America loves trucks and it loves trucks with heritage even more, so there’s a lot riding on the 2019 Ford Ranger. Unveiled today at the Detroit Auto Show 2018, it’s a triumphant return to the US market that has been eagerly anticipated since the automaker spilled the beans on its plans twelve months ago. Now, in the metal, we can see the results of this new, midsize truck, and it’s shaping up to be something pretty special.
It’s less retro than some thought it might be – Ford is likely to save that design language for the upcoming Bronco, which is expected to share the Ranger’s underpinnings – and more like a slightly shrunken F-150. The designers have dialed the aggression up in places, though, like the steeper rake of the windshield and front grille. The high waistline pinches in the side glass, too, while the sculpting in the doors and around the rear arches is more pronounced.
What’s interesting is that, while it clearly bears some resemblance to the Ranger sold internationally, Ford says that this is no simple US-centric massage of that truck. Instead, it’s effectively developed it from the ground up for the North American market. Not so simple for the engineers, maybe, but a good way of making sure it’s pitch-perfect for the audience likely to buy the most.
Although, for a return to the midsize truck segment, you might have expected Ford to target the full breadth of price points, it seems the blue oval is willing to sacrifice the very base level. There’ll be no plastic-clad, super-low-end Ranger, at least not for the 2019 model year, and neither will there be a single-cab variant. SuperCab and SuperCrew will be the only cabin options – each seating five – and even the entry-spec 2019 Ranger XL is expected to be pretty well equipped.
Our big question is whether, as with the “other” Ranger, there’ll be a Ranger Raptor version for the US. The international truck of that name is expected to arrive in 2018, but Ford US is yet to confirm whether it has similar ambitions here. For the moment, the most beastly iteration of the 2019 Ranger will be the FX4 Off-Road Package, with its beefier tires, bash and skid plates, and off-road-tuned shocks.
Still, it took a little time for the thirteenth-generation F-150 to spawn its Raptor variant, so we should probably give Ford a little breathing room to do the same for the Ranger. It seems like there’s little question that such a truck would be in demand, though, and while the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine is certainly smaller than what the F-150 Raptor is packing, in Focus RS form it’s been tuned to a heady 350 HP and 350 lb-ft of torque. That’s hardly conservative.
For now, though, we’ll have to “make do” with the Ranger as we see it. Ford is yet to confirm things like power, towing ability, and all the other details and metrics that truck buyers look for, though it has plenty of time to figure that out. Sales of the 2019 Ranger aren’t expected to begin until early 2019.