2019 Ford Ranger First Drive Review: A Daily Driver With A Box

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2019 Ford Ranger First Drive
2019 Ford Ranger First Drive

The 2019 Ford Ranger seeks to answer the needs of active buyers who want a daily driver that’s versatile, can tow, and isn’t afraid of a little mud.

Almost 7 years to the day after the last North American Ford Ranger left the Ford Twin Cities assembly plant in St. Paul, Minnesota, journalists gathered in San Diego to sample the new Ranger for the first time.

Introduced at last year’s North American International Auto Show, the 2019 Ford Ranger is a big deal. Readers are asking about it and many truck buyers have put their Toyota Tacoma or Chevrolet Colorado purchase on hold as they wait to see if they should get a Ranger instead.

Hopefully, this review will help answer that question.

2019 Ford Ranger First Drive
2019 Ford Ranger First Drive | Photo: Charles Jolicoeur

Is it really a new Ford Ranger?

Sure the 2019 Ford Ranger is new to North America, but it uses the same chassis from the global Ranger sold elsewhere since 2012. On the other hand, it uses a new reinforced fully boxed frame, it’s lighter and it gets some light visual tweaks as well.

In other words, Ford made sure to adapt the 2019 Ranger to North America. Buyers here who will buy a mid-size pickup don’t always intend to tow or carry. They want a daily driver that serves their active lifestyle when needed, but that can do more than just haul a bunch of stuff around.

Ford even sees some buyers getting a Ranger instead of a crossover or sport utility vehicle and has engineered the 2019 model with that in mind.

Nowhere is this more evident than under the hood. The 2019 Ford Ranger is powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine paired with a 10-speed automatic. If that combination seems familiar, it’s because you can also find it in a Ford Mustang. Of course, Ford made some adjustments to adapt the powertrain to the Ranger.

2019 Ford Ranger First Drive
2019 Ford Ranger First Drive | Photo: Ford Ranger

Designed to be both powerful and fuel-efficient, the Ranger’s EcoBoost may be missing those two extra cylinders some pickup buyers want but it doesn’t fall short on power or capability.

With 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque under your right foot, you’ll find the Ranger to be springy and quick to react.

Other four-cylinder engines found in this segment can be sluggish and downright boring, but the 2019 Ford Ranger’s EcoBoost doesn’t have that problem.

The 10-speed automatic is hard to fault as well. It’s smooth and doesn’t have trouble managing the extra gears regardless of what situation you find yourself in. Floor the right pedal and aside from a bit of hesitation, the Ranger pushes ahead with confidence. All told, this is a very refined setup.

The 2019 Ford Ranger can tow up 7,500 pounds and payload is rated at 1,500 pounds. We tested the Ranger’s towing capacity by hauling a massive boat that was bigger than the truck and had no issues. My co-pilot who is more experienced with towing than I am complemented the Ranger’s stability despite the heavy load in the back.

The 2019 Ford Ranger is designed to be a do-everything vehicle and its engine plays the part well.

2019 Ford Ranger First Drive
2019 Ford Ranger | Photo: Ford

Impressive comfort on the road

Hit the highway in the new Ford Ranger and you’ll notice that the seats are remarkably comfortable. As a matter of fact, the Ranger as a whole is quite comfy and personally I’d choose it over any other mid-size pickup if I had a long drive ahead.

It feels like you’re driving a compact SUV in the city with a reasonable turning radius and good visibility all around. You don’t have to worry about small parking lots or parallel parking your Ranger.

On the other hand, the Ranger’s cabin isn’t as quiet as we would have like and it needs more storage spaces inside. There’s just not enough compartments to empty your pockets.

And then there’s the overall design of the dashboard and center console. Nobody really agreed with me, but I found the whole thing to be bland and lifeless. It feels like a 2012 model in there. I don’t need a Rolls-Royce interior, but I would certainly would have taken the Ford Escape’s layout and put in the Ranger.

Plastics are hard, everything is black or grey and the center console is just dark and flat. It can’t stand the comparison with the Tacoma’s interior. I’m not saying there’s anything tragically wrong with the Ranger’s interior in terms of quality or functionality, it just lacks personality.

2019 Ford Ranger First Drive
2019 Ford Ranger First Drive | Photo: Charles Jolicoeur

Impressive capability off the road

A new truck first drive wouldn’t be a first drive if there wasn’t some kind of off-road component. This time, however, you can tell that the organizers actually wanted to challenge the Ford Ranger and see what it could do. You needed a worthy off-roader to make it through the course and luckily, the 2019 Ford Ranger is just that.

4×4 Rangers get a variety of drive modes through the Terrain Select system which means you can tackle a lot of different environments in the Ranger and there’s enough power to get up steep hills.

You can also resort to using Trail Control which many people have complained despite it working really well and despite the fact that you’re not obligated to use it if you don’t want to.

Essentially a cruise control system for off-road driving, Trail Control allows the driver to set a desired speed and will then handle braking and throttle. All you have to do is steer the Ranger where you want it to go. Does it take some of the fun out of off-roading? Yes, but again, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.

2019 Ford Ranger First Drive
2019 Ford Ranger | Photo: James Lipman for Ford Motor Company

Final impressions on the 2019 Ford Ranger

Ford has made finding the right Ranger for you quite easy. Canadians only get 4×4 and a choice of two versions: SuperCab with a six-foot bed in the back or SuperCrew with four doors and a five-foot bed in the back.

The 2019 Ford Ranger starts at $30,969 for the SuperCab and $37,339 for the SuperCrew. It’s not as affordable as a Nissan Frontier or Chevrolet Colorado, but standard 4×4 is noteworthy.

The SuperCrew also comes standard with Ford’ Co-Pilot360 lineup of driver assistance technologies and a front and back parking assistance system.

The 2019 Ford Ranger isn’t head and shoulders above its competition but it’s more than capable of doing what its target buyer wants it to do. It can tow with the best of them and ride quality is above average.

Other mid-size pickup models to check out

2019 Toyota Tacoma at a glance

Should You Buy a 2018 Nissan Frontier?

2019 Ford Ranger Image Gallery

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