It’s no secret that trucks have gotten uncomfortably expensive. While the memory of $30- and even $20,000 pickups remains fresh in their minds, most modern pickup-truck shoppers will be greeted at the dealership by bona fide luxe trucks. The 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 that CarGurus recently reviewed cost more than $66,000, and a new Ford F-150 can crest $70,000 before you add a single option. With that in mind, we drove a 2019 Ford Ranger across four of New England’s six states to determine just how much value a midsize pickup can provide.
First and foremost, despite a $24,110 base price, the Ranger won’t always come cheap. Our test car rang in at $41,595. But that price bought us striking Lightning Blue paint, the FX4 off-road package, and a range of safety systems, including lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.
That said, the Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4 we drove didn’t feel overly modern, either. Shoppers who want their truck to feel rugged and ready for work will love the new Ranger, but shoppers who prioritize comfort will tire of its enthusiastic but unpolished ride. After leaving the truck outdoors overnight in some of Maine’s famous single-digit weather, we woke to discover that the Ranger’s sliding rear window (part of the $2,800 Equipment Group 302A) rattled incessantly when the car was cold. It took roughly an hour of driving before the brittle-sounding frame holding the window warmed up enough to quiet down the ruckus.
The 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine delivered great power: 270 horses and 310 pound-feet of torque. The selectable 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system handled snow marvelously, and the Ranger felt as capable cruising along the highway as it did while trudging through rutted dirt roads. The 4-cylinder constantly roared under gentle acceleration, and it returned a mild 21.4 mpg across 653 (mostly) highway miles. That sort of performance didn’t wow us when we got to the gas pump, but it wasn’t too far off the EPA’s estimate of 20 mpg city, 24 highway, and 22 combined.
Midsize pickups like the 2019 Ford Ranger and its primary competitors, the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, have become incredibly appealing for young, often urban-living, weekend warriors. They’re small enough to drive through a city but capable enough to load up with skis or bikes and take to the woods. Unfortunately, this segment has aged rapidly. The Colorado (and its corporate cousin, the GMC Canyon) debuted in 2015. The Tacoma was last updated in 2016. Even the Ranger, which arrived in the United States in 2019, has been on sale internationally since 2011 and was last refreshed in 2015.
Five years is a long time in the auto world, and that age shows, particularly inside these midsize pickups. The best-feeling option is likely the Honda Ridgeline, which can’t come close to the starting price of the better-selling Chevy, Ford, and Toyota.
Nissan is expected to reveal a refreshed Frontier in 2021 (the Frontier hasn’t been meaningfully updated for a whopping 15 years). Thankfully, competition breeds excellence, and we doubt Ford, Chevy, or Toyota will let Nissan run away with the segment. For now, the Ranger and the rest of the midsize pickup segment offer genuine usability and attractive prices. But if it were our decision, we’d hold out and see what the future brings.
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