2019 Ford Ranger Test Drive: It’s back, but is it the best?

The Ford Ranger is back. That is to say, it’s back in the USA. Ford introduced a new one to the rest of the world in 2012, but decided not to sell it here as it focused on full-size trucks instead. Considering how well the F-Series has been doing in recent years, it probably wasn’t a … Continue reading “2019 Ford Ranger Test Drive: It’s back, but is it the best?”

The Ford Ranger is back. That is to say, it’s back in the USA.

Ford introduced a new one to the rest of the world in 2012, but decided not to sell it here as it focused on full-size trucks instead. Considering how well the F-Series has been doing in recent years, it probably wasn’t a bad call. That’s especially true when you look at Chevy Silverado sales, which have been flat since the Colorado returned after a short break in 2015 and started cannibalizing some customers.

But Colorado buyers get to drive home in the truck that they want, rather than a monstrosity they don’t really need. Meanwhile, demand for the Tacoma has been so strong since Ford got out of the small truck game that Toyota had to spend $150 million to increase production at one of the two factories that makes it. So, with a fear of missing out finally getting the best of it, Ford has re-engineered the Ranger for U.S. consumption and retooled a former compact car plant in Michigan to build it in.

(Fox News Autos)

Unlike the F-150, which you can order in roughly six or seven gazillion configurations, when the Ranger hits showrooms in January it will initially be offered in just two cab sizes and three trim levels that are all equipped with a powerful 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. That means there’s no bargain-basement Ranger, and prices start at $25,375, which compares favorably to the competition's V6 trucks.

(Fox News Autos)

The Ranger team says it aimed the single powertrain at providing efficiency and capability in one package so shoppers wouldn’t have to choose between the two, and it was right on target. The engine provides 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, the latter tops among gasoline-powered small pickups. It also delivers 23 mpg in 2wd trucks and 22 mpg powering 4x4s, both figures best in class. So is the 1,860 payload rating on two-wheel-drive SuperCab models, while all Rangers are rated to tow up to 7,500 pounds, which is more than some F-150s can handle.

(Ford)

Those are strong numbers, but since the Ranger is being marketed mostly to “lifestyle” buyers who are hooked on a feeling, rather than cold and calculating fleet managers, Ford ladled on plenty of refinement and features, too.

(Ford)

The Ranger has a softer, sportier look than the F-150 that shouldn’t scare off anyone cross-shopping it with a crossover. The cabin is roomier than the Tacoma’s and about the same as the Colorado’s, which means compact car-size accommodations. SuperCabs and four-door SuperCrews are the exact same length overall, but have six- and five-foot-long beds, respectively. There are only 44.8 inches of space between the wheelhouses, so you’ll have to perch that plywood for the home projects on top of them, but an ATV or two dirt bikes fit fine.

(Ford)

The interior design doesn’t break any new ground, but is perfectly functional. Entry-level XTs come with an old-school radio, so there are plenty of knobs and buttons to augment the touchscreen infotainment system that makes an appearance on higher trims. Aside from the armrests, all of the surfaces that you don’t sit on are hard plastic, unless you go for a top-of-the-line Lariat that gets a soft-touch toupee on the dashboard to complement its heated and leather-upholstered seats.

(Ford)

The Ranger is exceptionally quiet, and its ride comfortable and controlled. It has a limber, yet well-damped suspension that’s adept at handling both rough streets and winding mountain roads, and is a step or two above the Colorado and Tacoma in this regard. The engine feels as strong as its specifications suggest and the transmission never gets too busy, despite the multitude of gears it has to choose from. Over the course of a 150-mile route filled with fast California highways and two-lanes rising 4,000 feet into the sky I averaged a spot-on 23 mpg without trying to.

(Ford)

I also took a Ranger with a 30-foot-long, 6700-pound boat attached to it for a spin and hardly knew it was there, but the blind-spot warning system did. It can be programmed to account for trailers of varying lengths. Automatic emergency brakes are standard across the lineup, and lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control are available.

