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Test drive: 2019 Ford Ranger XLT 4X4 crew cab

Our 2019 Ford Ranger XLT 4X4 crew cab tester was powered by a 270-horsepower (310 lb.-ft. of torque), turbocharged, 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine.
Our 2019 Ford Ranger XLT 4X4 crew cab tester was powered by a 270-horsepower (310 lb.-ft. of torque), turbocharged, 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine. - Richard Russell

Pickups outsell cars, both here and south of the border. The Ford F150 has led the pack for half a century with the GM twins (Silverado/Sierra) and FCA’s Ram adding significant numbers to the total.

That has been the case for many years, but a there has been a subtle shift in the market as a small group of consumers look for something smaller.

Full-size pickups have grown inexorably in size, to the point where they dwarf mid-sizers like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.

Recognizing this emerging sub-segment, GM introduced the Canyon and Colorado. The GM twins quickly became the best-selling mid-sizers in the U.S., while the Toyota Tacoma leads the field in Canada.

Others in the segment include the Nissan Frontier and second-generation Honda Ridgeline.

Ford, the pickup king, needed a player in this game.

The quickest and easiest way to do so was to reach out to its Australian subsidiary. The Aussies had developed and been marketing a Ranger pickup for several years.

Size-wise, this Ranger fits right in. But it required some major modifications to meet American expectations, safety regulations and competition.

They included a stronger boxed frame, different suspension, completely different drivetrain, and a host of segment-exclusive technologies. The resultant 2019 Ford Ranger is now in Ford stores across the continent.

The new Ranger is not a replacement for the old Ranger, so widely popular in Canada. The only similarity is the name.

The Ranger that graced our roads from 1983 until 2012 was a compact pickup. The 2019 Ranger is much larger — 200 mm longer, 400 mm wider, 50 mm taller. But, the new one weighs 200 kg less thanks to modern engineering and metals. The 2019 Ranger has roughly the same dimensions as a full-size F150 of a decade ago.

It is also loaded with features and capabilities that were only a distant dream when the last of the old Rangers rolled off the assembly line in 2012. It is also a lot more expensive. The sticker starts at $31,000, and can approach $50,000. The test vehicle was a well-optioned mid-level (XLT) and bottom line of $45,400, before freight and taxes.

Ford admits there might be a market for a smaller pickup, like the old Ranger. But it says the tremendous growth in the mid-size segment in America, and the success of the GM twins, demanded they have a player in that game. Here in Canada, the Tacoma has established and holds down first place in the category.

The old Ranger had a choice of four- or six-cylinder engines. The only powerplant for the new Ranger is a turbocharged, 2.3-litre, four-cylinder that is also used in the Mustang. This engine is a perfect example of how things have improved over the last decade or so. It produces 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. That is 63 more horsepower and 84 lb.-ft. more torque than the optional 4.0-litre V6 in the old Ranger.

All the new Rangers sold in Canada will have a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system. Our American neighbours can get a de-contented, rear-wheel-drive version. The new Ranger gets the 10-speed automatic used in the current F150. The old one had a five-speed. The new Ranger can tow up to 7,500 lbs. The old one, 1,650.

The Ranger that graced our roads from 1983 until 2012 was a compact pickup. The 2019 Ranger is much larger — 200 mm longer, 400 mm wider, 50 mm taller. But, the new one weighs 200 kg less thanks to modern engineering and metals. The 2019 Ranger has roughly the same dimensions as a full-size F150 of a decade ago. - Richard Russell
The Ranger that graced our roads from 1983 until 2012 was a compact pickup. The 2019 Ranger is much larger — 200 mm longer, 400 mm wider, 50 mm taller. But, the new one weighs 200 kg less thanks to modern engineering and metals. The 2019 Ranger has roughly the same dimensions as a full-size F150 of a decade ago. - Richard Russell

The 2019 Ranger comes in a variety of configurations starting as a four-passenger SuperCab with a six-foot box and rear-hinged back doors that require you to open the front doors first, just like the old Ranger. The 2019 Ranger is also available in SuperCrew configuration with a five-foot box. The foot cut from the box length is allocated to rear-seat space and allows for conventional rear doors. As a result, it can accommodate three adults in the rear.

The interior of 2019 Ranger is a far cry from the old — handsome, lots of soft-touch surfaces, and standard features that were not possible on the old. Standard equipment on the base model includes: Ford’s Sync infotainment system with a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, a rear-view camera with backup assist, pre-collision system with emergency braking, four-wheel disc brakes, block heater, automatic headlights and wipers, cargo light, trailer towing package with wiring connection, locking tailgate, power windows and locks, air conditioning, trailer sway control, tilt and telescope steering wheel, and a six-speaker audio system with a USB port.

That list explains some of the price differential between new and old Rangers. Unfortunately, a heated steering wheel is not available. That, and the fact you have to use a physical key for the ignition, seem out of place in the current market.

On the road, the steering is light with ample feedback and the ride comfortable on smooth surfaces. Like most unladen pickups with a solid axle, the rear end can be quite lively on rough roads. The powerful new engine is simply light years ahead of the old — four or V6 in terms of smoothness, power and fuel efficiency. Performance is a far cry from the old Ranger with all that power available to move less weight.

The 4X4 version of the old Ranger used a knob on the dash to switch between rear- and four-wheel drive. A third position activated low range. The new Ranger uses a sophisticated terrain management system. A button on the console allows you to choose from normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts or sand. Sophisticated electronics manage everything from throttle and brakes, to the traction and stability control systems to maximize grip in all conditions.

If you are looking for a replacement for an old Ranger, this isn’t it. The price puts it within a few hundred dollars of a full-size F150, especially in light of rebates and other marketing offers on the big truck.

But if you are looking for something smaller than the big boats, with many of the same features and capabilities, the new Ranger should be a consideration.

The specs

Model: 2019 Ford Ranger XLT 4X4 crew cab

Engine: turbocharged, 2.3-litre, four-cylinder, 270 horsepower, 310 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 11.8/9.8 (4x4)

Length: 5,354 mm

Width: 2,179 mm

Wheelbase: 3,221 mm

Weight: 1,629-1,790 kg

Price: $37,339 base, $47,209 as tested, including freight

Competition: Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma.

Options on test vehicle: technology package (adaptive cruise control, navigation system and satellite radio), $950; FX4 off-road package (3.73:1 locking rear differential), $1,400; splash guards, $150; tray-style floor liners, $170; running boards, $700; trailer tow package, $600; spray-in bedliner, $600

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