The Car Connection Ford Ranger Overview
The Ford Ranger is a mid-size pickup that made its debut in 2019, although the name applied to compact pickups until 2011.
Now fully a mid-sizer, the Ranger competes against the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier.
For 2021, Ford added a off-road-ready Ranger Tremor that sports beefy shocks, a raised ride height, and chunky 32-inch tires.
MORE: Read our 2021 Ford Ranger review
The new Ford Ranger
Returning to North America after nearly a decade away, the 2019 Ford Ranger is larger than its predecessor but still significantly smaller than the Ford F-150.
The new Ranger's roots are global and it shows in its looks. Its body is upright and utilitarian—like a pickup should be—but its windshield has a steeper rake and its nose skips the "power bar" affixed to larger Ford F-Series pickups. The Ranger's interior wouldn't be out of place in any Ford vehicle with a familiar layout of buttons for climate controls and a large touchscreen for infotainment. A 4.2-inch radio display is standard, while an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability is optional.
The Ranger is offered in extended and four-door cab configurations with a 5-foot bed on SuperCab models and a 6-foot bed on SuperCrew models. A 270-horsepower 2.3-liter turbo-4 and 10-speed automatic provides power in the new Ranger. Rear-wheel drive is standard on all trucks, and four-wheel drive is optional. Off-road versions offer a specially tuned suspension. A locking rear differential is optional on all trim levels.
The truck is available in XL, XLT, and Lariat trim levels. An FX4 off-road package is available to beef up the Ranger's trail resume.
For 2020, Ford added an FX2 package to rear-wheel drive Ranger pickups that includes a rear differentials borrowed from the FX4 off-roader. For 2021, Ford added a Tremor off-road package with a beefier suspension, but no more power.
Ford Ranger history
The Ranger dates back a long way in the Ford archives. The Ranger was split off in 1983 and applied to a new compact truck with a 6-foot-and-smaller pickup bed. That first-generation Ranger lived off its inexpensive, reliable reputation through a model changeover in 1989, until a new Ranger was introduced in 1993.
The third generation Ranger, sold from 1993-1997, offered a relatively weak 4-cylinder engine option, supplanted by either a 3.0-liter V-6 or a 4.0-liter V-6 later in its life. A 5-speed manual came on base versions—sometimes called "bug trucks," since exterminators loved the stripped Ranger painted in white—and a 4-speed automatic was an option. A 5-speed automatic was added later in this generation, as were dual front airbags and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. This Ranger also offered a stylish Splash edition, with a sculpted set of fenders on its bed, and four-wheel drive.
A Mazda B-Series spinoff was sold from 1993 to 2009, and was essentially the same truck as the Ranger, with mainly cosmetic and packaging differences. It was canceled for the 2010 model year.
Ford put much energy into the early years of the fourth-generation Ranger. Introduced in 1998, the Ranger added some wheelbase length, saw its 4-cylinder and larger 6-cylinder engines upgraded to overhead-cam designs, and added flex-fuel capability to the middle-brow, overhead-valve 3.0-liter V-6. This Ranger was typically well-received and earned a reputation for reliability over its lifespan. It also improved on its reputation for a hard ride, thanks to a new independent front suspension. Though it remained, for all passenger purposes, a two-door, the Ranger was spun into popular off-road and city-commuter versions that extended its lifespan much longer than anyone—even Ford—anticipated.
Ford ended production of the Ranger with the 2011 model year. A replacement for other world markets was sold after 2011 and the Ranger didn't return to the U.S. until 2019.