If it sounds like Ford put too much effort into pleasing the country club crowd, don’t worry. All of the 4x4s can be ordered with an FX4 package that comes with tougher shocks, extra underbody protection, tow hooks, an electronic locking rear differential and a bevy other off-road-focused features. These include Ford’s Trail Control, which is a low-speed cruise control that can operate as slowly as 1 mph and allows you to focus on steering as you navigate tough trails.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW FORD RANGER? LET FOX NEWS AUTOS KNOW ON FACEBOOK

But not too tough. Even with the FX4 gear, the Ranger only has 8.9 inches of ground clearance and isn’t a hardcore off-roader in the vein of a Tacoma TRD Pro or Colorado ZR2, but it can scramble up hills like a Tough Mudder and take pretty big bumps at speed without bottoming out.

Ranger prices top out above $45,000, but you get what you pay for. Ford knew that if it was going to return to this segment it would have to make a splash, and it did. Apples to apples and overall, the Ranger is the most impressive truck on sale today.

Unfortunately for Ford, there is another one on the way soon. It’s the Jeep Gladiator, a hotly-anticipated Wrangler-based, open-top truck that appears to be more than ready for battle. But Ford already has a counterattack planned for 2020 when it goes after the Wrangler with a yet to be revealed Ranger-based Bronco SUV.

VideoGary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

2019 Ford Ranger scores highest fuel economy rating

The new Ford Ranger gets better fuel economy than any truck in its class, including the old one.

The reborn midsize pickup is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque that’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Despite competing with V6 engines on power, it delivers 23 mpg combined in 2WD Rangers and 22 mpg in 4x4s, which is better than all of its gas-powered competitors, including the front-wheel-drive Honda Ridgeline.

FORD RANGER CLAIMS TOWING AND PAYLOAD TITLES

But it also beats the last Ford Ranger sold in the U.S. in 2011, which had a 143 hp 2.3-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder and a 5-speed automatic transmission that were only good for 20 mpg combined. It’s a testament to how far powertrain technology has come in the past decade.

Along with the extra gears in its transmission, the Ranger also features fuel-saving stop-start technology that shuts the engine off when the truck isn’t moving.

The 2019 Ranger will be on sale early next year at a starting price of $25,395. Fox News Autos will have a full review of the truck next week and we want to know what YOU want to know about it, so let us know on Facebook below.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD shows its face

There’s an all-new Chevrolet Silverado HD coming next year, and you’ll be able to see it coming from a mile away. Maybe more.

The 2020 model year truck features a dramatic front end treatment, with triple-stacked headlights and an enormous grille split in two by a bar that doubles as a CHEVROLET billboard.

The letters are actually cutouts

(Chevrolet)

to further enhance airflow into the engine bay, which will be filled by either an all-new gasoline-powered V8 of yet to be revealed, or an updated version of the Silverado HD’s current Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8. There’s also an air scoop on the hood.

Chevrolet hasn’t released full specifications, but says the Silverado HD's maximum towing and payload ratings will both be higher than the current edition.

Video

The HD shares its cab architecture and roof with the new 2019 Silverado 1500, but the rest of the body belongs to it and features distinctively squarer fender bulges. Chevy has also devised a modern take on the “stepside” pickup style by embedding what it dubs a "Bedstep" in front of the HD’s rear wheels for improved access to the box when there’s a trailer attached.

(Chevrolet)

Full details on the Silverado HD will be released when it makes its public debut in February, likely at the Chicago Auto Show, ahead of its mid-year on-sale date.

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Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

L.A. Auto Show: The 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup is a Wrangler that hauls

LOS ANGELES – The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is ready to do battle in the midsize pickup segment.

(Jeep)

The long-awaited hauler is based on the Jeep Wrangler, and shares the iconic SUV’s style and off-road chops. It resurrects a name last used in 1972, and is Jeep’s first pickup since the Comanche ended production in 1992.

