2021 Ford Ranger
The original Ford Ranger became an icon among American compact pickup trucks. Some say that it was designed the way Americans intended to use it – for both work and play.
After an absence of several years, the Ranger returned to the Ford Trucks lineup in this country. It still encouraged its owners to use for all intended purposes, but the small pickup truck market had changed. Not only has compact trucks grew in size, they are now seen as more for recreational use than for work.
In this changing marketplace, the 2021 Ford Ranger is a part of a four-vehicle strategy that continues to put the company out front among pickup truck producers. A lineup will now include the compact Maverick, the full-size F-150, and the heavy-duty F-Series Super Duty.
Because of the growth in pickup truck market, we were happy to bring in a Ford Ranger to see whether it delivers the goods while showing us that it can possibly punch above its weight class.
Today’s Ranger comes in two cab sizes with a corresponding box size riding on a single wheelbase. Our tester was the SuperCrew four-door cab with a five-foot box.
The design has been around for several years before its reintroduction into the U.S. market for the 2019 model year. While it was designed for global truck buyers, the Michigan-produced Ranger is still handsome from the front grille rearward. There are several cues that tie back to the F-Series pickups.
Our tester had the Tremor package. It adds a set of all-terrain tires mounted on painted alloy wheels, tubular running boards, front and rear tow hooks, red trim on the grille, and side graphics on the box.
Inside, the Ranger XLT tester offers middle-of-the-road comfort for up to five people in the four-door SuperCrew. The Tremor package adds a special vinyl-and-Miko Suede upholstery with Tremor stitching on the seatbacks. The seats themselves offered plenty of comfort, but we wished for more bolstering for lateral support. However, we found that headroom was superb for taller drivers and rear seat passengers. Rear seat legroom was also fine.
The driver has a solid instrument cluster to work with. Two large dials are flanked by an information screen that offers all the information you need. The thick-rimmed steering wheel offers plenty of controls from the adaptive cruise control to redundant audio switches. An eight-inch touchscreen is driven by Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system, with climate controls positioned below it.
The center console offers an actual shifter for the transmission, as well as controls for the four-wheel drive system and the Terrain Management System with Trail Control. On top of the instrument panel are six upfitter switches for accessories, such as additional lights and winches.
Underneath the Ranger’s hood is a 270-horsepower 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Torque is rated at 310 pound-feet, and you certainly feel it when you depress the accelerator. Our tester had the four-wheel drive system channeled through a ten-speed automatic transmission using a two-speed transfer case.
You can either switch to a setting for better traction in certain conditions using either the Terrain Management System or the four-wheel drive system’s knob on the console. One thing we found on this driveline was some indecisiveness of the transmission at lower speeds.
In this configuration, the Ranger with the Tremor package can tow up to 7.500 pounds, while carrying 1,430 pounds of payload. Other Ford Ranger models can carry up to 1,860 pounds, depending on configuration.
For fuel economy, we averaged 21.1 MPG in our care.
Part of the Tremor package is a modified heavy-duty off-road suspension system. It helped smooth out the ride on the highway and off. In fact, the ride quality felt balanced overall – not too soft and not too firm. Handling-wise, there is a bit of roll and lean through the turns at speed. However, it does maneuver around hazards quite nimbly.
We found the turning radius to be fine, even with the larger tires on. this Tremor package. On-center feel is fine, as well as overall response. Braking was also fine, with a solid pedal feel. We experienced decent stops in normal and panic situations.
The 2021 Ford Ranger lineup starts with a 2WD SuperCab XL model, starting at $25,070. Our 4X4 XLT tester with the Tremor package came with a sticker price of $44,430.
Among mid-size pickup trucks, the Ford Ranger competes well with its rivals, even though a couple of them have V6 engines standard, instead of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Those rivals include the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, and Honda Ridgeline.
However, if you want a truck that is made for both work and play that be configured the way you want it, the Ford Ranger gives you the flexibility to add packages to fit your budget. That is what makes the Ranger a great value in its class overall.
Story Credits: CarSoup Editors