If you’ve been in the market for a new midsized offroad pickup to outfit for offroad adventuring in the past few years, your options have been severely limited. There’s the Toyota Tacoma, of course, the standard bearer for going on 25 years. Then there was the re-introduced Chevy Colorado (as well as its twin, the GMC Canyon) that was released in 2014 to favorable reviews. And the long-in-the-tooth Nissan Frontier.
And that’s been pretty much it. Until now.
Ford announced last week that, finally, they will bring back the venerable Ranger after a hiatus of seven years (they stopped making the little truck back in 2011), a welcome addition to a tight truck market that could desperately use some competition and choice. Even if buyers decided to peruse the used listings in recent years, the few choices of midsized pickups available drove the prices to stratospheric levels. Ever looked at what used Tacomas go for, even with 150,000 miles? Maybe better that you don’t.
All you need to do is take a look at the Ranger’s website to know that Ford is aiming this new truck squarely at outdoor adventurers. Every promotional photo is on a trail somewhere, with somebody pulling a kayak or surfboard or fly fishing equipment or mountain bikes out of the bed.
The all-terrain chops look promising.
The FX4 offroad package boasts skid plates to toughen up the undercarriage. There’s a fancy screen to let the driver keep an eye on the pitch and roll of the truck. Different modes for different terrain help match engine revs, braking, and shifting to the varying needs dictated by snow, mud, or sand. An electronically controlled locking rear differential will keep both rear wheels turning even when one loses traction. There’s even a kind of cruise control for offroading to keep things nice and composed for a driver not entirely comfortable with wheeling. All of this is built on a rugged, fully boxed frame.
Want an offroad capable, work-from-anywhere office? The truck can act as a wifi hotspot as long as you’re in 4G LTE range. Pretty great for, oh, I don’t know, outdoor writers who want to work from camp.
The only engine available appears to be the 2.3L Ecoboost, a turbocharged four-cylinder, with start-stop technology to help ease fuel consumption. It will be a little disappointing if a diesel isn’t made available, and so far Ford hasn’t announced one, considering that Ford’s been pumping out diesel-powered Rangers in the international market for years.
Speaking of which, this truck is a slightly different look than Rangers you may have seen in places like Australia or Southeast Asia, with the style slightly tweaked for the American market. It looks a bit like a baby F-150, but it’s clearly meant for younger, possibly urban drivers who want the ruggedness of a pickup but not the real estate of a full-sized truck. For years, Ford assumed this market was too small in the U.S., but with mid-sized truck sales numbers up by 83 percent in the last four years, the brand has come around.
Ford hasn’t announced pricing yet, but Motortrend is guessing on a starting sticker of less than $25,000 for base model 2WD models, which would put it squarely in line with the Tacoma and Colorado.
While it would be so, so nice if an automaker returned to the truly compact pickup segment like the Ranger that Ford discontinued in the U.S. back in 2011, the re-designed Ranger looks like a potential offroad workhorse and a welcome shot in the arm to a market that could sorely use it.
The first models are expected to go on sale in early 2019.