(Jeep)

About a yard longer than a four-door Wrangler Unlimited, the crew cab Gladiator has a five-foot bed, a removable roof and doors, and a windshield that can be folded down. That makes it the only open top-pickup, and then some. Black, body-color and soft top roofs will be offered for when you’d rather stay covered up.

(Jeep)

The body-on-frame ruck will launch next spring only as a 4×4 with a 285 hp 3.6-liter V6 and a choice of an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission, but a 3.0-liter turbodiesel with the automatic is slated to join the lineup the following year. Equipped with solid axles in the front and rear, Jeep says the Gladiator will be able to tow up to 7,650 pounds and carry as much as 1,600 pounds in its steel bed and cab.

(Jeep)

The Toledo, Ohio-built Gladiator will be available in Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon trim levels, with the Rubicon sporting the most extreme off-road capability. It comes with locking differentials, a detachable front sway bar, four skid plates, rock rails for the cabin and bed, steel cutaway bumpers, a lifted suspension and larger tires providing 11.1 inches of ground clearance, and the ability to wade through two and a half feet of water. The Rubicon also gets a Jeep-first front-mounted camera to help while navigating rough terrain.

(Jeep)

All Gladiators have a backup camera, and a blind-spot warning system, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking will be offered on some models. The cabin is largely identical to the Wrangler’s, including its waterproof start/stop button, UConnect infotainment systems and storage bins underneath the flip-up and foldable rear seats.

(Jeep)

Gladiator prices have not been set, but a Wrangler Unlimited Sport starts at around $32,000, so it will likely be a bit higher than that.

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Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Toyota offers to give Camp Fire hero nurse a new truck

Toyota is coming to the rescue of a nurse who has been heralded for risking his life to aid others during the Camp Fire Paradise, Calif., fire last week.

Allyn Pierce was profiled in a New York Times story that recounted how he and some colleagues were stuck while trying to escape the fire surrounding the Adventist Health Feather River hospital, where he manages the intensive care unit, but when they had the opportunity to get clear, turned around and headed back to the hospital instead.

There, they pulled equipment outside of the endangered buildings and set up a triage center as people were evacuating the facility and the surrounding area. Soon, everyone was out and Pierce filled the seats of his truck and headed through the inferno for safety.

(AP)

After the ordeal, Pierce posted photos of his scorched white truck on his Instagram account, which is full of images of it in happier times. “This truck literally saved my life today,” Pierce wrote.

Unfortunately, while Pierce was unharmed, he lost his home and doesn’t know what’s going to happen with his job. On Monday, he reluctantly posted about a GoFundMe campaign that a well-wisher had set up on his behalf, but he also got some surprising news. Someone at Toyota had heard his story, and the company decided to thank him for his efforts by replacing the truck.

“Our hearts go out to the victims of the devastating California wild fires,” the automaker's statement reads.

”We are extremely grateful to all of the emergency crews who are working tirelessly to extinguish the fires and helping people to safety. We are especially thankful to one hero in particular, Allyn Pierce, for risking his life and sacrificing his Toyota Tundra to drive people to safety. Toyota is so humbled by Mr. Pierce’s selfless act that we’re pleased to offer him a brand new Tundra.”

A new Tundra Crewmax like Pierce’s starts at around $37,000. Pierce has not yet publically commented on the generous offer.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Ultra-rare Ford Ranger ‘Shadow’ bed emerges on Craigslist

The Ford Ranger is one of the most-beloved pickups of all time, but it’s not exactly a collectible. It was a high-volume truck that wasn’t offered in many special editions, so rare examples truly are.

There was one mythical version, however, called the Shadow, which wasn’t even an official model.

