Test Drive Notes Library
- Size. It’s actually a tremendous relief to get into a pickup truck that doesn’t require a guy from the airport to guide you to your gate. “Normal”-sized pickup trucks have gotten so big that they’re a nuisance to drive in the city or even many suburban neighborhoods. They don’t fit in parking garages, car-sized parking spaces, or suburban household garages. For that reason, the Ranger is a breath of fresh air. It’s not small, but it’s not ginormous either. It seats four—with four doors—and has a five-foot bed. It’s shorter and narrower than an F150, but it’s plenty spacious inside. This size is going to appeal to a lot of people.
- Looks. People who see the Ranger like it, especially pickup truck drivers. It looks sufficiently tough, brawny, and squared off that they could actually almost imagine their egos surviving a downsize.
- Equipment. Work? What work? Lots of trucks these days have every luxury feature that cars have, and all the safety equipment, too. Our loaded Ranger Lariat was no exception. Heated leather seats, Sync 3 infotainment, climate control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, etc. If you want all the bells and whistles, you can have them in this mid-sized truck. The more modest XLT still came with automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring.
- Visibility. One of the nice things about a pickup truck is that the cab itself is a box with windows. That means you can actually turn around and see where you’re going while you’re backing up. The hood has the decency to slope down as it moves away from the driver, so you can at least approximate where the front of the truck is. The Ranger has a rear view camera, and both of our test Rangers had various parking aids, which help you pinpoint exactly when you’re about to crush the door of the Civic in the next space. But the visibility of four vertical windows is notable in that most cars and SUVs have so little of it these days.
- Soft on the inside. Ford’s engineers really tried to soften up the Ranger’s ride. So on smooth roads, when you’re not turning or braking, the ride is nearly cushy. The seats are comfortable. The ride is soft. Headroom is copious. See below under “Cons” for the downside of a soft suspension.
- Ergonomics. The Ranger has two large knobs for volume and tuning, nice, easy-to-use temperature and ventilation controls, and well-placed switches on the steering wheel for commonly used items. It has a couple of USB ports that light up, so it’s easy to find them, and plug into them, in a dark cabin. Those of us that plug in frequently love that feature. Ford’s Sync 3 system is pretty good overall.
- Mileage. The Ranger is powered by a 2.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes a whopping 270 horsepower. That’s 270 with a 2. It’s matched up with a 10-speed automatic transmission. In the 4WD Lariat, in pretty pure stop-and-go driving, we couldn’t break 17 mpg. But with more mixed driving, and more highway, the 2WD Ranger topped 23 mpg, which is not bad for a truck. The EPA predicts you’ll get about 20 in the city, which would make most truck owners giddy.
- Price. When compared with a similarly equipped full-size pickup, the Ranger feels like a bargain. These days, you can load up an F150 to well over $60,000. A loaded Ranger is more likely to sit in the mid $40s, and could sell well-equipped for high $30s. Our 2WD XLT with cloth seats and a quaint old key listed for $36K. Cheap? No. But show your wife an ad for a $68,000 F150 Platinum and she might sign off on a Ranger with everything.
- Do you like baseball? Because this Ranger loves to pitch. Turn it, step on the brakes, and the body will move. It’s the downside of the soft springing. Moreover, when the road gets rough, the Ranger will jolt you. The suspension itself is stiff and when jostled, you’ll get jostled. To be fair, our Lariat 4WD had an FX4 Off-Road package, which included off-road tires. That makes the jolting worse. But even the softer XLT was not great. It’s just not a very sophisticated suspension, and our guess is that Ford will work to improve it in the next generation Ranger.
- Pants splitter. The Ranger’s floor is pretty high off the ground, requiring the old “one, two, threeeee!” to get in. Try it out before you buy, and if your right leg has to swing higher than the fabric in your Haggar Knit Slacks has room for, order the optional running boards and use the step.
- Hard-to-see blind spot monitor. Like a number of vehicles, blind spot monitoring is there to keep you from changing lanes into a double Fed-Ex truck. But the warning on the Ranger is a small, yellow light in the side view mirror. We’ve seen better. Larger, brighter lights would be safer and would enhance the value of the safety feature.
Editor’s note: We drove the Ranger Lariat Supercrew 4WD and a Ranger XLT 2WD.
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