2020 Ford Ranger

By April 24, 2020

The 2020 Ford Ranger serves as a good example of midsize truck capability, far removed from the big pickups that unspool diesel power or barely fit in a garage. Absent from Ford’s lineup since 2011, the Ranger nameplate was revived for the 2019 model year.

Though not flawless, the current Ranger conveys a sense of honesty and authenticity. Ride quality and safety data warrant little praise, but plenty of trucks have demerits in those areas. Truck purists need not fret. These aren’t the budget-level Rangers Ford used to produce, they’re better trucks this time around.

A new FX2 option for rear-wheel-drive Rangers is available for the 2020 model year, providing the electronically-locking rear differential used in the FX4 option.

Beneath all Ranger hoods is a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque – stout ratings for a comparatively small pickup. The motor is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Rear-wheel drive is standard. Optional four-wheel drive is a part-time system, not intended for use on dry pavement. The four-wheel-drive system can help the Ranger crawl up nearly any rural trail. When equipped with the FX4 off-road package, an electronically-controlled rear differential enhances traction.

Mid-size pickups aren’t much more fuel-efficient than their full-size counterparts, but the Ranger tops its category. The Ranger earns an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city, 26 highway, and 23 combined, or 20/24/22 mpg with 4WD.

Crash-test scores are troubling. The NHTSA gave the Ranger just four stars overall and for frontal impact, but five stars for side impact. Rollover prevention earned only three stars – a subpar rating that isn’t issued often.

The IIHS yielded more positive results. While it failed to earn a designation from the institute, it earned “Good” rating (the highest possible) on all crash tests, except for the passenger’s side small overlap front, which was deemed only “Acceptable,” and the headlights that were ranked “Marginal.”

The Ranger comes standard with automatic emergency braking. On the XLT and Lariat models, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, and automatic high-beam headlights are standard. These features are available on the base XL model for $625. Adaptive cruise control is also available on the XLT and Lariat.

Outward vision is good for a midsize pickup.

Model Lineup

The 2020 Ford Ranger comes in XL, XLT, and Lariat trim levels. The standard SuperCab (extended cab) configuration comes with a 6-foot bed, while the available SuperCrew (four regular doors) get a 5-foot bed. The SuperCrew costs $2,400 more on the XL and $2,175 extra on the XLT and Lariat.

The base XL model starts at $26,250 and aims at work tasks. It’s equipped with automatic emergency braking, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, one USB port, a 4.2-inch display screen, automatic headlights, and 16-inch steel wheels.

The $30,300 XLT adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Sync 3 infotainment, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, keyless entry, fog lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, and automatic high-beam headlights also are standard.

The Lariat is priced from $34,340 and gets leather upholstery, LED headlights and taillights, front parking sensors, push-button start, and 18-inch wheels.

Exterior

The Ford Ranger bypasses pretense, earning a favorable nod in a straightforward manner. Built with a “right-sized” footprint, the Ranger displays interesting curves and stampings. Underneath, like full-size trucks, the Ranger rides on a ladder frame, with an independent front suspension and solid rear axle.

Led by its wide grille, the Ranger fits well into Ford’s lineup. Big “RANGER” lettering, stamped into a shelf above the grille, gets right to the point. In contrast to past pickups with slab-sided bodies, the Ranger features a deep cut line at door bottoms. Identifying lettering is also stamped into the back end.

Interior

Inside, the Ranger is also refreshingly straightforward, highlighting pickup truck basics: a useful cargo bed and ample cab space for up to four riders.

Hard plastic components dominate the cockpit, regardless of trim level. Little touches, such as a stitched dashboard in Lariat models, separate the three versions – though not by much. All told, the quality of materials could be better.

SuperCab Rangers aren’t the best choice for more than two adults. The back seat is suitable only for pets or small youngsters. SuperCrew models have four full-size doors and offer seating for up to five with a bigger back seat. Four adults will be more comfortable.

Front seats are comfortable, though base versions don’t provide height adjustment. SuperCrew rear seats suffice for average or smaller adults, but a 6-footer has enough leg clearance to sit behind another 6-footer.

Driving Impressions

Ranger performance is pleasant and impressive. The small turbo-4 engine has plenty of vigor for tackling (and achieving) typical smaller pickup tasks.

Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission is just as slick a performer as its stout engine. When appropriate, it can drop one or more gears without dithering.

Ride comfort is a concern, lacking in confidence. Body motions are too noticeable. A Ranger tends to get bouncy, even bucking and bounding, suffering considerable nosedive and some squatting behavior.

In addition to excessive body motion, the Ranger lets too much noise into the cabin.

A four-wheel-drive Ranger turns into a willing companion when the pavement ends. The available FX4 package adds off-road traction modes for loping along trails at preset speeds. When properly equipped, a Ranger can tow up to 7,500 pounds.

Final Word

The 2020 Ford Ranger is hardly bargain-priced, but it performs with gusto. Little more than some poor safety ratings and a bouncy ride mars the experience. Pickup trucks have been serving as family cars for a growing number of people, and Ford’s midsize Ranger stands ready for daily duties. For well-equipped value, an XLT SuperCrew with four-wheel drive is a tempting choice.

 

—by James M. Flammang, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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