In the U.S., the Chevy Colorado and Toyota Tacoma rule the roost, with the the aging Nissan Frontier playing a much smaller role. Globally, the situation looks a little different. The Ranger nameplate not only survived but thrived, comparing favorably to stalwarts like the Toyota Hilux. The current T6 generation Ranger has been on sale since 2011 in 180 markets around the globe. It’s a completely separate and far more modern truck than the one previously sold in the U.S.
Ford eliminated the Ranger compact truck from its U.S. lineup in 2011 because, it said, customers weren’t interested enough in small trucks to sustain the business.
Since then, Toyota has done fine with its smaller Tacoma truck. General Motors had a major hit when it brought back the Chevrolet Colorado mid-sized truck in 2015.
Meanwhile, Ford continued selling a pickup called the Ranger in markets outside the United States.
A revised version of that truck, the one sold overseas, is now coming back to the United States as the 2019 Ford Ranger. It’s larger than the old Ranger pickup. It has a few cosmetic changes for the North American market, including changes in the grill and hood-line.
For the U.S. market, designers wanted to give the Ranger more of a “Ford Tough” look, explained Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s executive vice president for Global Operations. That’s an attitude American customers expect from a truck, he said. Plus Ford wanted it to bear some resemblance to the larger F-150 pickup.
The global Ranger is indeed what you see here, but there are a number of changes to tailor it for an American audience. Rather than a four- or five-cylinder diesel, under the hood you’ll find a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged inline-four. This is a variant of the same engine that’s in the Ford Focus RS and the Ford Mustang EcoBoost, though Ford didn’t go into details on what separates the engines. It features direct-injection, 16 valves, a twin-scroll turbocharger, forged-steel crank and connecting rods, and chain-driven cams.
Power hasn’t been announced, but Ford is targeting class-leading torque for gasoline engines. For reference, the Colorado has 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque while the Tacoma makes 278 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The Ranger beats both of those in gear count, too, as the 2.3-liter engine is mated solely to a 10-speed automatic. This transmission was co-developed with GM and is found in everything from the Chevy Camaro ZL1 to the Ford F-150 Raptor to the refreshed 2018 Mustang. Don’t rule out a five-cylinder diesel sometime down the line.
Other changes for America include revised front and rear styling. The grille and lower bumper are different than the global model. Ford touts that the Ranger is the only vehicle in the class with a steel bumper. The tailgate has the Ranger logo embossed in a large font along the bottom, similar to that of the revised F-150. There is also new trim on the wheel arches, giving the Ranger a buff, muscular look. Still, it’s mostly the same styling that the rest of the world has known for years.
Ford will build Rangers with two cabs and 5- or 6-foot boxes. The interior features and trim incline toward durability, not luxury.
Running gear will include shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, a locking electronic differential and Dana axles.
The Ranger was the bestselling small pickup in the U.S. in 2011. But Ford pulled it from the market because gas prices were high and it saw demand dwindling. Now, Ford says there’s rising demand for a smaller, more manoeuvrable and more affordable truck than its massive F-150.
The North American Ranger shares underpinnings with the global version, which Ford has continued to sell abroad. But its frame is reinforced with steel to meet U.S. safety standards and it has steel bumpers.
Ford isn’t yet revealing price, fuel economy or other details.