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.

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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 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye test drive: A miraculous muscle car

Remember when 707 hp seemed like a lot?

That was way back in 2015, when Dodge introduced the Challenger SRT Hellcat and its 6.2-liter supercharged V8.

It was the most powerful American production car ever. A title it held until the barely street-legal Challenger SRT Demon arrived last year with an 808 hp version of the engine that could be boosted to 840 hp with the addition of a special control module and a tank full of nutritious 100 octane fuel.

Video

Unlike the Hellcat, which was a runaway hit that Dodge produced as fast as the car could cover a quarter mile, the Demon was limited to just 3,300 examples, and 300 of those were destined for Canada. Suffice it to say, they were all spoken for before you could speak its name in English or French.

But the Demon’s evil spirit lives on in the 2019 Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, which is a 797 hp mashup of the two models that starts at $72,745 and is being offered with no production restrictions. If you want a factory-fresh car with more power today, prepare to spend 20 times as much. I’m not exaggerating.

(Dodge)

The Redeye’s engine gets the beefed-up pistons, larger 2.7-liter supercharger and twin fuel-pumps from the Demon’s, along with an air intake system that’s fed in part by a retro twin-snorkel hood.

The tsunami of power that comes out of it is channeled through an 8-speed automatic transmission and a drivetrain that’s been enhanced with new prop and half shafts that can better handle its 707 lb-ft of torque. If you want a Hellcat with a stick, you’ll have to downgrade to the standard version, which is now rated at 717 hp.

(Dodge)

What the Redeye doesn’t get is the Demon’s racing-style transmission brake, or its vaunted Drag mode, which uses the computer-controlled dampers to manage weight transfer under hard acceleration from a standstill. It does have launch control, however, and a launch assist system that does its best to reduce wheel hop once you’re on the move.

The Redeye is also equipped with a line-lock feature that holds just the front brakes as you do a burnout to warm up the rear tires, which are 275 mm wide on standard cars and 305 mm with the optional $6,000 widebody package. The extra rubber on the latter is almost a necessity, especially when the surface gets slick.

(Dodge)

Unfortunately, that was the case when I visited the track at the Monticello Motor Club with a Redeye on a cold, rainy day that kept me from coming anywhere near confirming Dodge’s claims that it can do a 10.8-second quarter-mile and hit a top speed of 203 mph. The traction management systems impressed in the conditions, however, and it accelerated as ferociously as you’d expect once the tires hooked up. With the exhaust thundering and the supercharger screaming, it’s a singular experience in a world increasingly full of supercars powered by muffled turbocharged engines and whiny electric motors.

The 3.5-inch wider stance and the Flintstone-spec tires that go with it pay added dividends in the curves. The Redeye is supernaturally well-behaved for a 4,500-pound bruiser when you need to change direction. Clearly there’s some wizardry afoot, but what’s really surprising is how good the Redeye is on the street. Most cars with front tires this wide, like the Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2 and BMW M5, constantly tug at the steering wheel as they tramline along, but the it cruises ahead straight and true like a battleship, or maybe one of the 16-inch rounds fired from one.

(Fox News)

Miraculously, the Redeye delivers an angelic 22 mpg on the highway, where the lighter, sleeker 789 hp Ferrari 812 Superfast only manages 16 mpg. And that’s not just according to the EPA, I witnessed the same efficiency on several occasions. It’s a different story around town, where it gets 13 mpg, or on an unrestricted Autobahn in Germany, where the Redeye could empty its 18.6-gallon fuel tank in less than 11 minutes at full-throttle.

Four years ago it was hard to believe that there’d ever be another car like the Hellcat. But now the only reason I’d tell you not to buy a Redeye, if you’re into this sort of thing, is that even in the face of so much change in the car industry, this engine is clearly immortal and there’s little doubt that Dodge will conjure up something even wilder with it soon.

———-

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye

Base price: $72,745

As tested: $78,745

Type: 2-door, 5-passenger rear-wheel-drive coupe

Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8

Power: 797 hp, 707 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

MPG: 13 city/22 hwy

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace Test Drive: Welcome to the family

The Jaguar E-Pace has an Easter egg painted onto the bottom left corner of its windshield. It depicts a Jaguar with a cub. Cute.

(Fox News Autos)

It’s supposed to symbolize the model’s role as Jaguar’s baby SUV to the larger F-Pace. The only problem is, they’re different species.

Although the two look a lot alike — and are gorgeous for SUVs as far as I and all of the heads they turn are concerned — an X-ray examination reveals it’s all a façade.

The F-Pace was Jaguar’s first SUV (Jaguar)

The F-Pace is built on a chassis that’s also used by Jaguar’s sedans and the Range Rover Velar, but the E-Pace is related to the Range Rover Evoque. The F-Pace platform is primarily rear-wheel-drive, the E-Pace front-wheel-drive. There’s no missing link between them, the vehicles are fundamentally unalike.

But they do share a beating heart. Two of them, actually. They’re 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, rated at 247 hp and 296 hp, and are the only ones offered in the E-Pace, while the F-Pace can also be had with a selection of supercharged V6 and V8 engines, not to mention a diesel.

