By Peter Perrotta
At one time, the Ford Ranger pickup truck was the best selling compact truck in the United States.
In fact, the Ranger dominated that segment for 17 years, from 1987 to 2004. That is a pretty impressive run.
However, even the best of sluggers reach their tipping point – as age sets it.
So, when sales started to lag and consumers drifted towards the larger F-150 model and other SUVs, the folks at Ford retired the Ranger pickup line from 2012-18.
Last year, Ford brought back a totally redesigned Ranger that recaptures some of the nostalgic feel and look of the previous Ranger line and adds some of the modern day technological updates.
I recently jumped behind the wheel of the 2020 Ford Ranger XLT Supercrew 4X4 for one week to get a first hand look at how the resurrection of the one time sales leader went.
Overall, I like the look of the XLT Supercrew. It’s not overly large and has a rugged aggressive stance. My tester came equipped with the FX4 off road package and a black appearance package, so it had a very “tough guy” stance.
Inside, the ergonomics – while not overly fancy – were adequate for a pickup truck.
“I like how they kept it simple in here,” my 21-year-old son said.
The Ranger comes in three models – the XL, XLT and the Lariat – but is only offered with one engine – a 2.3 liter, in line four cylinder engine with ecoboost that puts out 270 horsepower at 5,500 rpm. They marry that engine with an efficient electronic 10-speed automatic transmission.
The powerplant/transmission combination is one of the most impressive features of the new Ranger. I found that it accelerated and shifted smoothly and was a more than able performer in city driving and out on the highway.
More impressive are all the various selections for the drivetrain. From the center console gear shifter, you can select either regular “drive” or drop in down a notch into the “sport” mode for a little extra oomph.
Next to the gear selector, is a transfer case selector where you can chose from two-wheel rear drive to four-wheel high for normal inclement weather or four-wheel low when you need to get down and dirty into some rough off-road terrain.
Moreover, another impressive feature is the terrain mode selector that allows the driver to chose from normal conditions to, mud, sand, snow and ice. All these features make the Ranger a very impressive off-road performer.
The one area where I would have to point out that I feel the Ranger needs a bit of improvement in is in the suspension system.
For off-road and even highway driving, I found the Ranger’s suspension and ride to be quite impressive.
However, on simple little daily driving matters – like absorbing routine road bumps – I felt the Ranger’s more traditional pickup suspension left something to be desired.
The editors at Consumer Reports called the ride of the Ranger “stiff and choppy” with “clumsy” handling at low speeds.
I would add a qualifier to that. I found the Ranger to only be a bit stiff and choppy going over bumps at low speeds. I didn’t think the overall handling was clumsy at all.
The 2020 Ranger XLT Supercrew I road tested carried a base sticker price of $34,635. However, after adding in options and $1,195 for destination and delivery, the MSRP sticker price of my test vehicle was $42,410.
The options included: $2,450 for the XLT equipment package that includes a sliding rear window with a defroster and a remote start; $995 for the technology package; $1,090 for the black appearance package; $1,295 for the FX4 off road package with locking differential; $495 for the trailer tow package and $160 for a floor liner.
The technology package included adaptive cruise control, a forward sensing system and navigation.
The black appearance package includes 18-inch black painted aluminum wheels, spray in bed liner, and running boards.
The government’s EPA fuel ratings system comes in at an overall 22 miles per gallon – 24 mpg in highway driving and 20 in city driving.
The EPA estimates than annual average fuel cost for driving this model to be $1,850 – as it uses about 4.5 gallons of gas per every 100 miles driven.
The government’s five star safety ratings for crash test gives the Ranger an overall four-star rating.
On the frontal crash test it received five stars for the driver and four for the passenger. For the side crash test it got five stars for both the front and rear seat tests. And, it got a three-star rating on the rollover test.
On the inside I found the Rangers controls and infotainment system fairly easy to use. The touch screen and voice controlled system for navigations, phone and music were not difficult to master.
The Ranger Supercrew has ample interior room in both the front seats and the two rear seats in the back of the cab. However, it doesn’t feature a full-sized bed. Instead, similar to the Jeep Gladiator, this Ranger comes with a compact five-foot bed.
If you are thinking about using the Ranger for a full work load truck, it may not fit the bill for that. However, the bed was more than ample for carrying a couple of bikes and some fishing gear on a recent outing.
Overall, if you are considering a compact pickup, you would be remiss not to add the Ranger to your list for consideration.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. Questions, comments and suggestions are welcomed. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.