Our speculation on the Ranger’s U.S. revival

With the Ford Ranger’s reentry into the U.S. market all but officially confirmed, we decided to have a hard look at what Ford has potentially hidden up its sleeve. Like the Chevrolet Colorado’s transition from a global to a U.S. truck, Ford will likely borrow heavily from the existing Ranger, while updating key areas like its crashworthiness, in-dash technology, and powertrain. These changes, like those Chevy made on the Colorado, will ensure the Ranger’s success in the U.S.

The mid-sized Ranger pickup has been sorely missed since Ford killed the truck back in 2012. The cravings grew even stronger when Ford debuted an all-new Ranger for the global marketplace – sold nearly everywhere besides the United States. Well, rumors have swirled about the Ranger’s revival, but recent corporate decisions and renewed alliances with the United Autoworkers Union have all but confirmed the theory. What’s more, the Ranger will supposedly be joined by the Bronco SUV – yet another iconic name in the Ford fold that’s been dormant for some time.

More specifically, Ford announced back in November of 2015 it would move production of the Focus and C-Max cars to Mexico starting in 2018, freeing up space at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. While presidential hopeful Donald Trump might have negative things to say about the deal, the reallocation includes $10,000 signing bonuses for UAW members, the retention or creation of at least 8,500 jobs, and a sizeable $9 billion investment in the Ford’s U.S. vehicle product line-up – two of which will include the Ranger and Bronco.

It might be too early to nail down the exact model year, but the U.S.-spec Ranger could be in showrooms by the 2018 model year. Perhaps if retooling within the Michigan Assembly Plant is delayed, the truck could debut for the 2019 model year. It’s expected the Bronco would debut the following year.

Production guesstimates aside, here’s our predictions of the U.S.-spec Ford Ranger.

Continue reading to learn more about the upcoming Ford Ranger.

  • Year:
    2018
  • Engine:
    inline-4(Est.)
  • Transmission:
    six-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    280 (Est.)
  • Torque @ RPM:
    310 (Est.)
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Displacement:
    2.3 L (Est.)
  • 0-60 time:
    7.5 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    110 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    Front Engine; 2WD, 4WD
  • Price:
    21000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2018 Ford Ranger - image 679140

The upcoming Ranger will likely carry its own distinctive design, at least in relation to the Ford F-150. With this being the case, the global Ranger’s current design could likely carry over largely unchanged. This means the current Ranger will only need minor exterior tweaks before being sold Stateside.

"The upcoming Ranger will likely carry its own distinctive design, at least in relation to the Ford F-150"

If Ford were smart, it would bring all three cab configuration to the U.S. market. Included would be a regular cab, extended cab, and crew cab. Obviously the extended cab and crew cab would compete for consumer sales, while the regular cab would be targeted at commercial buyers. Remember, no other mid-size truck currently offers a regular cab option. The Ranger has plenty of opportunity to monopolize on that market segment.

Aesthetically, we expect Ford will enlarge the truck’s front tow hooks and have them protrude from under the bumper. Expect choices of black or chrome with different trim levels as well. The bumper, grille, and headlight designs will remain mostly unchanged, though Ford will likely introduce new grille and headlight designs to differentiate between lower and upper trim levels, much like it does with the F-150. A large front air dam will help keep fuel economy numbers high, while slightly impeding approach angles. Hopefully the plastic piece is easily removable.

Around to the sides, the truck’s profile and cab shape is largely expected to remain unchanged. It’s much costlier to update door, roof, structure, and window sizes than it its to bolt on a differently shaped bumper or grille. If the F-150 is any indication as to Ranger’s trim line offerings, upper trims like the Lariat, Platinum, or Limited could offer a panoramic moonroof – a first in the mid-size pickup category. Expect a sliding rear window option as well, though we’d really love to see a fully dropping rear window similar to the Toyota Tundra and 4Runner.

While we’d normally suspect the “sport bars” – or as we call ‘em here in ‘Murica, “roll bars” – to be ditched before coming Stateside, Chevy and GMC’s recent foray into these bed-mounted accent pieces gives us suspicion Ford could leave the chrome bars in place. The same could be true for the roof rack bars.

