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2020 Ford Ranger Test Drive Review
The Ford Ranger delivers on capability and technology, but it falls short on cabin comfort and everyday driving dynamics.
Midsize pickup trucks are not designed for the worksite. They lack the size or capability for the rigors of commercial use. These smaller trucks are lifestyle vehicles, designed for hauling bikes and kayaks. They are more at home at the campsite than the worksite.
The 2020 Ford Ranger has decent fuel economy for a pickup truck, and the optional infotainment system is terrific. It also has the towing and hauling abilities for a boat trailer or a truckload of home improvement gear. But where does the 2020 Ford Ranger stack up against other midsize pickups? Read on to find out.
Look and Feel
The Ranger returned to Ford’s American lineup for the 2019 model year, ending an eight-year hiatus. During that sabbatical, Ford sold the Ranger internationally, albeit as a very different truck from the one that left the U.S. market in 2011. The current-generation is based on that international version. As such, it larger and far more sophisticated truck than the third-generation pickup was.
Ford tries to tie the current truck in with the F-Series lineup with similar grille styling, but that’s where the similarities end. The Ranger’s time abroad resulted in different styling language, mercifully avoiding the “bigger-and-blockier” trend of American trucks over the past decade. The Ranger has a clean, somewhat aggressive appearance that conveys its sporty, capable nature.
Inside, the Ranger has a purposeful, function-first cabin. It is modern, but not entirely welcoming. Like most trims of the larger Ford F-Series trucks, the Ranger’s cabin is outfitted with hard plastics. The upside is that it can take a bit of abuse, which is good for trucks. But compared to other midsize pickups like the Jeep Gladiator and especially the Honda Ridgeline, the Ranger’s cabin feels low-rent.
Trim levels for the 2020 Ford Ranger are XL, XLT, and Lariat. The base XL comes standard with steel wheels, a black grille, black door handles, and a black steel bumper. Inside, the XL comes with vinyl floors, manual air conditioning, two 12-volt power outlets, cloth upholstery, and four-way manually adjustable front seats. Bluetooth connectivity and power windows with a one-touch up/down driver’s window round out the features on the XL.
CarGurus recommends moving up to the XLT trim, as it delivers a host of additional content for the price. Standard features on the XLT include 17-inch aluminum wheels, body-color bumpers, remote keyless entry, a remote locking tailgate, and halogen fog lights. Inside, the XLT adds dual-zone climate control, cruise control, a 4.2-inch color instrument panel screen, and a wall-style power outlet. The XLT also provides Ford SYNC 3 and Ford CoPilot 360 (more on those in the tech and safety sections, respectively).
The range-topping Lariat trim features upscale touches like 18-inch machined aluminum wheels, a chrome-accented grille, LED bed lighting, and power-folding side mirrors with integrated turn signals. The Lariat’s cabin features leather upholstery, eight-way heated-and-power-adjustable front seats, push-button start, and ambient cabin lighting.
Ford also offers several appearance packages, including STX, XLT Sport, Chrome, and Black Appearance Package. The Ranger is also available in the FX2 and FX4 packages, adding beefed up tires and running gear.
All trims of the Ford Ranger come equipped with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This powertrain makes 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. A ten-speed automatic transmission routes power to the rear wheels or available four-wheel drive (4WD) with low-range gearing.
The turbo engine is punchy and provides plenty of power at low speeds and for passing on highways. When properly equipped, the Ranger can tow up to 7,500 pounds, which is terrific for a midsize truck. The Ranger also comes standard with Trailer Sway Control. If you’re looking to haul stuff in the bed, the SuperCab with a 4x2 drivetrain provides the best payload capacity in the lineup at 1,860 pounds.
In normal driving, the Ranger feels a bit stiff, like a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon when it’s not on the trail. This truck is not as comfortable to drive as a Honda Ridgeline. There is some chatter and vibration when going over even small bumps in the road, and you feel body roll going around corners. In short, you give up a bit of drivability to achieve the Ranger’s capability.
Ford offers the FX2 and FX4 Off-Road packages. Both add off-road tires, an electronically locking rear differential, an off-road-tuned suspension, and the addition of an off-road status page to the instrument panel screen. The FX4 Off-Road takes things further, by removing the front air dam, and adding skid plates under the transfer case, differential, and fuel tank.
The FX4 also adds Trail Control and the Terrain Management System. Trail Control is like cruise control for the trail. At speeds up to 20 mph, it controls the throttle and brake, allowing the driver to focus on the trail ahead.
The Terrain Management system provides drive modes that optimize the throttle, transmission differential, and ABS for various off-road conditions. Modes include Normal, Grass, Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand.
