The Rebirth of the Ford Ranger

Few vehicles have inspired as much loyalty as the Ford Ranger compact pickup truck. Since its debut in the 1980s, the Ranger has won over devoted fans from around the world, and it was Ford’s consistent best-seller for years. Ford’s decision to stop selling the Ranger was a controversial one, but there’s reason to celebrate: Ford has announced a 2018 return of the Ranger!

What’s made the Ranger so popular? Many owners say there’s just no replacing this truck. First of all, they’re fun. Owners find that they’re highly driveable in the city or off-road. With the right Ranger parts, you can go anywhere! They have great fuel economy and a low baseline price, so drivers save major money. They’re also easy to work on: There’s a long tradition of modding Rangers into low-riders or lifting them up for mudding.

Take a look at how the Ranger has changed through the years, why the Ranger disappeared from the U.S. market, what we know about the 2019 model, and why no other trucks compare to the Ranger.

Ford Ranger

A Wide Range of Rangers

Ford introduced the two-wheel-drive Ranger in 1983 to replace the Courier truck. Later, a four-wheel-drive was released, inspired by the F-series pickup truck with similarities in grille design and other characteristics. The Ranger boasted more interior room than its foreign competitors, and as its popularity grew, Ford made changes to its horsepower, transmission options, and payload capacity.

The Ranger had the same basic body style until 1993, when it was redesigned with new light clusters, a rounder nose, new seats, an updated instrument panel, new door trim, and a better sound system. Mid-year, the flashy Splash model was released with colorful graphics and a stepside bed. Through the 1990s, Ford kept perfecting the Ranger to upgrade safety features and keep its record as the best-selling compact truck, a title it had held since 1987.

Ford Ranger dashboard

The Ranger got its next makeover in 1998 and featured more leg room, greater seat recline angles, a new front suspension, and reduced emissions. In 1999, the Splash models were replaced by the Sport XL with color-keyed bumpers and grille, flashy wheels, and fog lamps.

In 2001, Ford continued to power up the V6 Ranger. More trim levels were introduced, including the Edge, which had a monochromatic paint scheme, a towing package, and a CD player, and the following year brought the limited Tremor edition, featuring a high-end sound system that was perfect for a tailgate party. As the 2000s wore on, the Ranger stayed on top, beating out other compact trucks released by Mazda that tried to match some of the Ranger’s improvements.

We’ve laid out the changes to the Ranger in a timeline to show the truck’s evolution throughout the years. Which model is your favorite?

Ford Ranger Infographic

Ranger-Inspired Trucks

The Ranger’s popularity was so strong that it paved the way for a number of other models. It served as the basis for the Ford Bronco II, Ford’s first compact SUV, as well as the first two generations of the Ford Explorer midsize SUV. The Bronco II used a shortened Ranger platform, and the Explorer’s chassis and powertrain were based on the Ranger. The Explorer’s design in turn inspired the Ford Explorer Sport Trac midsize pickup truck.

The number of vehicles modeled after the Ranger is a testament to the enduring popularity of the Ford Ranger. The Ranger is a defining member of the Ford lineup, and you can find similarities to the Ranger in many Ford vehicles.

Ford Ranger compact truck

The Rise and Resurgence of the Compact Truck

In 1985, there was no cooler vehicle to own than a compact pickup truck, and the Ranger was the best and most popular example. Compact trucks were in high demand because of their low prices and great gas mileage compared to full-size trucks. Marketing helped make these trucks trendy and cool. All through the late ’80s and ’90s, compact trucks were a favorite because they were fun and useful.

Sales and production of compact trucks have dwindled in recent years, but amid rising fuel prices and an uncertain economic climate, it’s high time for compact trucks to make a comeback and for the Ranger to rise again.

1998 Ford Ranger

What Happened to the Ranger?

Ranger fans were shocked - like deer in the headlights - in 2011 when Ford announced that they were not going to sell their newest Ranger redesign in the U.S. The Ranger T6 was sold in 180 countries, but to the disappointment of American truck owners, they couldn’t buy the newest model.

