As the clock struck midnight on January 14th, Ford put out their official press release and first official images on the new US market Ranger. This was something I had been waiting for for exactly one year, ever since Ford announced at the 2017 NAIAS that the Ranger and Bronco would be coming back.
You probably didn’t stay up that night specifically waiting for the release as I did. That’s OK, my excitement for this truck has been a little weird. Now that I’ve had a week to process all my thoughts on the Ranger, I must say, I think Ford did this right.
First off, if you’re unaware, I like Ford lots! I love my Explorer. I’ve loved both my Explorers. Most of my excitement over the new Ranger and Bronco comes from the fact that there will be brand new overlanding platforms from Ford. There are very few people publicly doing overlanding in Ford trucks right now. The Nomad Explorer. Expedition X Off-Road. Expedition Portal Editor Chris Cordes. Hawkeye Skunkworks. Ozark Mountain Overland? I’m sure there are more, but regardless, it’s a fraction of the number of people overlanding in Jeeps and Toyotas. Maybe that’s about to change. Let's find out!
*Insert automotive journalist pointing out that this is basically the same Ranger the rest of the world has had since 2011 like they’re the only person in the world who knows this*
Glad we got that out of the way! Yes, what you hear is true. This truck isn’t actually that new. Ford North America Product Communications manager Mike Levine (who is a very cool dude, one of my favorite Twitter follows) will throw some facts in your face if you bring this up, but let’s face it, this is the same Ranger sold in nearly every other market in the world since 2011.
The changes for the U.S. market Ranger include:
Steel Bumpers (more on those later!)
2.3L EcoBoost/10-Speed Transmission
(Some) New Styling
E-Locker/Trail Control with the FX4 package
North American spec frame to fit the new engine/trans, built from steel.
So this 2.3L EcoBoost.. What’s its deal?? We don’t really know yet. Upon release this will be the only engine option, and that seems to irk people a little bit. This engine is currently offered in the Explorer and Mustang, where it puts out 280 hp/310 hp respectively. Those are decent numbers, and that’s not even mentioning that you should be able to get around 24 MPG combined… That’s enough to sell me. Personally I think we’ll see hp ratings closer to the Explorer than the Mustang. How much will those numbers change with expedition gear/weight? It’s probably better to just not think about that.
This engine is of course mated to the (is it still new?) 10-speed automatic transmission. That’s a very good thing I guess. Everyone seems to like it.
While it’s far from official, it’s pretty likely that we’ll get a diesel option not long after the Ranger is released. I don’t really know much about Ford’s current diesel offerings worldwide, and I don’t think I would personally opt for the diesel, but like, it’ll be there.
I’ll start here with the interior, which I find very meh. I wish it was similar to the F-150 interior rather than the Explorer. I mean it’ll do, I’m honestly not too picky when it comes to interiors anyways. Like, I find the 1996-2010 Explorer/Ranger interiors to be nearly perfect, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
As for the exterior, if you were following any news at all about this truck for the last year, nothing should be a surprise here to you. I do like it more than the international styling, probably cuz I was born in the US of A baby! The newish front end is handsome. The rear is good, I’m not bonkers about the stamped tailgate, but that’s the style right now.
A somewhat exciting point, both the front and rear bumpers are frame mounted and made of steel. That’s great for any off road abuse they may take, and just the general durability of the truck.
To the idiots complaining about it being too big or having soft styling.. It’s 2017. Go buy a used truck if you want something small and “masculine.” You’re probably not who Ford is trying to sell this to anyways.
I will say, based on the released images, I’ll take an XLT Sport with the FX4 package. As long as I can get it with leather, heated seats, and a sunroof, of course. My reckless speculation for a price tag on that truck would be... 34k? I’d even take it in red.
What’s up with that FX4 package?
Oooooo boy this is where we get to the good stuff.
The FX4 features are easily the most exciting part of this release. Look at this!
Tuned Suspension (shocks)
I will admit that, honestly, if I’m building this truck as an expedition rig, most of that gets replaced. The Trail control is cool, it’s basically the same technology Toyota has, but it’s good to get it regardless. If you’re just like, a regular dude, that’s all plenty more capability than you’ll ever need. You should be able to get to most any campsite, trailhead, put in/take out point, and that’s really what Ford is pushing here.
Millennials love the outdoors. They love being perceived as outdoorsy. Does that mean that they actually are? Who knows! It does mean that they’ll buy whatever clothing and gear makes them seem more adventurous.
That’s who this truck is being marketed to. Toyota completely owns that market right now for mid size trucks.
So let’s talk about that, overlanding and Toyotas and that all stuff.
I have never been crazy about the Tacoma. It’s a great platform, there’s a reason why nearly everyone doing overlanding has one! That’s the problem for me though.. Nearly everyone has one.. And they’re all boring at this point. Even the Expedition Overland Tacoma with AT Habitat doesn’t excite me. Same thing goes for the 4Runner.
Obviously Toyota has a reputation for reliability, and that’s definitely part of it, but those trucks have huge aftermarkets. That makes them excellent platforms for building on.
What does Ford have to do to get into that offroad/overlanding market? I think there’s several options and possibilities here.
The good thing is, as we’ve mentioned, this is mostly the same truck that’s been offered around the world for years now. That means that there shouldn’t be too much new engineering that some companies (think ARB) would have to do to bring their already existing Ranger parts to the United States. ARB offers tons of cool parts for the Ranger already. What we’re seeing with aftermarket companies that make Jeep accessories, is that it’s going to take around a year for them to develop products for the new JL. I think it’s possible we see a sooner release time for some aftermarket parts on the Ranger up on it's release.
What Ford needs to do if they’re serious about targeting the off road market, not only with this truck but also the new Bronco, is offer OEM accessories that can be bought and installed at the dealership (and don’t void warranties.) I don’t know how much success FCA has had doing this with Jeep, but it really seems like a great option for a lot of people looking to upgrade their trucks. I think it could be a huge selling point over the Tacoma, especially if it’s announced before the actual release for the Ranger.
The Ranger will begin production at the end of this year and hit dealer lots at the beginning of 2019. That’s a long ways away. By that time, we’ll know what the new Bronco looks like!
Speaking of the Bronco, as excited as I was for this truck, all it’s release has done is make me even more excited for the Bronco. If the underpinnings and powertrain options are the same, that’s fine. I really believe we’ll get some retro styling. What more could you realistically ask for?