Reinvented Ranger pickups will move Ford into midsize truck market

It’s been just over six years since the last Ford Ranger pickup rolled off the assembly line, and Ford Motor Co. is ready to make the small-size truck for North American markets again.

But this time, it’s a mid-size pickup, and it looks a lot more like the current F-150 than the former Ranger.

Production on the new truck will begin in late 2018 for the 2019 model year. It will be powered by Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost gasoline engine and mated to the company’s 10-speed automatic transmission. The new Ranger will be available in both two-wheel- and four-wheel-drive configurations.

Making the announcement on the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford truck marketing manager Todd Eckert said the new pickup, while based on the Ranger the company has sold in the global market since 2011, features an all-new exterior design, chassis and powertrain developed specifically for the North American truck market.

“We’re not just bringing the global Ranger here and dropping it into the U.S. market,” Eckert told The Times. “The powertrain and the off-road packages are both unique to the U.S. market.”

That means that, unlike Ford’s bigger trucks, the new Ranger will not be offered with a diesel engine — at least not at first — nor with a manual transmission.

The reinvented Ranger will allow Ford, which dominates the full-size truck market but has not had anything to offer in the competitive midsize segment, to sell against Toyota’s Tacoma, Chevy’s Colorado, Nissan’s Frontier and GMC’s Canyon.

It’s about time, said Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer.

“The old Ranger was kind of an enigma as the last compact truck on the market, after the Tacoma, the Frontier and the Canyon all got bigger,” Brauer said. “The new one is not little anymore, so it has finally caught up with the midsize trucks.”

Like its larger F-150 sibling, the Ranger will feature a high-strength steel frame paired with frame-mounted steel bumpers. It will feature some aluminum parts, also like the F-150, including the hood and tailgate.

Eckert said the reinvented Ranger is expected to offer best-in-class torque and payload.

The new Ranger will be built in the Wayne, Mich., factory that currently builds the Focus. Ford is shifting production of that vehicle to plants in China and will use the freed-up factory space to make Rangers starting this year and new Broncos starting in 2019.

Eckert said the truck will come standard with driver assist technology like automatic emergency braking. Safety features including blind spot detection, lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning will be available on higher trim levels.

The truck will be compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The FX4 Off-Road Package will include skid plates, off-road shocks and suspension, and heavy-duty tires.

To be sold in supercab and supercrew configurations, the Ranger will be available in three trim lines — the entry level XL, the mid-level XLT and the high-end Lariat. It also will be offered with a Ranger-specific off-road package.

Other key details, such as pricing, payload, fuel economy and towing capacities, have not been revealed. The truck itself will be on display at the Ford exhibit during the Detroit Auto Show, which will be open to the public from Jan. 20-28.

charles.fleming@latimes.com

@misterfleming

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