Well, the 2017 Detroit Auto Show came and went without seeing the new U.S.-spec Ford Ranger. However, what we did get was a step in the right direction. Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields confirmed that a new Ranger, as well as a new Bronco SUV, were on their way for ’19 and ’20, respectively. While the return of these two names from Ford’s past has been widely rumored for more than a year, now that the word is official, the armchair-quarterbacking can begin in earnest.
Ford claims the new Ranger will be nothing like the current global T6 model. The T6 first debuted in ’11 for global markets, so it’s likely the model we’ll see in ’19 will truly be a clean-sheet model. That said, the current global Ranger is no slouch in the styling or features department.
Expect the new Ranger to share a strong family resemblance to the F-150, especially in the grille and frontal area. The Ranger will obviously be its own truck, but expect the family resemblance to be deliberately strong. While the Ranger likely won’t have the mind-boggling number of variants the F-150 has, expect the usual XL and XLT trim levels, with an available FX4 off-road package. A Sport trim and other variants might also be in the cards. Like its midsize peers, expect the Ranger to be offered only in extended (SuperCab, in Ford speak) and crew cab (or SuperCrew) variants.
Powertrains and Drivetrains
Here’s where things could get interesting. The current T6 global Ranger is offered with a 2.5L I-4 gas engine as the base powerplant. The majority are sold with a turbodiesel, either a 2.2L I-4 or 3.2L I-5. The 2.2L will likely be phased out soon and replaced with a version of Ford’s recently introduced 2.0L I-4 EcoBlue diesel. While some are speculating the 3.2L I-5 could find its way under the hood of the U.S. Ranger since it’s already certified and federalized for the Transit, I think a version of the EcoBlue is more likely, if the U.S. gets a diesel at all. Think a dinky 2.0L can’t cut it against GM’s 2.8L Duramax in the Colorado and Canyon?
The EcoBlue is reportedly good for more than 200 hp and well above 300 lb-ft of torque. That level of power with 30-plus highway mpg would probably find plenty of eager takers. However, the diesel will be a niche powerplant in the U.S. Expect Ford’s just-announced 3.3L V-6 to be the bread-and-butter offering. A 2.5L I-4 updated with direct fuel injection will likely serve as the base engine. Expect a manual trans only on the base I-4, maybe with the 3.3L V-6. Most models will get an automatic. The number of speeds is anyone’s guess, but my money’s on 6 for lower-trim models and 8 or 10 for higher-trim models.
Personally, I’m hoping the 2.7L EcoBoost V-6 will find its way on the option sheet. Even in the larger, heavier F-150, this engine has plenty of spunk. A midsize truck with 325 hp and 375 lb-ft sounds like a recipe for fun, which brings me to my next point.
OK, it might be easy to dismiss this one as just a fanboy fantasy, but bear with me. When Chevrolet officially announced the production Colorado ZR2, comparisons were immediately made with the larger, more powerful, much more expensive F-150 Raptor. Knowing how fiercely competitive Ford is, I know Dearborn would love nothing more than to take on the Bowtie boys toe-to-toe.
Also, a dealer-installed “Raptor” appearance package is offered in some overseas markets. While it’s more swagger than substance comprised mostly of fender flares, wheels and a unique grille, it clearly shows the enthusiasm for such a concept. The punchy 2.7L EcoBoost mated to a bespoke off-road suspension built to tame the trails and dunes would be a tasty treat. It would probably be pushing the $50,000 mark too. In this day and age of $45,000 midsize trucks, it’s not that improbable, and it would probably still generate a mile-long waiting list. How close are my guesses to the final product? Time will tell, and I promise a full “hit and miss” recap once the specifics are revealed.