As the story goes, it was an experimental trim level for the rear-wheel-drive standard cab Ranger that came with a fiberglass stepside short bed, exposed taillights, Mustang-style “Ranger” door stripe decals, torque-thrust wheels and possibly a 302 V8. According to various Ford Ranger fan forums, Ford built 15 Shadows in 1986 and shipped them to dealers to test its appeal, but decided not to add it to the lineup.

But when asked by Fox News Autos, a Ford archivist said that a preliminary search turned up nothing official on the model, and the automaker’s product communications manager/pickup truck expert, Mike Levine, had never heard of it either.

Nevertheless, there's more to this tale, because an additional 5 standalone beds were allegedly built and sent to parts departments unknown and what could be one of them is now for sale on Craigslist. BarnFinds.com first reported on the anonymous listing in Quakertown, Penn., which shows a bed that is shaped just like the one seen in the photos of complete trucks that are floating around out the internet, but features additional decals, diamond metal plate bed rail caps and a Confederate battle flag on its tailgate. It’s awkwardly attached to a long-bed 1987 Ranger and on sale for $1000, while the rest of the truck can be added for $400.

SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THIS UNIQUE FIND ON CRAIGSLIST

The Splash debuted in 1993 (Ford)

It’s hard to imagine how one could possibly determine its authenticity if Ford doesn’t even have a handle on it, but for a classic Ranger fan willing to put in the work to stand out even more as the all-new version starts hitting the road next year it sure beats a Splash.

'LITTLE RED' 1967 FORD SHELBY GT500 FOUND AFTER 50 YEARS:

VideoGary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Feds investigating 2.7 million GM pickups and SUVs for faulty brake issue

The U.S. government is investigating more than 100 complaints of poor brake performance on 2.7 million General Motors big pickups and SUVs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a brake vacuum pump can deteriorate, causing increased braking effort and longer stopping distances.

The agency has 111 consumer complaints including nine crashes and two injuries.

The investigation covers 2014 through 2016 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Also involved are Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade SUVs.

The agency will determine how often the problem happens and whether a recall is necessary.

GM is monitoring complaints and warranty claims about the brakes and is working with NHTSA to evaluate them, spokesman Tom Wilkinson said Friday.

Any owner who has a problem with brake performance should have them examined by a GM dealer or independent repair shop, Wilkinson said.

They should keep receipts because they could be reimbursed for repairs if there is a recall, he added.

The Rivian R1T is the American-made electric pickup of the near future

Normal, Ill., may soon be the home of a very unusual vehicle.

Startup automaker Rivian has unveiled the electric pickup it plans to build at a former Mitsubishi plant in the Land of Lincoln starting in late 2020. The Michigan-based company has collected a team of industry veterans and a half-billion dollars in funding so far to bring the project to fruition.

The midsize truck features a conventional pickup shape that’s wrapped in sleek contemporary bodywork echoing the technology underneath it. Its oval headlight clusters and full-width running light giving it a particularly sci-fi look.

As is becoming an increasingly common approach to electric vehicle design, the R1T is built on a “skateboard” chassis that houses the battery pack, drivetrain components, and everything else that makes it go. It will also form the basis for an SUV, with the two trucks being targeted primarily at premium “lifestyle” buyers, rather than commercial customers.

Battery sizes of 105 kWh, 135 kWh and 180 kWh will be offered, all of which are larger than anything available on a retail electric vehicle today. Rivian projects that they will deliver ranges of over 250 miles, 300 miles and 400 miles per charge, respectively, and be able to be recharged to the tune of 200 miles worth of electricity in 30 minutes at public fast-charging stations.

An electric motor for each wheel provides the R1T with all-wheel-drive and a combined output between 400 hp and 750 hp, depending on the model. Rivian claims the fastest of them will be able to accelerate to 60 mph in a supercar-quick 3 seconds, while all will tow over 11,000 pounds.

