When Ford closed its Twin Cities Assembly Plant in Minnesota and killed off the old Ranger a decade ago it was decidedly skeptical about bringing a new version of the pickup back to the U.S. Not so with the next-generation truck which should reach the U.S. market in 2023.
The automaker pulled the wraps off the new Ranger and, while it was designed and engineered in Australia, the company kept U.S. market requirements clearly in mind. That’s a good strategy considering the current Ranger — which was also developed overseas — required extensive and costly revisions before it could come to the States.
Officially, Ford isn’t yet confirming the new truck will replace the American model, though insiders confirm it will arrive around the 2023 model year. They also indicate we will see more than just a gas-powered version of the next Ranger. At least one “electrified” offering is in the works, and there eventually could be both hybrid and all-electric models in the line-up.
A joint effort
The new Ranger just debuting in Europe is the product of a joint venture between Ford and Volkswagen. The two announced a variety of projects several years ago, including plans for Ford to use VW’s electric MEB architecture for two battery-electric vehicles it will sell in Europe.
In this case, the new Ranger rides on a version of the body-on-frame platform used for the German carmaker’s own Amarok pickup. But it has been worked over quite thoroughly, with development handled by Ford’s Australian operations.
The Detroit automaker’s next-gen truck has a lot to live up to.
The pickup Ford pulled from production in 2011 was the oldest product in its fleet and, like most competitors, the automaker thought the small and midsize pickup segment had dwindled to insignificance. But it eventually saw the light, especially after General Motors scored big with its own reborn Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon models.
Keeping the U.S. market in mind this time
Since the Ranger sold in Europe and other markets hadn’t been targeted at the U.S., it required some extensive revisions to meet both government mandate and customer requirements, Ford only reentering the American segment in 2019. But the added work has paid off. The current generation Ranger just last week toppled the Toyota Tacoma as king-of-the-midsize-pickup-hill in the Consumer Reports Automotive Reliability Study. It’s also ranked number one in terms of operating costs, according to several studies.
So far, Ford has revealed only some basic information about the fifth-generation Ranger, while insiders have offered a few additional hints. To start with, look for at least two body styles, with an extended cab version mated to a short bed, and a four-door crew cab model with a shorter bed.
In all versions, the new truck will be longer and about two inches wider than today’s model. And, to take the attack to Toyota, it will feature better ground clearance, and improved off-roadability, something the Tacoma is widely known for.
Battery power is coming
Depending upon the market, the 2023 truck will debut with both gas and diesel powertrain options. (But an oil burner seems unlikely to reach the States.) Word is that only one gas engine will be available, the current 2.3-liter turbo-4 remaining essentially unchanged. That should mean an output of around 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. That engine will be mated to a 10-speed auto and, in some markets, a 6-speed manual will be available.
Ranger almost certainly will be offered here with a choice of either rear- or four-wheel-drive. It’s possible Ford will have both full- and part-time 4WD packages shared with the new Bronco.
As with Bronco, Ford is working up at least one electrified version of the new Ranger, Ford insiders confirm. It’s unclear whether that will be a hybrid or a pure electric package — possibly even both during the lifecycle of the truck.
Ford was, until recently, skeptical of the market for battery power. It has radically changed its stance, CEO Jim Farley recently told TheDetroitBureau.com, due to the overwhelming demand for both the Mustang Mach-E SUV and the upcoming F-150 Lightning. The carmaker now plans to double full-size battery pickup’s production capacity. And it has announced plans to open three battery plants in Tennessee and Kentucky with capacity to produce enough cells for 1 million BEVs.
Ford plans to not just upgrade the next-generation Ranger but take it more upmarket. It wants some breathing room between the midsize model and the new compact Maverick pickup. Expect to see tow ratings rise from the current 7,500 pounds, with cargo capacity climbing from the current 1,905-pound payload limit.
Plenty of features will be lifted from the F-150 line, including a more functional tailgate and a cargo bed-mounted AC inverter. The new Maverick also appears to have had an influence in Ranger’s new, more flexible approach to dividing up the cargo bed.
Even bigger changes will come inside the truck. The global Ranger will compete in a broad range of markets, so a basic layout will be necessary in places like Thailand or South Africa. But in the U.S., Ford expects a growing number of affluent lifestyle-oriented customers who are just as willing to move up-market as those buying the full-size F-150. That should mean more lavish materials, a larger touchscreen for infotainment and plenty of additional onboard technologies. Few would be surprised if the new Ranger eventually gets Ford’s hands-free BlueCruise system.
Ford expects to have more to say next year, with the Ranger likely to reach showrooms in Europe and other markets by late in 2022. It is not yet ready to discuss specifics about the American market. Indeed, it isn’t ready to officially confirm there will be a U.S. version. There will be, we were assured on background. And production is expected to take place at the same suburban Detroit plant that is now assembling the Bronco.