By Jade Brasher
The first truck my family ever owned was a Ford Ranger. I remember riding in the front bench seat between my parents. My sisters sat in the back facing each other on seats that folded down from the side walls of the cab. We did everything in that truck—rode back and forth from school, sat in the bed on dirt roads in search of blackberries, loaded it up for a week of camping, and even drove through a few creeks with our heads sticking out the window for a good soak. I remember mostly play in that truck, I was a little girl after all. But I’m sure my dad remembers a lot of work.
My dad used his Ranger for everything: from a commuter vehicle to hauling a lawnmower back and forth doing yardwork for a number of people. I remember the truck was always a mess, full of his empty Styrofoam soda cups and my sisters and my Yoo-Hoo bottles bought from our small-town general store on occasion. My dad eventually upgraded to a bigger truck, and then suddenly the Ranger was no longer sold in the US. I don’t recall ever stepping foot in a Ranger since the days of my dad’s old burgundy and beige truck.
That was until I got myself into a 2019 Ford Ranger.
My experience with the new Ranger came almost 20 years after my dad sold his old truck. And although the current model is unrecognizable from the truck we used to find blackberries, a feeling of nostalgia set in as soon as I laid eyes on the Lightning Blue Supercrew Lariat.
One of the first things I noticed on my drive was the truck’s comfort level. From my experience, the engineers of mid-size trucks focus too heavily on utility and less on comfort, but that isn’t the case with the Ranger. I felt just as comfortable in the cab of the Ranger as I would in a larger truck, only without the extra effort of climbing into a tall cab and the worry of jumping out when I was ready to exit.
Adding to that comfort is the convenience of the truck’s infotainment system, featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also syncs to your devices via Bluetooth for hands-free calling on the trip to your next job. Additionally, a WiFi modem is embedded in the Ranger that can connect up to 10 devices; that includes your driver’s personal phone, work phone, tablet, laptop, you name it. And if the purpose of your Ranger is to carry a crew, that WiFi can support all of their devices as well.
SAFETY IN MIND
I can’t talk about the Ranger without mentioning its safety features. These features were completely unheard of, possibly not even imagined, the last time I rode in a Ranger.
A trend in the industry as of late is driver assist technology, and it doesn’t look like it’s leaving anytime soon. The Ranger is fully equipped with this technology and then some. It features the Lane-Keeping System with a lane keep assist that, if enabled, nudges the steering wheel away from the dividing lines if your Ranger starts to drift outside the lane. Graphics on the dash cluster also alert drivers when they’re veering outside of their lane. Along with Lane-Keeping Assist is a Pre-Collision Assist, available with Pedestrian Detection designed to reduce the severity of and possibly even eliminate collisions involving pedestrians. Adaptive Cruise Control is also available with the Ranger, which maintains your speed just like Cruise Control, but also automatically lowers your speed according to the vehicle in the lane ahead of you.
Finally the Ranger features a Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Trailer Coverage. BLIS works similarly to other blind spot detection systems using sensors along the vehicle. However, when used with Trailer Coverage, BLIS even monitors the length of your trailer. Talk about a work truck driver’s dream. But what good is Trailer Coverage without the powertrain to haul?
A truck’s power is a big deal because after all, work trucks are often purchased with hauling in mind. It’s best to buy a truck with more than enough power to get your jobs done, yet it’s unnecessary, and makes little financial sense, to buy a truck that gives much more power than you’ll ever need. Mid-size jobs call for a mid-size truck, and when you’re purchasing a mid-size truck, why not go for the one with the most power?
The Ranger’s powertrain features Ford’s second-generation 2.3-L EcoBoost engine paired with the brand’s SelectShift 10-speed transmission. This combination gives a maximum 270 hp, best-in-class 310 lb-ft of torque, best-in-class 1,860-lb payload, and a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 lbs in all configurations.
In addition to that power, the Ranger is also economical, featuring Auto Start-Stop technology that increases fuel economy and spits fewer emissions into the air. For a more in-depth breakdown of the Ranger’s powertrain, flip on over to page 18.
The few days I drove the Ranger around, I was often asked by coworkers and friends which mid-size truck I prefer. Honestly, the Ranger won with comfort and a smooth ride, but I couldn’t make a fair analysis without trying the truck’s off-road ability, because jobsites aren’t always accessed by paved roads. Sometimes they’re accessed by muddy, rocky paths in the woods. So that’s where I took the Ranger.
It rained almost every day the week of my test drive, so the terrain of the roads I traveled was slick and muddy, or downright wet (there were small streams of water traveling over the roads in some areas). I took the truck pretty slowly at times, but other times I was able to climb steep rocky grades at an impressive speed. The tires gripped the surface well through all of it, and the height of the truck offered the clearance to scale most rocks and boulders.
Another aspect that impressed me was the electric power-assisted steering. The truck’s 127-inch wheelbase isn’t long, but it’s long enough to add a few extra points to your turnaround when on narrow paths in the woods. But thankfully, Ford engineered the steering in this truck to be almost effortless, offering easy steering even with one hand if necessary.
To be honest, I’ve made bigger deals about receiving certain trucks in the past than I made about receiving the Ranger. I prefer bigger trucks that demand attention everywhere they go. But the Ranger was fun to drive, practical in many ways, and I felt safe driving it. I was glad I had the Ranger during a week of heavy rain, as I felt much safer in it than my own vehicle.
I’m happy to finally see the Ranger back in the US, and to see how far it’s come after almost 20 years since I’d last been in one gave me a sense of nostalgia and pride—although I had no hand in its design. It’s a mid-size truck through and through, but it offers impressive power and handling to get any job done, whether that’s going to the construction site or driving dirt roads in search of blackberries.
About the author:
Jade Brasher is the editor of Modern WorkTruck Solutions magazine. A graduate of The University of Alabama, Jade resides in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and enjoys writing about her town, travel, and of course, work trucks. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about Ford Ranger, visit www.ford.com.