Although Ford is about to unleash the new Ford Maverick compact pickup, the company has also been busy readying a new Ranger compact pickup as well.
A teaser video was just released by Ford of Europe on YouTube. The video, which is a little more than a minute long, shows a heavily camouflaged pickup truck tackling some extreme situations, blowing through mud, hammering over rocks, gliding effortlessly across snow and tackling some gnarly, but scenic, off-road trails.
Given the timing of the new video’s release, it would seem that a new Ranger should debut sometime in the new calendar year as a 2023 model.
Nothing official, but much speculation
While Ford hasn’t released any details about the new pickup, there have been speculative reports that the new Ranger could share much of its DNA with the Bronco, including its drivelines. That would suggest the new Ranger will be powered by the Bronco’s turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine, and could eventually include a Ranger Raptor, a model already offered overseas and in Mexico, but not in the U.S. market.
If the Bronco lineage proves prescient, it could be powered by a high-performance variant of its turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6, and arriving in showrooms for the 2024 model year.
The Ranger Raptor sold in Mexico is a diesel. Specifically, it is a 2.0-liter twin-turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine putting out 210 horsepower and a generous 369 pound-feet of torque. The U.S. version of the Ranger currently enjoys a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine developing 270 hp and 310 lb.-ft.
Reclaiming a market segment it abandoned
Two decades ago, the Ford Ranger dominated the compact pickup class, outselling even the Toyota Tacoma. But by 2005, Ford let its dominance slip, allowing the Ranger to grow long in the tooth without any meaningful upgrades. Three years later, Ford pulled it from the U.S. market, handing the segment to Toyota and Nissan in the United States even as the Ranger was redesigned for overseas markets. In the interim, sales of smaller pickups — midsize, not compact — continued to grow, and Ford realized what it had carelessly relinquished.
The model returned for 2019 after an eight-year absence, recast as a midsize pickup. But the move was a holding action at best, as the new Ranger was hardly new; it was originally built for international markets, debuting for 2011.
But the next-generation Ranger should finally rectify Ford’s half-hearted attempts to serve the midsize market segment. But it faces an increasingly crowded field. Ford’s reticence in investing in a new model matched similar ennui from General Motors and Nissan, who were all too enamored of the oversized profits from full-size pickups to bother with the smaller margins generated by smaller pickups. They feared sales cannibalization, and thought that buyers of smaller trucks would graduate up to full-size models.
But that’s not what happened. Smaller pickup truck buyers prefer smaller pickups, and Toyota remained actively committed to the segment. The company now clearly dominates it in the U.S., selling 238,806 Tacomas last year, more than double the 101,486 Rangers Ford retailed in the same period. While that was good enough for Ford to rank second in class, it wasn’t miles ahead of Chevrolet’s Colorado, which found favor with 96,238 buyers in 2020, followed by the Nissan Frontier at 36,845 units, the Honda Ridgeline at 32,168 units, and the GMC Canyon at 25,190 units. And, now compact pickups are back too with Hyundai entering the fray with 2022 Santa Cruz.
The 2021 Ford Ranger
While not a new design, the 2021 Ford Ranger offers room for up to five people and can tow up to 7,500 pounds. Payload ranges from 1,560 pounds to 1,860 pounds depending on model.
The Ranger is currently offered in ascending XL, XLT and Lariat trim, Body choices include a SuperCab extended cab with rear-hinged rear doors and a 6-foot bed, or a SuperCrew with four front-hinged rear doors and a shorter 5-foot bed. A regular cab is not offered.
Power comes from Ford’s previously mentioned EcoBoost 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine generating 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard; part-time four-wheel drive is optional.
Will it be enough?
Certainly, Ford’s all-new Ranger should allow the company to retain its place in the midsize pickup pecking order, especially with the arrival of the new compact Maverick beneath it. But Ford has to be careful with pricing. The Maverick is slated to price at $19,995, while the F-150 starts at $29,280. That places the Ranger in the middle, where it currently starts at $24,820.
Given that Ford has never offered different sized pickups in such a close price range, it remains to be seen whether the models will cannibalize each other’s sales, as executives have long feared, or whether it will expand the market — and company coffers.