Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.
A lot has happened in the midsized-pickup market since Ford stopped selling the Ranger in the U.S. in 2011.
Chevrolet scored robust sales with its second-generation Colorado. Honda reintroduced the Ridgeline, this time in a more innovative and refined package. The Toyota Tacoma, meanwhile, has remained very popular.
Seeing all this, Ford decided to introduce a new Ranger, derived from a truck the company has been selling overseas. The 2019 Ford Ranger was unveiled just ahead of the Detroit auto show, where it made a splash.
The Ranger had long served as an affordable, rather basic pickup truck. But this new Ranger is a much more modern machine, offering the latest entertainment and safety technologies. At a time when the massive Ford F-150 seems oversized in suburbia, a midsized pickup with the promise of true workhorse capabilities and commuter-friendly manners may find a sizable audience—as crosstown rival GM has demonstrated with the Colorado.
Beneath the Ranger’s modern body is an all-steel frame flanked by steel bumpers. The chassis has an independent front suspension and solid rear axles, with an emphasis on off-road durability.
There will be two cab configurations, a SuperCab extended cab and a SuperCrew crew cab, and three trim levels, XL, XLT, and Lariat. These can be tailored with chrome and sport appearance packages. And the FX off-road package sets up the truck for dirt-bound adventure with skid plates, upgraded tires, off-road-tuned suspension, and Terrain Management System, which will allow drivers to select from four traction modes, and Trail Control, a form of cruise control that manages low-speed acceleration and braking on trails.
Powering all versions will be a 270-horsepower, 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Ford claims it will have a 1,860-lb. maximum payload and a 7,500-lb. tow capacity, when equipped with a tow package and trailer brake controller.
As with other recent Ford trucks, the cabin can be filled with controls and information screens enabling the driver to monitor the infotainment, powertrain, and safety systems. A central 8-inch screen and twin LCD screens in the instrument panel lend a high-tech look. The optional Sync 3 system includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, Alexa (Amazon’s internet-connected personal assistant), and navigation capability. Mobile 4G LTE WiFi is available. There are power points, AC outlets, and USB ports to entertain the troops and keep their devices charged.
Automatic emergency braking will be standard. Other available advanced safety and driver-assist technologies include lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, reverse warning to assist with parking, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control. As seen on larger Ford trucks, the Ranger will also offer blind-spot warning that can monitor for the length of a trailer. There are also a variety of lighting options, including LED headlamps and taillamps, puddle lamps, and bed lighting.
In total, this is a far more sophisticated machine than the previous Ranger, and it adopts many of the innovative conveniences Ford has placed in the F-150 and the Expedition SUV.
Production of the all-new Ranger begins late this year in Michigan, and it will be available to consumers in early 2019. We look forward to buying our own to see how it measures up against the Chevrolet Colorado, Honda Ridgeline, and Toyota Tacoma.
More from Consumer Reports:
Top pick tires for 2016
Best used cars for $25,000 and less
7 best mattresses for couples
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2018, Consumer Reports, Inc.