Around back, we expect the U.S.-spec Ranger to have a traditional step bumper with an optional frame-mounted trailer hitch receiver underneath. Expect both four- and seven-pen connectors for trailer lights. The tailgate will have Ford’s spring-loaded assist system and the bed will have LED lighting. Expect more bed innovations like those found in the F-150. The telescoping ATV ramps that mount on the bedwalls come to mind.

The Ranger’s rolling stock will likely consist of 17- to 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in either all-season or all-terrain tires depending if the truck is equipped with 2WD or 4WD.

Interior

2015 Ford Ranger - image 623348

2015 global Ford Ranger pictured
Like the exterior, the global Ranger’s interior is rather handsome and would likely receive praise in the U.S. market. However, we’d bet big money on the interior receiving an extensive update before the 2018 or 2019 model year, so the U.S. Ranger’s interior will likely receive the changes as well.

"We’d bet Ford will pay closer attention to cup holder designs and placement for the U.S. market"

Currently the global Ranger’s interior has a clean and uncluttered design with a center stack that leads into the center console. A console-mounted gearshifter and 4WD switch are present – a common sight in its U.S. competition. We’d bet Ford will pay closer attention to cup holder designs and placement for the U.S. market – you know, because us Americans need to sip a 44-ounce soda all the time.

The latest version of SYNC will be present in mid- and upper-level trim levels. That brings navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, HD and satellite radio, hands-free phone operation, voice controls for some systems, and (hopefully) the 360-degree camera system found in the F-150.

Lower trim levels will receive cloth or even vinyl seat coverings, appealing to the budget-conscious fleet buyer, while leather-lined seats with wood or metal accents will be present in high-end trims.

Speaking of fleet buyers, Ford would be smart to include a base XL trim for contractors, pool guys, municipality vehicles and other blue-collar jobs that don’t require the size or capability of a full-size truck. Again, this is where the regular cab option would dominate, stealing sales away from the Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, and upcoming Nissan Frontier.

Drivetrain

2018 Ford Ranger - image 679224

The F-150’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 shown
The global Ranger comes with four engine options – three of which are diesel. While these are great powertrains, Ford will likely introduce a new powertrain lineup for the U.S. Ranger. There is one exception: the 3.2-liter inline five-cylinder turbodiesel. The engine is already powering U.S.-spec Transit vans. In that application, the engine kicks out 185 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers are darn close to GM’s 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder’s 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Perhaps with some tweaking, Ford could boost the Power Stroke’s torque numbers into the 370 pound-foot range. The Power Stroke will be the Ranger’s premium engine option.

"In truth, the Ranger could become the performance truck of the segment. "

Next in the powertrain lineup will likely be the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6. In the F-150 the engine makes 325 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque. That would be more than enough to outgun the GM twins with their 3.6-liter V-6 making 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, along with the Tacoma’s 3.5-liter V-6 with its 278 horses and 265 pound-feet of torque.

Ford would be smart to include a gasoline four-cylinder in the mix, especially for fuel economy gloating. The Ford Explorer’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost I-4 makes a good candidate. In the SUV, the turbo four makes 280 horsepower and a respectable 310 pound-feet of torque. That puts the EcoBoost well above the Coloardo’s 200-horse, 191-pound-foot 2.5-liter four-cylinder and surprisingly close to its 3.6-liter V-6. In truth, the Ranger could become the performance truck of the segment.

Transmission choices could include a six-speed manual and six-speed automatic. Like the Colorado and Canyon, the manual will likely be restricted to the smallest engine in the lower trim level. Optionally buyers will choose between RWD and 4WD. Those with 4WD will control the two-speed transfer case via an electronic switch. An electronic locking rear differential will also be available.

Prices

Ford will have to be competitive in the pricing segment. Currently, the Chevy Colorado starts at $20,100. If Ford does indeed offer a regular cab configuration, pricing should undercut the least expensive Colorado. The Tacoma is well north of the $20,000 range, starting at $23,660, so Ford has the opportunity to become the price leader in the segment.

However, if the Ranger doesn’t make it to market until 2018 or 2019, truck prices will undoubtedly have risen, meaning the base model, regular cab Ranger could start around $21,000. Still, that’s not bad. It’s also well below the starting price of a full-size pickup.

