The Ranger Returns . . . Sort Of

The Ford Ranger is coming back — sort of.

There’s the name, anyhow. Not much else in common.

The original Ranger — which was last available in 2011 — was an inexpensive, mechanically simple and most of all, compact-sized pick-up. No one makes these anymore — including Ford. The Bigness Sickness have huged-up everything, especially trucks. The current F-150 (like all current 1500s) is a disproportionate monster that requires a step ladder built into the tailgate so that people can access the bed.

The new Ranger dials this back somewhat.

It is about the same size a truck as the full-size trucks of the 1980s — before The Bigness Sickness.

It is advertised as being a “mid-sized” truck — but check the specs. It’s actually longer overall than the current (2018) regular cab F-150: 211 inches vs. 209.3 inches and it is much longer than previous — and reasonably-sized — full-size F-trucks of the past. A 1980s-era regular cab F-truck was only 197.1 inches long overall — about a foot shorter than the “mid-sized” 2019 Ranger.

The old Ranger, meanwhile was just 189.4 inches long overall. It fit in your garage; it was as nearly easy to park as a Corolla-sized (183.1 inches long) compact car.

Part of the reason for the ’19’s Longshanks length is that — unlike the F-truck, present and past as well as the original Ranger — it will not be offered in a regular cab configuration. That’s out the window, too. It will come only with four doors — your choice limited to full-size rear doors (double cab) or smaller-size rear doors (super cab).

Without, of course, a long bed. Because that would make it too long.

This makes it less suited for work than the new F-150 — as well as the old Ranger. The new one is more a mid-sized SUV — with a small bed out back for the dog and such.

If you want just the two doors — and less length — you can always buy the full-sized F-150.

Hell, they cost about the same.

The “new” Ranger (which isn’t really; it’s been on sale in Europe and other markets for several years) costs the U.S. equivalent of about $26k over there. Expect it to cost about the same over here.

The current/2018 F-150 stickers for $27,380 to start. Keep in mind, that’s with 2WD; the 4WD versions cost closer to $30k.

Whatever happened to affordable trucks?

You could buy the old Ranger for about $18k to start — about $8k more than the expected MSRP of the “new” one. Granted, the old Ranger didn’t have lightweight (but high cost to fix) aluminum body panels, as the new one does (emulating the current F-150) nor a standard 8-inch touchscreen and dual LCD “productivity screens,” as the new one does. Nor did it come standard with a ten speed automatic transmission paired with an “Ecoboosted” turbocharged engine, as the new Ranger will.

Ford sold it in basic work truck configuration — with manual windows, even. No touchscreen. Rubber floor mats, if you can imagine that. Just two air bags. The optional 4WD system was controlled manually, by pulling on a lever to engage it.

There was a manual transmission, too.

No turbo.

Which is why you could buy one for about $18k — vs. close to $27k for the new one. Not counting the inevitably higher cost to insure the new one, in part because of those expensive-to-fix aluminum body panels.

Trucks used to be made out of steel because “light weight” was an irrelevant consideration. What mattered more — to people who bought trucks — was that if you hit a deer, you could pull the fender back into shape with a come-along. When a quarter panel rusted out, welding in a patch panel was cheap and easy.

It’s not with aluminum.

But Ford went with aluminum because light weight is a very relevant consideration to them, in terms of achieving compliance with CAFE — the government’s Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency mandates. It is also why the new Ranger has a ten-speed automatic, the equivalent — as far as the buyer is concerned — of a weekend cyclist spending $5k on a carbon fiber bicycle. He may think he’s Lance Armstrong — and that he is “faster” because the $5k bike weighs eight ounces less than a $3k bike made of something else, less costly.

But he’s not Lance Armstrong — and his weekend ride isn’t the Tour de France.

Just so, the ten speed automatic (jointly developed with GM, which uses the same box in several of its new vehicles) might squeeze an extra 3 or so MPG out of the Ranger vs. what it would manage with a six-speed automatic — but the six speed won’t cost you $5k to replace when it breaks ten years down the road from now.

That ten speed, on the other hand.

The also-standard Ecoboosted turbocharged engine is even more functionally and economically demented. On the one hand, Ford makes it necessary to have a powerful engine by making the 2019 Ranger 85 percent full-sized and heavy — its “light weight” aluminum panels notwithstanding (compare the curb weight of the actually compact previous Ranger to the curb weight of the new more-than-mid-sized Ranger) because of the four-door cab and then there’s no possibility of going with a four cylinder engine, which wouldn’t be strong enough to pull the thing decently.

But a V6 is off the table because of CAFE.

So, an elaborate turbocharged four. To provide the on-demand power necessary to get this almost full-size truck going, but at the same time, be theoretically capable of better gas mileage than the V6. Theoretically — if you drive it like a crippled vehicle you’re trying to nurse home before it conks out. Accelerate normally — and the turbo will boost up and your mileage will go down.

The whole thing is nuttier than eating ten fruit cakes.

And the one thing that isn’t — the 43 MPG-capable diesel engine Ford sells in the European version — is something we won’t get.

Too bad there isn’t a basic work truck you can just buy anymore. That can be paid off within three to five years, like you used to be able to.

And which isn’t afflicted by the Bigness Sickness.

Like the old Ranger.

Ah well.

I suppose that’s like wishing we could board an airplane without being felt up by a government geek — and that cops had to have probable cause before they could arrest you.


*** Photo courtesy of Caricos

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