IT WAS A TALE of two trucks. I pulled in to the Home Depot driving a preproduction 2019 saber orange Ford Ranger and parked next to a typical example of the previous generation, last built in 2011: gray, two-door, cargo-box clad. It was a contractor’s special—the quintessential work truck. The young Ranger towered over the elder. They bore the same name, yet seemed from two worlds.
And they are, kind of. Today’s market is different: Midsize truck buyers aren’t just cross-shopping other pickups, like Toyota’s Tacoma or the Chevy Colorado—they’re likely considering more adventurous SUVs and crossovers, as well. So, naturally, the new Ranger emphasizes livability, with tech like lane-keeping, cross-traffic alerts, and voice-activated Waze navigation. A two-door version isn’t an option, as you’ll be more likely to see one parked outside of a climbing gym than a lumberyard.
2019 FORD RANGER HORSEPOWER: 270
ZERO TO 60: 7.3 Seconds
MSRP FROM: $24,300
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That’s not to say that the Ranger isn’t built for work. It’s more than tough enough for jobs that, only a few years ago, you’d need a full-size truck to do. Part of that’s due to its powerplant. Instead of presenting a spread of engine options, Ford offers just one, which hits the sweet spot: a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine (shared with the Mustang). The turbocharged unit puts out more torque— 310 lb-ft—than competitors’ V6 engines while making better fuel economy (23 miles per gallon combined). It’ll tow an RV up to 7,500 pounds, or haul a 1,860-pound payload. That’s more decorative gravel than you want to deal with.
The revamped Ranger excels outside the domestic realm, as well. The adventurous set will want to opt in for the FX4 package ($1,295), which adds off-road shocks, burlier tires, a locking rear differential, and a terrain-management system that you dial in to whatever surface is underfoot, from grass to snow. Its Trail Control mode serves as cruise control for the wild—set it at up to 20 miles per hour and the truck takes care of the throttle and braking, and smoothly delivers power to needy wheels. Consider it cheat mode for off-roading newbies.
But back at the Home Depot, I walked up carrying an area rug, and a handful of shoppers appeared, eagerly questioning me about the new Ranger. I realized that Ford had pulled off something rare with this reboot: It made an old workhorse name newly lust-worthy.