But the more-powerful version does the trick in both of these urban jungle cats. It’s more than adequate and a good value proposition in the F-Pace, and turns the little E-Pace into something of a muscle machine. You’ll find it bundled in the R-Dynamic trim level, which starts at $47,395, a big jump up from the E-Pace’s starting price of $39,595.

But you get more than power. All USA-bound E-Paces have standard all-wheel-drive, and the R-Dynamic adds leather upholstery, automatic emergency brakes and built-in WiFi. Available options run the gamut from a 360-degree camera to adaptive cruise control and a full panoramic sunroof. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration costs $300 for the pair, because they are necessities given Jaguar’s so-so native infotainment system. All-in, it’s not hard to tally up more than $60,000, which is a lot for a small SUV, but in line with Jaguar’s luxury competitors.

In keeping with its mixed lineage, the E-Pace features interior styling that borrows a fair amount of DNA from Jaguar’s F-Type sports car. Notably its pistol grip gear shifter and the grab handle on the center console for the front passenger, but also the overall vibe of the design and materials. It's not glitzy and glamorous, and there’s a bit too much bare plastic, but the look is sporty and unique.

On the functionality front, rear legroom is snug and the seatbacks don’t fold perfectly flat, which makes it hard to get the most out of the cargo space. But there’s plenty of it, despite the sloping hatchback.

As far as the ride is concerned, I have to tell you that my first few miles behind the wheel were a little disappointing, but only because I’d literally just stepped out of Jaguar’s new battery-powered I-Pace SUV. It’s about the same size as the E-Pace, but its seamless electric drive and supple air suspension system make its conventional cousin feel like it’s from the Stone Age.

Video

Once I reacclimated, however, the E-Pace revealed a solid blend of comfort, handling and response. It’s not the pure magic you get in pricier Jaguars, but even with the 20-inch wheels and thin tires that the top of the line R-Dynamic HSE rides on it’s never too rough, the steering is lively and the engine makes highway merges a breeze. And while you likely won’t see too many E-Paces intentionally going off the beaten path, those Range Rover bones give it some light off-road chops and the ability to wade through 20-inch-deep water. This is one kitten that’s not afraid to get wet.

(Jaguar)

All things considered, that Easter Egg is just as much about E-Pace customers as it is about the car, depicting Jaguar’s hope that newcomers who buy this entry-level model will grow with the brand. But that only works if their first experience is a good one.

It was for me.

———-

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

Base price: $39,595

As tested: $62,090

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door all-wheel-drive SUV

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Power: 296 hp, 295 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

MPG: 21 city/27 hwy

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace Test Drive: Welcome to the family

The Jaguar E-Pace has an Easter egg painted onto the bottom left corner of its windshield. It depicts a Jaguar with a cub. Cute.

(Fox News Autos)

It’s supposed to symbolize the model’s role as Jaguar’s baby SUV to the larger F-Pace. The only problem is, they’re different species.

Although the two look a lot alike — and are gorgeous for SUVs as far as I and all of the heads they turn are concerned — an X-ray examination reveals it’s all a façade.

The F-Pace was Jaguar’s first SUV (Jaguar)

The F-Pace is built on a chassis that’s also used by Jaguar’s sedans and the Range Rover Velar, but the E-Pace is related to the Range Rover Evoque. The F-Pace platform is primarily rear-wheel-drive, the E-Pace front-wheel-drive. There’s no missing link between them, the vehicles are fundamentally unalike.

But they do share a beating heart. Two of them, actually. They’re 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, rated at 247 hp and 296 hp, and are the only ones offered in the E-Pace, while the F-Pace can also be had with a selection of supercharged V6 and V8 engines, not to mention a diesel.

But the more-powerful version does the trick in both of these urban jungle cats. It’s more than adequate and a good value proposition in the F-Pace, and turns the little E-Pace into something of a muscle machine. You’ll find it bundled in the R-Dynamic trim level, which starts at $47,395, a big jump up from the E-Pace’s starting price of $39,595.

But you get more than power. All USA-bound E-Paces have standard all-wheel-drive, and the R-Dynamic adds leather upholstery, automatic emergency brakes and built-in WiFi. Available options run the gamut from a 360-degree camera to adaptive cruise control and a full panoramic sunroof. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration costs $300 for the pair, because they are necessities given Jaguar’s so-so native infotainment system. All-in, it’s not hard to tally up more than $60,000, which is a lot for a small SUV, but in line with Jaguar’s luxury competitors.

In keeping with its mixed lineage, the E-Pace features interior styling that borrows a fair amount of DNA from Jaguar’s F-Type sports car. Notably its pistol grip gear shifter and the grab handle on the center console for the front passenger, but also the overall vibe of the design and materials. It's not glitzy and glamorous, and there’s a bit too much bare plastic, but the look is sporty and unique.