A computer-controlled air suspension increases ground clearance from approximately 9.5 inches to 14 inches for better off-road capability, or lowers it to less than 8-inches to make the vehicle easier to enter and load. Since there’s already a compressor onboard, Rivian installed an air pump valve in the bed, along with power outlets and a security camera system to monitor anything stored in it.

Even with all of the important electronics riding low in the truck, it’s all fully-sealed and the R1T can wade through a meter of water.

The flat-pack chassis layout also allows for some unique storage opportunities, including a “frunk” under the hood, a cubby beneath the bed floor that can either be used as a trunk or a spare tire carrier, and a “Gear Tunnel” between the cab and box that can accommodate long items like skis. The doors for the tunnel double as stools, and the tailgate can be released to fold down 180-degrees to offer closer access to the bed.

The cabin features a digital instrument cluster and a large central display for the infotainment system. It’s trimmed in a mix of authentic wood and synthetic upholstery inspired by sports equipment to give the whole thing a premium feel that you don’t mind getting dirty, according to CEO. R.J. Scaringe.

Scaringe also promises that the R1T will be equipped with all of the cameras, sensors and positioning technology needed for Level 3 self-driving functionality, which allows for autonomous control in certain locations and situations.

Prices will start at $69,000 and reservations are now available for a $1,000 deposit, but only high-end models will be available at launch. If it hits its target date, Rivian will likely beat Tesla and the Big Three truckmakers to market with an all-electric pickup by months or years.

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Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Toyota offers to give Camp Fire hero nurse a new truck

Toyota is coming to the rescue of a nurse who has been heralded for risking his life to aid others during the Camp Fire Paradise, Calif., fire last week.

Allyn Pierce was profiled in a New York Times story that recounted how he and some colleagues were stuck while trying to escape the fire surrounding the Adventist Health Feather River hospital, where he manages the intensive care unit, but when they had the opportunity to get clear, turned around and headed back to the hospital instead.

There, they pulled equipment outside of the endangered buildings and set up a triage center as people were evacuating the facility and the surrounding area. Soon, everyone was out and Pierce filled the seats of his truck and headed through the inferno for safety.

(AP)

After the ordeal, Pierce posted photos of his scorched white truck on his Instagram account, which is full of images of it in happier times. “This truck literally saved my life today,” Pierce wrote.

Unfortunately, while Pierce was unharmed, he lost his home and doesn’t know what’s going to happen with his job. On Monday, he reluctantly posted about a GoFundMe campaign that a well-wisher had set up on his behalf, but he also got some surprising news. Someone at Toyota had heard his story, and the company decided to thank him for his efforts by replacing the truck.

“Our hearts go out to the victims of the devastating California wild fires,” the automaker's statement reads.

”We are extremely grateful to all of the emergency crews who are working tirelessly to extinguish the fires and helping people to safety. We are especially thankful to one hero in particular, Allyn Pierce, for risking his life and sacrificing his Toyota Tundra to drive people to safety. Toyota is so humbled by Mr. Pierce’s selfless act that we’re pleased to offer him a brand new Tundra.”

A new Tundra Crewmax like Pierce’s starts at around $37,000. Pierce has not yet publically commented on the generous offer.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Feds investigating 2.7 million GM pickups and SUVs for faulty brake issue

The U.S. government is investigating more than 100 complaints of poor brake performance on 2.7 million General Motors big pickups and SUVs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a brake vacuum pump can deteriorate, causing increased braking effort and longer stopping distances.

The agency has 111 consumer complaints including nine crashes and two injuries.

The investigation covers 2014 through 2016 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Also involved are Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade SUVs.

The agency will determine how often the problem happens and whether a recall is necessary.

GM is monitoring complaints and warranty claims about the brakes and is working with NHTSA to evaluate them, spokesman Tom Wilkinson said Friday.

Any owner who has a problem with brake performance should have them examined by a GM dealer or independent repair shop, Wilkinson said.

They should keep receipts because they could be reimbursed for repairs if there is a recall, he added.