Powerful and solid off-roader faces tough competition
Roseville, Calif.- The popular Ford Ranger was a cash cow for more than two decades before a sales dip led to its departure in the United States.
An overall decline for compact trucks led to the 2011 discontinuation (it was produced in 2012 for fleet sales) of the Ford Ranger. That left Ford focusing on its full-size F-Series pickup trucks.
The Ranger, which hit a high note with sales of 348,358 in 1999, disappeared at U.S. dealerships for seven years, but it did immediately resurface internationally. By Ford’s standards, the Ranger has sold modestly overseas since 2011, topping out at 50,900 in 2018.
While the Ranger’s return to the U.S. market three years ago hasn’t matched its previous success – 101,486 sales in 2020 – it’s clearly found a niche. The current Ranger is larger than its predecessor, and priced a bit higher as it strives to appeal to customers who are demanding more sophistication in pickup trucks.
Offered as either a four-door extended cab with a 6-foot bed or a two-door crew cab with a 5-foot bed, the 2021 Ford Ranger has an appealing look and gives pickup-hungry folks enough reasons to pull the trigger on a purchase.
We sampled the Tremor version of the Ranger for a week. A crew cab, the Tremor has of 9.7 inches of ground clearance, upgraded 2.0 shocks, and is designed for off-road journeys.
The Tremor upgrades cost $4,290 and include an upgraded suspension, all-terrain tires, electronically locking rear differential, skid plates, fixed metal side steps, and six auxiliary power switches for accessories.
All three Ranger trim models (XL, XLT and Lariat) are powered by a stout turbocharged 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, and is paired with a10-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is appealing for a truck (20-24 mpg).
It shows good performance and goes 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds, quick for a midsize truck. The Ranger payload is 1,860 pounds for the extended cab and 1,430 pounds for the crew cab. Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.
It’s a pickup truck, so no one expects the Ranger to possess the driving acumen of a nice sedan. The steering is light and numb, while cornering is hardly precision-like. Even mild undulations seem like larger ones in a ride that is sometimes bouncy.
The Ranger bed has six tie-downs and a central locking system that includes the tailgate. Yet it comes up short with interior storage that includes a small center console and door cubicles. A one-seat back row bench doesn’t allow for much underneath storage.
AT A GLANCE – 2021 FORD RANGER
- Performance: 2.3-liter, four-cylinder, 270 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 20-24 mpg
- Price estimate: $24,950 to $36,700
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; Drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; Roadside assistance: 5 years/60,000; Corrosion: 5 years/unlimited
While the front seats are generally comfortably padded, the Lariat model is the only one that has power-adjustable heated front seats. If one needs extra cargo space, a flipped-up portion means the bench only seats two passengers.
The standard Ranger is overall disappointing and comes with a tiny 3.5-inch infotainment screen, surrounded by access buttons. An upgraded XLT or higher comes with multiple USB ports, Sync 3 infotainment system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
The 2021 Ford Ranger features a powerful engine, is a solid off-roader, and has an appealing look. However, it faces some tough competition in the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado.