After wavering for several years, Ford is finally getting back into the midsize pickup market with the planned launch of the 2019 Ranger.
It’s been six years since the Detroit automaker abandoned its ancient Twin Cities plant in Minnesota, walking away from what was, back then, a dying market segment. But it failed to reckon on what might happen when new product would be injected into the midsize category, General Motors scoring a hit with the likes of its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, and Toyota hitting the ball out of the park with a new version of its segment-leading Tacoma model.
For Ford, the good news was having a Ranger in place for other markets, though it has needed some major updates to get it ready for U.S. buyers, and our spy photographer Jim Dunne has captured a nearly naked version of the American version undergoing late testing in the Detroit suburbs not far from Ford’s world headquarters.
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If you’ve seen the overseas version – which is built in plants as far-flung as Thailand and South Africa – you won’t be shocked. The American version shares the same, underlying body-on-frame platform known inside Ford as the T6. But there are a number of changes, both visually and mechanically. Among other things, since the F-150 is generally not available in many markets, the overseas Ranger is more lavishly equipped than the American version will be.
Ford has a number of different powertrains in use in Ranger, depending upon the market. We’ll have to wait to see if one of the torquey and fuel-efficient diesels will come to the States to compete with the Chevy Colorado diesel. Among the gas engines now used globally, American buyers will likely see a four-cylinder EcoBoost variant and a naturally aspirated V-6 base engine. Some reports suggest an EcoBoost V-6 will also be in the mix.
That could be the bolder Raptor model that has been spotted testing out in the Arizona desert, complete with larger, off-road capable 17-inch wheels and tires surrounded by chunky fender flares and splash guards.
The Ranger Raptor is believed to be using a detuned version of the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 currently found in the F-150 Raptor where it makes 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque.
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The new Ranger will be assembled at Ford’s updated Wayne, Michigan assembly plant, alongside the reborn Ford Bronco SUV sharing the same T6 platform.
The new Ranger is expected to be offered in a variety of body configurations, including a SuperCrew cab. We also expect to see both 4×2 and 4×4 powertrain options.
(The factory had been producing both the subcompact Focus line and the C-Max people-mover, and Ford and into some political trouble when it last year announced plans to pull out those passenger cars and move them to an all-new plant in Mexico. That incurred the wrath of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump who threatened Ford with “big” tariffs on Mexican imports. Ford subsequently scrubbed the second plant but is still moving the Focus abroad, consolidating production into a plant in China.)
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Expect to see production of the 2019 Ford Ranger to launch late next year. Pricing is expected to be competitive with the Chevrolet Colorado, starting in the low to mid-$20,000 range. If we get the Raptor version it may not follow until a year later, about the same time the Bronco goes into production.
At one point, Ford was king of the midsize hill but it let the old Ranger run far too long with far too few updates. Whether it can regain momentum is uncertain but it clearly will have name recognition going for it, as well as the crossover surge that’s seen light trucks, in general, sure to record levels. And midsize pickups, in particular, have been rebounding after years of decline.
(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.)