Ford’s Little Big Truck (the Ranger is back)

The Ford Ranger is back — and it’s much bigger.

The formerly compact pick-up (which was last available in the U.S. back in 2011) returns for the 2019 model year after many trips to the all-you-can-eat buffet. It is now nearly as big as the F-150 (Ford’s full-size truck) used to be.

It is just as tall — 72 inches vs. 72.7 for the circa 2000 F-150 — and much wider — an astounding 85.8 inches at the hips vs. 79.3 inches for the 2000 F-truck (and 69.3 inches for the old Ranger).

It also uses only slightly less gas.

The new, much-less-compact Ranger is rated 21 city, 26 highway with 2WD and 20 city, 24 highway with 4WD while the 2000 F-150 managed 15 city, 19 highway.

This in spite of the new Ranger having a much smaller engine (2.3 liters and four cylinders vs. the 2000 F-truck’s standard 4.2 liters and six cylinders) that is also direct-injected (the 2000 F-truck’s engine was merely port fuel-injected, a much simpler system) and paired up with a ten-speed automatic transmission that has three overdrive gears — vs. just the one overdrive gear inside the 2000 F-150’s five-speed manual (or four speed automatic) transmission.

You do get much more horsepower — 270 vs. 205 for the old truck’s V6 — because the new truck’s little engine is heavily turbocharged.

But the mileage gains vs. a full-sized truck are not much more than a toss-up, despite all the technology — because the new Ranger is a much larger and much heavier Ranger than the actually compact Ranger Ford used to make.

The lightest version — with 2WD — weighs 4,232 lbs. The heaviest — with 4WD — weighs 4,441 lbs.

The previous Ranger weighed 1,204 lbs. less for the 2WD version (3,028 lbs.) and 835 lbs. less with 4WD.

In part, because the new Ranger will be sold only in four-door form — either extended SuperCab or SuperCrew, the latter with four full-size doors and the former with smaller ones.

The old Ranger was available with a regular cab and came standard with a six-foot bed; the new model comes standard with a five-foot bed.

You could opt for a seven-footer, too — which enabled the physically smaller old Ranger to carry more stuff in its bed with the tailgate closed than the new Ranger can with its optional six-foot bed with gate down.

And even with the optional seven-foot bed, the old Ranger was still almost a foot shorter end to end (189.4 inches) than the new Ranger is with the short bed (210.8 inches.) Which made it much easier to park the old Ranger as well as make U-turns without having to stop, reverse, make adjustments and then continue.

The old truck’s turning circle was a tight 37.7 inches for the regular cab iteration. The new truck’s turning circle with the mandatory four-door cab is 41.9 inches.

The old Ranger also delivered almost exactly the same mileage as the new one, too — 22 city, 27 — albeit with much less horsepower (143) but without the cost/complexity-adders of a turbocharger or a ten-speed transmission.

It wasn’t as powerful — or as capable.

But it was reasonably fuel-efficient.

And it was a truck.

The new Ranger is more of an SUV with a vestigial bed. It seems to have been designed mainly for carrying passengers (and Labrador retrievers) rather than cargo. To be recreational rather than occupational.

For play more so than work.

This is not a criticism, per se, because it is apparently what the market wants. Or at least, it is what Ford thinks the market wants.

It appears there is no longer a market for a compact truck with a proportionately large bed; a truck that doesn’t need a direct-injected engine or a ten-speed transmission to get over the 20 MPG hump. Or a turbocharged, direct-injected engine to make the power necessary to haul around 4,000-plus pounds of truck — before anything is put in the bed.

But the end result is so close to being full-sized in fact that the only reason it’s not formally considered that is because today’s full-size models are super-sized. They make the full-size trucks of the recent past seem almost DeVito-esque next to their jacked and stacked Arnoldness.

A 2019 F-150 SuperCrew (four full-size doors) with a short (6.5 foot) bed stretches from Dearborn to Hermosillo, Mexico — almost. This one is 243.7 inches. Which is some two feet longer than a 2000 model F-truck with an eight-foot bed.

And the new F-truck is Gulliverian in other proportions: 77.3 inches tall, with bedwalls so high a six-foot man can’t lay his palm flat on the bed floor — and might not be able to touch it at all — without standing on a milk crate.

If you have the opportunity to view a circa 2000 full-size pick-up parked next to a current full-size truck . . . or the new Ranger parked alongside the old one — you will be astounded by the growth spurt.

It’s a kind of vehicular acromegaly, the pituitary aberration which afflicts some unfortunate humans with gigantism. Like Andre the Giant, for instance. And Ted Cassidy — Lurch from The Addams Family.

It’s what people want, it seems. Supersize everything — from waistlines to trucks.

One wonders, though, how Ford will manage to continue selling this upsized, not-very-fuel-efficient Ranger under a regime that demands even trucks average almost 50 MPG just five years from now.

A compact-sized Ranger with a diesel might have at least gotten two-thirds of the way there.

But we can’t have compacts — because of something called the “chicken tax” (see here). This is why I italicized appears in relation to what the market (may or may not) actually want earlier in this rant.

And while Ford does offer a diesel-powered version of the new and upsized Ranger, it probably won’t offer it here.

Because although the government pretends to care about gas mileage, it does all it can to stymie it by (effectively) outlawing high-efficiency diesels and also by force-bloating vehicle design for the sake of “safety” — which is a gross misnomer, since what we’re really talking about is how a vehicle deals with a crash, nor whether it is more likely to crash.

So we get bigger, thirstier — and more expensive.

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One Response to “Ford’s Little Big Truck (the Ranger is back)”

  1. Daryl Brent says:

    About time for the Ranger to take on the stage of more capable small truck. Those adjustments will definitely catch the taste of DD and weekend toy enthusiasts. Reminds me of buddy’s beaten Ranger we modded into trail beater. We ordered larger tires and better shocks cheap from 4WheelOnline and made a huge difference taking semi-muddy trails.