Competition

Chevrolet Colorado

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven - image 628032

The Ford-Chevrolet battle has been going on since the early 1900s, and modern times are no different. The Ranger’s biggest sales competition will be the Toyota Tacoma, but the Colorado and its GMC Canyon twin will be the butt of every advertisement, specification comparison, and press release.

The Colorado comes in extended and crew cab configurations, offers three trim levels, three engine options, and both RWD and 4WD. The engine lineup includes the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder making 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, the volume-leading 3.6-liter V-6 with 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, and the well-respected 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder turbodiesel. It cranks out 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Equipped with the diesel, the Colorado can tow 7,700 pounds. We’d expect the Ranger to meet or exceed this number.

Prices for the Colorado start at $20,100 for a basic extended cab model with the four-cylinder, RWD, manual transmission, and “Base” trim level. Opt for the range-topping Z71 trim with 4WD and prices shoot north of $36,200.

Toyota Tacoma

2016 Toyota Tacoma - First Drive - image 639349

The Tacoma has long ruled the mid-size truck segment, especially during the dead years between the first- and second-generation Colorado and Canyon pickups. The Tacoma is marketed towards the young, adventurous types who dream of kayaking class five rapids or towing jet skis to the lake. This lifestyle approach to sales has paid off for Toyota. The Tacoma has been the reigning champ of sales in the mid-size category for more than a decade – even against the new GM twins.

The Tacoma comes equipped with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder as standard. It makes 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. That’s rather wimpy in today’s market, but Toyota still sells a ton of four-banger Tacomas. Optionally available is the 3.5-liter V-6. It combines both Otto and Atkinson combustion cycles to provide power and economy in a single package. While it does return 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, its power levels are down compared to the Colorado. Horsepower is rated at 278 and torque is rated at 265 pound-feet.

Prices for the Tacoma start at $23,660 for the extended cab, or as Toyota calls it, the Access Cab, and grow north of $36,000.

Conclusion

2018 Ford Ranger - image 679140

Though we can’t be 100 percent certain Ford will reintroduce the Ranger to the U.S. market, it seems all the cards are in place. With the Michigan Assembly Plant’s announcement combined with the growth found in the mid-size truck category, Ford is most certainly getting back into the game – and we couldn’t be more excited.

The global Ranger is a wonderful starting point and Ford will likely retain all the well-received aspects of the pickup for the U.S, market. Changes will mostly be contained to minor appearance tweaks, safety standards, and U.S.-spec powertrain choices. What’s more, Ford will have a sales leader on its hands should it choose to include the regular cab configuration in the mix, appealing to those large-quantity fleet companies, government agencies, and airports.

So here’s to hoping the U.S.-spec Ranger debuts sometime soon and brings more competition to the already hot mid-size pickup category. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

  • Leave it
    • No official conformation from Ford
    • Could be 2019 before production begins

History

2018 Ford Ranger - image 679225

The Ford Ranger got its start in 1983 and quickly became the hottest selling compact pickup in the U.S., beating out trucks like the Chevrolet S-10 and later the Dodge Dakota. The first-generation Ranger’s design took cues from the then-current F-150 and scaled down the look.

Engine offerings were woefully underpowered by today’s standards. The base 2.0-liter four-cylinder made only 72 horsepower. Optionally available was a 2.3-liter four with 82 horsepower and a 2.8-liter V-6 with 115 horsepower. Later models got a 2.9-liter V-6 with a more respectable 140 horsepower. The Ranger even came with a couple diesel options, though they were never overly popular. Transmission choices included a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic. The 1989 model year brought at welcomed refresh and an updated interior.

The second-generation Ranger debuted for 1993 and brought a more rounded look, a much more comfortable interior, and new powertrain options. The 2.3-liter’s horsepower increase to 98 horsepower and then to 112. The V-6 was all-new, with a 3.0-liter displacement and 145 horsepower. A 4.0-liter V-6 was introduced in 1994, sporting 160 horsepower.

Ford Ranger production will end in 2009 - image 216380

The second-gen Ranger soldiered on nearly unchanged until a refresh in 1998. Again, an updated interior came, as did powertrain updated. The Ranger’s final update came in 2006. A new grille with a bolder design is the most dramatic change. 2012 was the last year for the Ranger – a loss many still lament today. It was the last of the truly compact pickup trucks.

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