While part of the Ranger’s disappearance from the U.S. market could be attributed to a lowered demand for compact trucks, Ford had other reasons for the move, too. They felt that the Ranger T6 was too similar to the V6 F-150, and Ford was hoping that their most fuel-efficient full-size pickup truck would attract people who would otherwise buy a Ranger.

2012 Ford Ranger

The Return of the Ranger

The departure of the Ranger left a hole in Ford’s lineup, and in January 2017, Ford announced that the Ranger would make an American comeback. It’s about time: The market for trucks has improved, lower fuel costs have helped to push more buyers toward pickups, and it’s difficult to keep fans away from the classics. Ford could see the rising demand in a market that once contained two of their most iconic vehicles, the Ranger and the Bronco; it seemed clear that the time was ripe for the return of these vehicles. The Ranger has proven more popular than the F-150 in countries like Australia, so this bodes well for the Ranger making a successful return in the United States.

The specs are still unclear at this point, but a few spy shots have given fans an idea of what to expect. The grille is most similar to the Explorer, and the truck has a taller height than expected and an off-road suspension. Keeping up with the off-road theme, you can spot thicker tires, an underbody skid plate, and an overall chunkier “Ford Tough” look.



There’s been speculation that there’s a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine under the hood. We don’t know yet if a diesel model will be part of the lineup in the United States. It’s expected that base prices will be below $25,000 when the truck debuts sometime in 2018. For now, Ranger enthusiasts will have to keep their eye on news from Ford and satisfy themselves with a sneak peek from spy photos.

Ford Ranger dashboard

How Has the Ranger Held Up?

There have been several models of competing compact trucks in the years since American Ranger sales ended, but even though the 2011 Ranger is out of date by several years, its specs still hold up fairly well against recent models.

2011 Ford Ranger

2018 Nissan Frontier

2018 Toyota Tacoma

2018 GMC Canyon

2018 Chevy Colorado

Price

$14,736

$28,072

$25,186

$39,639

$20,706

Drivetrain

4x2

4x2

4x2

4x4

4x2

Fuel Economy (Highway)

21 mpg

23 mpg

23 mpg

28 mpg

26 mpg

Fuel Tank Volume

19.5 gallons

21.1 gallons

21.1 gallons

21 gallons

21 gallons

Power

207 hp @ 5,250 rpm

261 hp @ 5,600 rpm

159 hp @ 5,200 rpm

181 hp @ 3,400 rpm

200 hp @ 6,300 rpm

Torque

238 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm

281 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

180 lb-ft @ 3,800 rpm

238 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm

191 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Maximum Towing Capacity

3,340 lbs.

6,610 lbs.

3,500 lbs.

7,600 lbs.

3,500 lbs.


2011 Ford Ranger

People have always opted for the Ranger because of its affordability and well-balanced specs. When more information is available on the 2019 Ranger, potential buyers can make a fairer comparison, but even when using a truck that’s a few years old, the Ranger holds its own against the latest compact trucks. It’s a good time to be a Ford fan because we can also expect a new SUV the following year, an updated Bronco. There’s even some talk of Ford releasing a Ranger Raptor in the U.S. in the future, but details on this vehicle are still vague.

Take a look at a video of the Ranger caught out on the highway on a test drive in Colorado:

Revving Up for the Ranger’s Release

What are fans saying? Take a look at these tweets and you’ll see that the excitement is building while we eagerly wait for more details.







Ranger fans should keep their ears to the ground for fresh news: The coming days are sure to reveal more Ranger spy photos and further information about what’s under the sheet metal, as speculation continues about details such as the driveline system and axles on this new truck. With a current-generation Ranger spotted out and about in Michigan, it seems like there’s a good chance that the new truck will be on the auto show circuit soon. Until that time, Ranger fans can keep their eyes peeled for news and start planning their purchase of the newest Ranger model.


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