Form and Function
Ford offers the Ranger in SuperCab and SuperCrew configurations. The SuperCab seats four and is your typical extended cab style with a 2+2 layout. The rear seats are tight and aren’t very adult-friendly. These seats are more suited for kids, however, the second row is accessed via rear-opening clamshell half-doors that require opening the front door. This makes it a bit more awkward to open to let anyone in, though the opening is massive once you do.
The two-seat rear layout also makes for a space between the rear seats where you can stow gear. The rear seats also fold up, revealing additional storage cubbies. If you routinely need even more cargo space than seating space, the rear seats can be deleted altogether.
The SuperCrew is a full four-door crew cab. It has seating for five thanks to a full rear bench. The rear seats in the SuperCrew are more suited for adults, and both rows have comfortable, spacious seats.
The front row in both body styles provides deep in-door pockets and bottle holders. The center console bin and cup holders are also deep, as is the tray at the bottom of the center stack. The Ranger also has a helpful coin/key tray atop the dash.
The Ranger pairs a six-foot bed to the SuperCab and a five-foot bed to the SuperCrew. It is available with a remote locking tailgate, LED bed lighting, and wall-style power outlet. Unlike the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, the Ranger does not offer a bed-step. Ford does offer an optional spray-in bed liner.
Ford keeps the entertainment setup in the XL basic. You get an AM/FM stereo with four speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB port. Ford does include FordPass Connect on the XL. This app-based feature includes the ability to remotely lock and unlock the Ranger and remotely start it. FordPass Connect also includes WiFi hotspot capability that can connect up to ten devices. All these features are subscription-based. Remote start is included for a year, and the hotspot comes with three months or three gigabytes of complimentary service (whichever comes first). After that, keeping these features active will come out of your pocket.
Moving up to the Ford Ranger XLT swaps out the base stereo for SYNC 3 and an 8-inch touchscreen. SYNC 3 has a logical menu layout and is very intuitive. SYNC 3 also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The touchscreen is available with voice-activated navigation and includes pinch-to-zoom functionality for the screen itself.
The range-topping Ford Ranger Lariat includes a standard B&O sound system by Bang & Olufsen. This premium stereo features ten speakers.
The Ranger comes standard with a full array of front- and side-impact airbags, a child-seat anchoring system, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. The Ranger also comes with automatic headlights, automatic emergency braking, forward collision avoidance, and pedestrian detection.
Moving up to the XLT adds Ford CoPilot 360. It includes safety features like lane-departure warning and avoidance, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and reverse parking sensors. An available Technology Package adds forward parking sensors as well as adaptive cruise control. These are all comprehensive tech features, but many of them come standard in the Toyota Tacoma. That said, driver assistance features as-an-option is a more common practice among midsize trucks.
In evaluation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Ranger earned top scores in most phases of crash testing. It earned the best score of Good for driver’s side small-overlap, moderate overlap, side, and roof-strength crash tests. It only earned a score of Average in small overlap passenger-side crash tests. The IIHS also gave the Ranger a best score of Superior for vehicle-to-vehicle crash prevention technology, and Advanced (A.K.A. "average") for its pedestrian-sensing tech.
The Ranger earns an overall Four-Star rating (out of a possible five) in testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It earns five stars in most crash tests, though netted four stars in front passenger side testing and just three stars in rollover crash testing.
There is one recall for the 2020 Ford Ranger. This recall involves the ten-speed automatic transmission. The gear position indicated might not match the position of the shifter. This is an issue we actually experienced with the 2019 Ford F-150, which has the same ten-speed automatic.
With rear-wheel drive (RWD), the Ford Ranger returns fuel economy of 21 mpg city, 26 highway, 23 combined. Selecting 4WD brings fuel economy to 22 mpg city, 24 highway, 22 combined.
The 2020 Ford Ranger has a base MSRP of $24,410 for an XL SuperCab with RWD. The XLT trim starts at $28,460. Moving up to the Lariat trim will set you back at least $32,500. The range-topping Lariat 4WD SuperCrew starts at $38,675.
The Ranger benefits from the indifference of GM and Nissan. The Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier are all more dated products. As a result, the Ranger and its mature global platform aren’t taken to task. The Jeep Gladiator and Toyota Tacoma are fresher trucks, and the Honda Passport is far more comfortable. The Ranger does what is asked of it, but never stands out. The Ranger’s driving feel, cabin feel, and styling are all mid-pack.
But the Ranger delivers where it counts. It leads midsize trucks on towing and hauling, has comfortable seats for long trips, and comprehensive tech features that will avoid headaches when using them. The Ranger may not stand out in any subjective field, but it doesn’t fall below average in any field either. When it comes to trucks, even midsize trucks, that balance matters more than anything else.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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