Ford's Ranger pickup returns into a hot mid-size truck segment

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Soon, you'll be seeing an all new pickup truck from Ford, with a name that isn't new.

Soon, you'll be seeing an all new pickup truck from Ford, with a name that isn't new.

Yes, the Ranger is back as a mid-size truck, replacing the smaller one that went away in 2012. With a seven-year gap in between, the question was frequently asked: Why did Ford discontinue it in the first place?

"Customers were leaving that compact truck segment and going to other vehicles. What you're seeing now is a lot of growth in this mid-size truck segment which the Ranger targets, 80 percent growth since 2014. So a lot of buyers moving into this segment, and it was a good time for us to bring this truck in," said Brian Bell, Ford Motor Company marketing manager for pickup trucks.

General Motors brought out new mid-size Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks several years ago, and even GM itself was caught off guard a bit by how popular the trucks became.

Ford is now looking to capitalize on some of that popularity, not only for the General Motors duo but the Toyota Tacoma as well.

The new 2019 Ranger is a thoroughly modern truck with a modern interior, available in extended cab or crew cab configurations. Prices start at about $25,000 for a 2WD Super Cab in XL trim and can climb to around $42,000 for a 4WD Super Crew in Lariat trim with the FX4 off-road package.

Both standard and optional electronic safety and convenience features are part of the new design. And the Ranger is modern under the hood too. The standard engine is a 2.3 liter turbocharged EcoBoost four cylinder making lots of power (270 hp) and torque (310 lb-ft), and it's coupled to a 10-speed automatic transmission. That's the only combination available. There is no choice of a manual transmission.

Rumors of the Ranger's return began to circulate some years ago, but many truck enthusiasts were concerned that Ford would bring it back as a light-duty truck on a car-type platform. That's definitely not the case as the new truck has a full truck frame, just like on the bigger F-series trucks.

"When people buy a truck, they want to make sure that it has the capability to do those things that they want a truck to do," Bell said.

This new mid-size truck is definitely capable. During a media driving program in a rural part of eastern San Diego County, I got to do some serious off-roading in a four-wheel drive Ranger.

Locking differentials and electronic aids can make a novice off-roader good, and a good off-roader even better. There's even a system called Trail Control. It's like low-speed cruise control for tackling ruts, rocks, and grades, automatically.

Imagine being able to set a low speed (for example, 5 mph), and have the truck crawl its way up and down all kinds of challenging terrain. The driver only has to use the steering wheel as all throttle and brake controls are handled by the Trail Control system.

And if towing is your thing, the Ranger's rated at an impressive 7,500 pounds. There's even an available trailer brake controller, just like larger trucks offer.

So compared to its predecessor, the new Ranger is no longer small. But it's not big either, compared to full-size trucks like Ford's own F-150. It's small enough for many people and also big enough for many. A new just-right size, Ford said.
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