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Powertrain, ride quality propel 2019 Ford Ranger


The 2019 Ford Ranger is powered by a 270-horsepower, 2.3-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine.
The 2019 Ford Ranger is powered by a 270-horsepower, 2.3-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. - Justin Pritchard

Ford’s resurrected Ranger nameplate launched a modern-day version of a past pickup sales superstar that has a lot of good stuff going on.

The new-for-2019 Ranger gives shoppers a pickup choice that’s smaller, easier on fuel, and more manoeuvrable than a bigger truck, though this latest Ranger shares plenty with its big brother, the F-150.

The two machines both utilize a new 10-speed automatic transmission, a very similar suite of technologies and support systems, and they’re even torture-tested alongside one another.

If the F-150 is too big, pricey, or difficult to park in the places you go, Ranger might just be the ticket. Small is in, and so is downsizing: once upon a time, if you needed a little truck to haul a little boat trailer, you bought a great big truck. Today, smaller truck options like this one allow drivers to more appropriately match capability, fuel mileage and size against their specific needs.

Shoppers can consider the new Ranger alongside machines like the Nissan Frontier, GM Colorado / Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, and Toyota Tacoma. Properly equipped, Ranger can tow 7,500 pounds and tackle some serious off-road conditions, though around town it’s scarcely more difficult to manoeuvrer and drive than a big sedan.

Like all vehicles, Ranger has some strengths and weaknesses worth understanding as part of your decision-making process. We’ll highlight those below.

First? The powertrain, which might be Ranger’s most valuable asset. All models run a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine that boasts 270 horsepower and a potent 310 pound-feet of torque. As the only turbocharged truck in this segment, that generous torque output comes online from very low revs, to the benefit of quiet throttle response, a more effortless feel, and little need to get the engine revving much beyond about 2,500 RPM in most driving.

Drivers can expect big things to happen with minimal throttle input, and more-than-adequate passing and merging power. Put another way, Ranger’s engine is gushing a torrent of torque from the sort of revs where non-turbocharged competitor V6 engines are still rolling out of bed.

The 10-speed automatic enhances mileage and efficiency, enabling low cruising revs and faster acceleration. Other than the odd clumsy or jarring shift, this gearbox typically operates with invisibility, and helps add to the overall refinement. Test-drivers shopping the market will likely find Ranger’s to be the snappiest, quietest, and most refined powertrain in the game,

Ride quality is also notable.

Even with the beefed-up FX4 off-road suspension on my tester, ride quality remained nicely in check for much of our time together. On the highway, it’s relatively smooth sailing, and on rougher in-town roads, it typically feels like the potholes, not the truck, are getting the lousy end of the deal. Ranger rides unmistakably like a pickup — it’s got the tough and durable jiggle to the ride that many shoppers like, but on smooth roads, it mostly rides like a big car. It feels tough and comfortable when needed, without losing much in between. Accordingly, pickup fans will likely find Ranger to ride just how they like on any surface, though you might want to skip the off-road package if you find the FX4 shocks feel too stiff.

On several occasions, reviewing video footage revealed that I got ‘air’ in the Ranger over a sequence of moguls, which saw the front tires leave the trail for a moment. To your writer, this was undetectable from in the vehicle. The included Fox Shocks were largely to thank here and reinforce the point that Ranger has been nicely tuned to feel capable, comfortable and confidence-inspiring, in the majority of conditions.

Downsides? Pickup shoppers after a knock-out interior may wish to look elsewhere, since Ranger’s cabin uses plenty of parts, switches, interfaces and controls from past models. If you’re coming to the Ranger from, say, a five-year-old Ford Focus, you’ll see plenty of similarity. On looks, this brand-new truck has a cabin that’s already looking a little dated.

Another gripe is the rear seating. My tester’s rear seats were all or nothing: they flip up and down in their entirety, meaning you have extra cargo space, or full rear seating, but nothing in between. With the seats flipped up, the floor beneath is lumpy, due to molded-in bins. This is great for organization, but not ideal for those with larger family canines who typically ride on the rear seat floor.

Elsewhere on board, there’s some redemption. The central command system is slick, powerful, logical and intuitive. Even first-time users of such a system won’t likely spend more than 20 minutes before operation becomes second nature.

Feature content also abounds — my tester offered up blind spot mirrors, radar cruise, automatic climate control, partial power seats, automatic lights, and more. It’s mostly modern on the feature content front, though some shoppers will long for keyless locks and ignition. My tester came with a good-old-fashioned remote and mechanical key, instead.

The cabin is (just) roomy enough for four adults and entry and exit are relatively simple for the fit among us. It’s more of a hop than a jump to board and exit, though something like the Honda Ridgeline may make more sense for those after easier entry and exit and more interior space for people and gear.

All said, here’s a truck with generally-excellent manners, the punchiest powertrain on the scene, and sizing that makes use feasible, and easy, for those of us who want to tackle city driving, daily commutes, regular towing and hauling, off-roading, and more.

The specs

  • Model: 2019 Ford Ranger FX4
  • Engine: 2.3L four-cylinder turbocharged, 270 horsepower
  • Drivetrain: 4x4
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic
  • Features: Trail management, navigation, heated seats, Ford Sync system, Bluetooth, radar cruise, blind-spot monitoring, backup camera, automatic climate control
  • What’s hot: Strong performance, good ride quality, off-road ready, decent fuel economy, manoeuvrable, easy to drive
  • What’s not: may be too small for some drivers, dated cabin, limited cargo-carrying flexibility on board
  • Starting price: $31,000 (approx.)

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