Ford's Ranger still shines in the midsize truck market
When Ford brought the Ranger back to the American market in 2019, the midsize truck was exactly what the market needed. Powered by a modern turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a smart 10-speed transmission, the Ranger bridged the gap between towing and hauling capacity, driving performance, and fuel economy.
Coming back to the Ranger in its third year of production, this is still a compelling truck. The 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine provides 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, which is squarely in V6 territory. Then the 10-speed automatic allows the Ranger to make the best use of its power whether you're driving empty, hauling weight in the bed, or towing. For the record, the payload capacity in a Ranger is 1,430 to 1,860 pounds, depending on the model you buy. Any Ranger will tow up to 7,500 pounds, which is enough for most boats and camp trailers, or a flatbed with some ATVs or a side-by-side.
Ford also provides a comfortable interior in every trim. The test vehicle was the base XL trim with a Supercrew four-door cab. The seats were upholstered in a durable black cloth that will be good year-round in the Pacific Northwest. The base XL trim comes with a traditional AM/FM radio, with Bluetooth streaming and phone support. However, you can upgrade to a small touchscreen with SYNC or a larger screen with SYNC3. The cheapest way to do that is to buy the STX Special Edition package for $995. The Ranger still comes with basic AC and single zone climate control, a pair of USB ports on the dash, and all the audio and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel.
One nice thing about XL trim is that the Ranger comes with vinyl mats instead of carpet. If you enjoy an active Northwest outdoor lifestyle, this is the floor you want in your truck. Hosing off a vinyl mat is much easier than getting mud or sand out of carpet.
On the road, the Ranger is a joy to drive. Full-size trucks have become ever-larger and honestly a bit sluggish and heavy. In contrast, the Ranger is nimble and easy to manage in traffic or in a crowded parking lot. The 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine with the 10-speed transmission provides plenty of power for daily driving, while returning an EPA-estimated 24 MPG on the highway. For the record, every time I've driven the Ranger, I have easily beaten the EPA fuel economy rating without even trying. In regular combination driving for a week, I see about 27-28 MPG.
When towing at about 2/3 of the max capacity (5,000 pounds) the Ranger uses its gears to deliver solid performance, and the extra weight does not push or pull the comparatively light Ranger around on the road. The Ranger tows with the confidence of a larger truck.
The bottom line on the Ford Ranger is that it's a great choice for anyone whose pickup truck is also their daily driver. Ford has seen the market potential for small trucks and followed up the Ranger with the compact light-duty Maverick, and that's smart. As the full-size trucks outgrow daily usability, a good midsize offering is a welcome alternative.
2021 Ford Ranger XL Supercrew 4X4
Base price: $31,075
Price as tested: $37,205
Type: Midsize pickup
Engine: 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder (270 hp, 310 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 20/24
Overall length: 210.8 inches
Curb weight: 4,441 pounds
Final assembly: Wayne, Michigan
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