On the functionality front, rear legroom is snug and the seatbacks don’t fold perfectly flat, which makes it hard to get the most out of the cargo space. But there’s plenty of it, despite the sloping hatchback.

As far as the ride is concerned, I have to tell you that my first few miles behind the wheel were a little disappointing, but only because I’d literally just stepped out of Jaguar’s new battery-powered I-Pace SUV. It’s about the same size as the E-Pace, but its seamless electric drive and supple air suspension system make its conventional cousin feel like it’s from the Stone Age.

Video

Once I reacclimated, however, the E-Pace revealed a solid blend of comfort, handling and response. It’s not the pure magic you get in pricier Jaguars, but even with the 20-inch wheels and thin tires that the top of the line R-Dynamic HSE rides on it’s never too rough, the steering is lively and the engine makes highway merges a breeze. And while you likely won’t see too many E-Paces intentionally going off the beaten path, those Range Rover bones give it some light off-road chops and the ability to wade through 20-inch-deep water. This is one kitten that’s not afraid to get wet.

(Jaguar)

All things considered, that Easter Egg is just as much about E-Pace customers as it is about the car, depicting Jaguar’s hope that newcomers who buy this entry-level model will grow with the brand. But that only works if their first experience is a good one.

It was for me.

———-

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

Base price: $39,595

As tested: $62,090

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door all-wheel-drive SUV

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Power: 296 hp, 295 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

MPG: 21 city/27 hwy

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace Test Drive: Welcome to the family

The Jaguar E-Pace has an Easter egg painted onto the bottom left corner of its windshield. It depicts a Jaguar with a cub. Cute.

(Fox News Autos)

It’s supposed to symbolize the model’s role as Jaguar’s baby SUV to the larger F-Pace. The only problem is, they’re different species.

Although the two look a lot alike — and are gorgeous for SUVs as far as I and all of the heads they turn are concerned — an X-ray examination reveals it’s all a façade.

The F-Pace was Jaguar’s first SUV (Jaguar)

The F-Pace is built on a chassis that’s also used by Jaguar’s sedans and the Range Rover Velar, but the E-Pace is related to the Range Rover Evoque. The F-Pace platform is primarily rear-wheel-drive, the E-Pace front-wheel-drive. There’s no missing link between them, the vehicles are fundamentally unalike.

But they do share a beating heart. Two of them, actually. They’re 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, rated at 247 hp and 296 hp, and are the only ones offered in the E-Pace, while the F-Pace can also be had with a selection of supercharged V6 and V8 engines, not to mention a diesel.

But the more-powerful version does the trick in both of these urban jungle cats. It’s more than adequate and a good value proposition in the F-Pace, and turns the little E-Pace into something of a muscle machine. You’ll find it bundled in the R-Dynamic trim level, which starts at $47,395, a big jump up from the E-Pace’s starting price of $39,595.

But you get more than power. All USA-bound E-Paces have standard all-wheel-drive, and the R-Dynamic adds leather upholstery, automatic emergency brakes and built-in WiFi. Available options run the gamut from a 360-degree camera to adaptive cruise control and a full panoramic sunroof. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration costs $300 for the pair, because they are necessities given Jaguar’s so-so native infotainment system. All-in, it’s not hard to tally up more than $60,000, which is a lot for a small SUV, but in line with Jaguar’s luxury competitors.

In keeping with its mixed lineage, the E-Pace features interior styling that borrows a fair amount of DNA from Jaguar’s F-Type sports car. Notably its pistol grip gear shifter and the grab handle on the center console for the front passenger, but also the overall vibe of the design and materials. It's not glitzy and glamorous, and there’s a bit too much bare plastic, but the look is sporty and unique.

On the functionality front, rear legroom is snug and the seatbacks don’t fold perfectly flat, which makes it hard to get the most out of the cargo space. But there’s plenty of it, despite the sloping hatchback.

As far as the ride is concerned, I have to tell you that my first few miles behind the wheel were a little disappointing, but only because I’d literally just stepped out of Jaguar’s new battery-powered I-Pace SUV. It’s about the same size as the E-Pace, but its seamless electric drive and supple air suspension system make its conventional cousin feel like it’s from the Stone Age.

Video

Once I reacclimated, however, the E-Pace revealed a solid blend of comfort, handling and response. It’s not the pure magic you get in pricier Jaguars, but even with the 20-inch wheels and thin tires that the top of the line R-Dynamic HSE rides on it’s never too rough, the steering is lively and the engine makes highway merges a breeze. And while you likely won’t see too many E-Paces intentionally going off the beaten path, those Range Rover bones give it some light off-road chops and the ability to wade through 20-inch-deep water. This is one kitten that’s not afraid to get wet.

(Jaguar)

All things considered, that Easter Egg is just as much about E-Pace customers as it is about the car, depicting Jaguar’s hope that newcomers who buy this entry-level model will grow with the brand. But that only works if their first experience is a good one.

It was for me.

———-

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

Base price: $39,595

As tested: $62,090

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door all-wheel-drive SUV

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Power: 296 hp, 295 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

MPG: 21 city/27 hwy

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.