The Long-Overdue Return of the Ford Ranger

Ford brings back midsized offroad performer—so what can we expect?

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.


Showing 14 comments
  • Ian

    So the Nissan Frontier doesn’t count? Same class and it’s always been around in one form or another.

    • Justin Housman

      Ha, it’s been around for so long it slipped the mind. I was mostly thinking of newly released or majorly refreshed trucks. Noted and thanks!

  • Mike

    GMC Canyon/Chevy Colorado are same class as Tacoma, Ranger i.e. 1/4 ton.

    GMC Sierra/Chevy Silverado are 1/2 ton i.e. full-size trucks – same class as F150, Tundra, RAM 1500 etc.

  • Bryan

    Nissan is junk.

  • Ian #2

    GMC Canyon not Sierra 🙂

  • doug moore

    “Ever looked at what used Tacomas go for, even with 150,000 miles? ”

    Exactly why I ended up going with a 3rd generation (2002) 4Runner with 80k miles. Welcome back Ranger.

  • J_son

    Honda Ridgeline FTW! Who cares about off road prowess?! No truck beats a motorcycle off the pavement.

    In all seriousness, small trucks meet the needs for 95% of truck owners. Unless you need your truck for self-esteem issues, of course. The obsession with huge gas guzzling behemoths to go grocery shopping blows my mind!

  • JD

    I hate the way truck models have gone. I keep my 98 Tacoma because there is nothing coming down the pike i the way of small trucks. Toyota sold out, in my opinion, with their Tacoma on steroids and the Tundra even worse. I wish we could go back to SMALL trucks with a decent sized bed and manual door and window locks/openers. Malfunctioning window motor costs $300+ to replace, and that’s just ONE window.

    • Justin Housman

      Couldn’t agree more. I miss the ’93 Toyota Pickup I had for many years every single day. Small, easy to park, that 22RE would run forever. Plus it had a much longer bed than 4-door trucks do today. Having said that, I love my ’12 Tacoma dearly. I just wish I a truly compact truck was still an option.

      • Dave Murray

        I also miss the small trucks, where you could easily load the truck from the side, or reach over the side and get something out of the back without any trouble. But now days, forget about it !
        I hate those big humongous trucks they’re worthless, and what they’re coming out with in my opinion it’s still too big.

  • Matt

    Echo that about small simple pick up trucks. I treasure my 2004 base model Tacoma! I fear that when it stops running at 300000 miles or so, there will be nothing like it to replace it.

  • Ted

    My Dad had one of the old 4wd Rangers. It was one of the worst 4wd’s I ever have driven. It had a 5 speed standard, but low gear was so high you had to slip the clutch to get it moving with a load. It was underpowered and got bad gas mileage. It couldn’t get out of its own way on snow and ice, nor would it steer decently. I certainly hope they have improved this new version, though I doubt they could make a worse truck.

  • Rick

    Ford ranger @ 180,000km…. worst truck I ever own; repeatedly broke down, extremely unreliable and poorly engineered. Toyota tacoma @ 310,000km… best truck I ever owned; it has never let me down so reliability is to notch and very well designed so the home mechanic can work on without problems. You’ll need to buy 2 Ford Rangers in order to exceed the life of one Tacoma!!!

  • Jim Pope

    I don’t know about you guys, but I have really enjoyed my 1991 Nissan SE V6, I have put a little over 380,000 miles on it. I have had a few other vehicles since I got my Nissan, the last one was a Ford Ranger I got to run back and forth to a job I had 230 miles away. I really enjoyed it also, my Grandson is enjoying it now. I am still enjoying my Nissan.

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