control technology, which automatically manages acceleration and braking on rough terrain. Trailer Sway Control was included on our XLT.

Standard are Dana AdvanTEK independent solid axles on two- and four-wheel-drive models, along with an optional electronic-locking rear axle (standard on FX2 and FX4 packages) for increased traction.

Ranger four-wheel-drive versions feature low-range gearing for serious off-road conditions. There is a knob on the left side of the center console shifter that electronically engages 4WD High or 4WD Low modes, along with the normal 2WD.

We took our Ranger on some mild state and national park off-road trails, where it performed flawlessly in light dirt and sand (but we did not encounter any mud or heavy rock). Shifting into and out of 4WD was quick and easy.

Advanced safety and driver-assist technologies include standard Automatic Emergency Braking, along with Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Reverse Sensing System and a Blind Spot Information System with trailer coverage standard on XLT and Lariat trims.

Lariat models also come with Pedestrian Detection and Adaptive Cruise Control. Adaptive cruise was included on our XLT model in the Technology Package ($795), which also brought the Ford SYNC 3 entertainment and connectivity system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Alexa personal assistant functionality and navigation.

Among other available Ranger features are LED headlights and taillights, puddle lamps, cargo bed lighting, and the Smart Trailer Tow connector, which tells the driver if the trailer light connection isn’t working.

Our XLT included such standard features as automatic halogen headlights, with auto high beams; fog lights; a power tailgate lock; privacy glass; rearview camera; tilt/telescopic steering column; dual sliding sun visors with vanity mirrors; folding second-row bench seat; outside temperature display; and a locking glove box.

We had two 12-volt power outlets and two USB ports in the front of the shifter just under the dash, and there was a 110-volt power outlet as well.

Other standard features included 4-G Wi-Fi; auto stop/start for the engine, designed to save fuel in stop-and-go traffic; hill-start assist; remote keyless entry with pushbutton start; curve control; and a perimeter alarm.

Our truck came with the Equipment Group 302A ($2,800), which brought dual-zone automatic climate control, a sliding rear window with defrost, and remote start.

Additional options on our tester included very nice 18-inch machined-aluminum wheels ($895), replacing the standard 17-inch wheels; a sprayed-in bedliner ($495); tray-style floor liner ($135); and the Ford keyless-entry keypad on the driver’s door ($95), which ensures that you’ll never be locked out.

We found the front bucket seats to be generally comfortable, even on a semi-long drive. The rear seat is comfy enough for two adults, but tight for three. Rear knee room is limited, however – especially if the front seats are very far back on their tracks.

The Ranger’s ride was surprisingly cushy for a truck, and the cabin was quieter than expected, even at highway speeds. These features helped make our Ranger a decent road-trip vehicle.

There was plenty of power for our needs, even on some mountain grades, and the 10-speed transmission shifted smoothly and efficiently. We did not load our Ranger with rear passengers or cargo, however, and did not tow any trailers.

Our Ranger’s exterior color was Lightning Blue, and the cabin came with Ebony premium cloth seats. (Lariat models have leather.)

Overall, Ford has done an excellent job designing and equipping the new Ranger, bringing a quality entry to the midsize pickup category. It’s a sound competitor to the Colorado and Canyon, as well as the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.

Total sticker price of our 2019 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCab with four-wheel drive and the FX4 Off-Road Package was $42,485, including freight and options.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2019 Ford Ranger XLT FX4 CrewCab 4WD pickup

The package: Midsize, four-door, turbocharged four-cylinder, gasoline-powered, four-wheel-drive, five-passenger crew cab pickup truck.

Highlights: Ford’s Ranger pickup returns to the U.S. market for 2019 after an eight-year absence. It comes in two cab/bed configurations with rear- or four-wheel drive. The XLT CrewCab with the FX4 off-road gear is trail-ready, has decent power, and has lots of standard features.

Negatives: Pricey for a midsize pickup in this configuration.

Engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder (gasoline).

Transmission: Ten-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 270 HP./310 foot-pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Air bags: Front seat-mounted side; overhead side-curtain, both rows.

Overall length: 210.8 inches.

Curb weight: 4,441 pounds.

Towing capacity: 7,500 pounds.

Cargo capacity: 1,560 pounds; 61-inch cargo bed.

Major competitors: Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline.

Fuel capacity/type: 18 gallons/ unleaded regular gasoline.

EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city/26 highway/23 combined (2WD); 20/24/22 (4WD).

Base price: $34,295, plus $1,195 freight (XLT CrewCab 4WD).

Price as tested: $42,485, including freight and options (includes FX4 package).

On the Road rating: 8.5 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail. Actual selling price may vary.

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