Eight years passed between the Ford Ranger disappearing from U.S. showrooms and its return to these shores in 2019. That’s a long time to allow Toyota, Nissan and Chevrolet/GMC to run wild, uncontested by the Blue Oval in the midsize truck market. When the Ranger did finally arrive last year, it was more of a ripple than a big splash.
One reason the new Ranger didn’t have the sparkle to really dazzle the U.S. market is, well, it wasn’t really new. World wide, the Ranger never went away. Its fate simply fell into the hands of Ford Australia that was responsible for building it since 2011. The Ranger, popping into U.S. dealerships in 2019, is really a reworked version of that international Ranger. This doesn’t diminish the qualities of the 2020 Ranger, but it does explain why its return to showrooms here didn’t create anything close to the stir that the all-new Bronco has.
I recently spent a week with the top-end 2020 Ford Ranger Lariat SuperCrew 4×4, using it for day-to-day driving and typical weekend job-jar chores. A 6-foot cargo box comes on the 4-door, 5-passenger SuperCrew. Ford also makes Ranger available in its 4-passenger SuperCab models with a 5-ft box. This configuration replaces the full-size rear doors with rear-hinged half doors. Anchoring the trim levels falls to the XL, followed by the XLT and Lariat. All are available with 4WD, adding roughly $4,000 to the bottom line. Moving up from the SuperCab to the SuperCrew adds $2,400 in the XL, and $2,175 in the XLT and Lariat.
Launching here as a 2019 model, the Ranger continues into 2020, basically unchanged. Under the hood of every Ranger is a 270-horsepower 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with stop/start technology. Generating 310 lb-ft of torque, engine output is managed by a 10-speed automatic transmission. Ranger can haul a maximum payload of 1,860 pounds. When appropriately outfitted, it can tow up to 7,500 lb. Government-estimated fuel economy in RWD Rangers is 21 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg in combined driving. Opting for 4WD scrubs off a mile or two to 20 mpg city/24 mpg highway/22 mpg combined.
I found the turbo four provided plenty of zip. Acceleration was brisk with smooth, timely shifts from the 10-speed tranny. On the freeway, the powertrain worked aggressively when a little extra oomph was called for in passing slower traffic. Being 4WD, my test truck sat a bit higher off the ground than RWD models (8.9 in. versus 8.4 in.). Visibility is excellent in either case. With 4WD, Ford also provides four driver-selectable drive modes: Normal, Eco, Sport and Slippery. Switching modes changes the traction control, steering and pedal response. Available Intelligent 4WD includes a fifth Snow/Sand mode.
Inside, the SuperCrew cabin is comfy and surprisingly roomy. Up front, loads of head, hip and legroom make Ranger feel larger than it is. SuperCrew rear-seat inhabitants will appreciate the impressive legroom. Bland, but highly functional, the instrument panel is easy to use. The supportive front seats provide decent side bolsters for a pickup.
Although the connectivity and safety/driver-assist technology pickings are pretty slim on the entry-level XL ($25,605 SuperCab), it does come with forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, a rearview camera, a 4-speaker audio system, a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity and Ford Pass Connect with a Wi-Fi hotspot capable of connecting up to 10 devices.
Moving up to the XLT ($29,665 SuperCab) or Lariat ($33,695 SuperCab) adds the Sync 3 electronics interface with an 8-inch color touchscreen, a 110-volt power outlet, additional USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Ford Co-Pilot with lane-keep assist, forward pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and automatic high beams.
A solid midsize pickup, the 2020 Ford Ranger may not dazzle, but it does shine. It does everything right. No one will exhaust his or her bag of superlatives when discussing the Ranger, but it will find plenty of followers. I think the value point is the XLT CrewCab, but if you want to indulge yourself, the Lariat adds leather seating, LED headlights and taillights, and a few additional goodies.
Russ has covered the automotive industry for more than 30 years. He is also a long-time bourbon and craft-beer drinker who also produces the BEER2WHISKEY channel on YouTube.