Test Drive Notes Library
- Size. It’s actually a tremendous relief to get into a pickup truck that doesn’t require a guy from the airport to guide you into your gate. “Normal”-sized pickup trucks have gotten so big that they’re a nuisance to drive in city or even many suburban neighborhoods. They don’t fit in parking garages, in car-sized parking spaces, or in suburban household garages. For that reason, the Ranger is a breath of fresh air. It’s not small, but it’s not ginormous, either. It seats four — with four doors — and has a five foot bed. It’s shorter and narrower than an F150, but it’s plenty spacious inside. This size is going to appeal to a lot of people.
- Equipment. Work, what work? Lots of trucks these days have every luxury feature that cars have, and all the safety equipment, too. Our loaded Ranger Lariat was no exception. Heated leather seats, Sync 3 infotainment, climate control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, etc. If you want all the bells and whistles, you can do it in this mid-sized truck.
- Visibility. One of the nice things about this crew cab (four-door) Ranger is that the cab itself is a box with windows. That means you can actually turn around and see where you’re going while you’re backing up. The hood has the decency to slope down as it moves away from the driver, so you can at least approximate where the front of the truck is. The Ranger has a rear-view camera, and our version had various parking aids, which help you pinpoint exactly when you’re about to crush the door of the Civic in the next space. But the visibility of four pretty vertical windows is notable in that most cars and SUVs have so little of it these days.
- Soft on the inside. On smooth roads, the Ranger’s ride is nearly luxurious. The seats are comfortable. The ride is soft. Headroom is copious. See below under “dislikes” for what happens when the road isn’t smooth.
- Ergonomics. The Ranger has two large knobs for volume and tuning, nice, easy-to-use temperature and ventilation controls, and well-placed switches on the steering wheel for commonly used items. It has a couple of USB ports that light up, so it’s easy to find them and plug into them in a dark cabin. Ford’s Sync 3 system is pretty good overall.
- Mileage. The Ranger is powered by a 2.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes a whopping 270 horsepower. That’s 270 with a 2. It’s matched up with a 10-speed automatic transmission. We got 17 miles per gallon in pure stop-and-go driving, which is not bad for a truck. The EPA predicts you’ll get about 20 in the city, which would make most truck owners giddy. We got close to 24 on the highway, which is in line with EPA estimates.
- Price. When compared with a comparably equipped full-sized pickup, the Ranger feels like a bargain. These days, you can load up an F150 to well over $60,000. A loaded Ranger is more likely sitting in the mid $40s, and could sell well-equipped for high $30s. Cheap? No. But show your wife an ad for a $68,000 F150 Platinum and she might sign off on a Ranger with everything.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Bounce. When the road gets rough, the Ranger will jolt you. It’s great on smooth highways, but when you hit a rough road, or even a rough patch, you can really feel the stiff suspension bounce the truck around. To be fair, our test Ranger had an FX4 Off-Road package, which included off-road tires. We’ll be driving a more road-oriented XLT, and will report on any difference in ride. But the platform has been around for a while, and while Ford did what they could to make it handle well, you’ll feel the stiffness of the suspension when the road is imperfect.
- 10-Speeds, not all of them smooth. The Ranger has Ford's new, 10-speed automatic transmission, which offers a lot of advantages in fuel economy and pick up. But surprisingly, there were a some consistently rough shifts. We noticed it most at lower speeds, when the transmission shifted from 3rd to 4th, and 4th to 5th, which happens a lot, because — with a 10-speed transmission — those shifts happen in the 15-30 mph range. It’s not terrible, but automatic transmissions are so good and so smooth these days, that it was noteworthy. We were driving a pre-production test vehicle, so it’s entirely possible that Ford will sort this out and update the transmission software to make the shifts seamless. And pretty much all the other shifts were seamless. But those lower speed shifts will annoy you if they’re not addressed.
- Pants splitter. The Ranger’s floor is pretty high off the ground, requiring the old “one, two, threeeee!” to get in. Try it out before you buy, and if your right leg has to swing higher than the fabric in your Haggar Knit Slacks has room for, order the optional running boards and use the step.
- Hard to see blind-spot monitor. Like a number of vehicles, blind-spot monitoring is there to keep you from changing lanes into a double Fed-Ex truck. But the warning on the Ranger is a small, yellow light in the side-view mirror. We’ve seen better. Larger, brighter lights would be safer and would enhance the value of the safety feature.
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