Ford made a huge blunder discontinuing the Ranger in 2011, but the new model may prove worth the wait.
It’s been over five years since the Ford Ranger midsize pickup was last sold new in America, and it will be six before the new Ranger goes on sale late this year. In that time, a few notable things happened in the U.S. automotive market. Tesla’s first Model S was sold six months after the last Ranger. It has gone on to dominate the large performance luxury sedan segment. Electric vehicles and autonomous driving systems have blossomed, and there was one other thing… Oh yeah, trucks the size of the missing Ranger exploded into one of the hottest segments in all of the auto kingdom. Toyota, Nissan, and GM have been selling these smaller than full-size trucks hand over fist and dealers can’t keep them on the lots. Even Honda’s (outstanding) Ridgeline is meeting expectations. It is not an exaggeration to say that Ford missed out on millions of truck sales in this half-decade.
Faithful Ranger fans now have much to brag about in such clubs. The new Ford Ranger will debut with a unique engine offering that seems to marry the best features of gasoline engines with the capabilities of a diesel. The 2.3-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine Ford has been using in cars such as the Mustang will be the only engine at launch. This engine can produce more power, about 310 hp, than the strongest engine from the top-selling Toyota Tacoma and Chevy Colorado. But power is secondary in trucks. Torque is the real bar, and the 2.3 Ecoboost will come very close to matching the class-leading torque of the 2.8-liter Duramax diesel offered by GM in the Colorado and Canyon. Those trucks produce 369 lb-ft of torque now, and the sport-tuned 2.3 EcoBoost makes 350 lb-ft in the Mustang, We suspect Ford will find a way to boost torque for the Ranger and lower the RPM at which it peaks. This is a genius move by Ford. Their truck will be quicker than the competition in a sprint and may also tow just as much as the best diesel on the market while using cleaner, less expensive fuel.
Ford has announced the new 10-speed automatic will be the only transmission offered, No manual is planned at this time, but it will be hard for Toyota and GM fans to talk smack about this new tranny. The Tacoma’s automatic and manual transmissions are giving owners fits, requiring TSBs to correct bad behavior, and Ford’s new 10-speed was co-developed with GM. Thai-Tang, Ford executive vice president, Product Development and Purchasing said of the new Ranger’s drivetrain, “Ranger’s proven 2.3-liter EcoBoost provides a torque target on par with competing V6 engines, but with the efficiency of a four-cylinder. When you pair that with its 10-speed transmission, you’ve got one of the most versatile, powerful and efficient powertrains in the segment.”
Unlike the newest Ford F-150, Ford isn’t highlighting the use of aluminum in the new Ranger. In its detailed press release overviewing the new Ranger, Ford mentions steel five times, but unless we missed it, never mentioned aluminum at all. Every new vehicle uses aluminum in panels like the hood and doors now, so the novelty has worn off and high-strength steel is proving itself to be the go-to material in critical areas like passenger cages and frames.
Ford is highlighting its technology content in the new Ranger. The Ranger will have modern driver assist systems like standard automatic emergency braking and rear cross traffic alert. The Ranger’s infotainment system will also feature 4G LTE connectivity, Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, and Alexa integration.
Like every automaker these days, Ford is making sure to mention that its new Ranger will be built in its U.S. Michigan Assembly Plant. Production begins in late 2018.