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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

2019 Chevy Colorado adds new street and trail trims

Chevrolet is beefing-up its Colorado small pickup lineup as it prepares to face-off with the rebooted Ford Ranger next year.

The folks at the bowtie brand have dreamt up two new trims, one for the pavement and one for the dirt.

The RST trim is making its way across the Chevy trucks lineup. (Chevrolet)

The first is the Colorado RST, which borrows its street-smart looks from the Tahoe, Suburban and upcoming Silverado of the same name. It’s essentially a mid-level LT dressed with a CHEVROLET-branded grille, black accents and black 20-inch wheels.

The second is the Colorado Z71 Trail Runner, which gets a little more substance to go with its style. It takes the Z71 off-road package and adds the front and mid skid plates from the high-performance ZR2, rocker panel guards and a set of aggressive Goodyear Duratrac tires.

Video

Prices for the RST and Trail Runner have not been announced, but along with the recently-revealed, and very extreme ZR2 Bison, the Colorado will be available in eight trim levels for 2019.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Stealthy hydrogen-powered Chevrolet Silverado military truck breaks cover

The Chevrolet Silverado could be heading to the front lines, but not the same one you can buy. At least not yet.

GM Defense, the new General Motors division focused on military machines, has posted a video to its website that reveals a hydrogen-fueled electric Silverado ZH2 pickup is in the works. Automotive News reports that the video was first presented at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting in October.

The camouflaged truck appears to be based on the upcoming all-new 2020 Silverado HD, which the automaker has teased with a single image released earlier this year. The two share the same distinctive lighting and grill styling, and the video refers to the Silverado ZH2 as a heavy duty design.

The Silverado ZH2 is essentially a super-size version of the Colorado ZH2 that’s been undergoing tests with the U.S. Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center since last year, and rides on a set of Multimatic spool valve shocks similar to the ones found on the Colorado ZR2 high performance off-roader.

Video

Instead of a battery pack, the Silverado is equipped with three tanks of hydrogen for a Hydrotec-branded fuel cell that generates electricity and provides stealthy, but powerful performance over a 400-mile range. Along with its quiet operation, the powertrain has a lower heat signature than an internal combustion engine would create and produces drinkable water as its only emission.

The pitch is that military units can convert the expensive JP8 fuel they bring into the field into hydrogen on site, then use it more efficiently in fuel cell vehicles like the ZH2s, which can be refueled in a fraction of the time it would take to charge a battery pack with similar range. GM is also developing a hydrogen-powered fully-autonomous cargo vehicle called the SURUS with military applications in mind.

General Motors hasn’t announced plans for any hydrogen-powered consumer vehicles, but it is collaborating with Honda on fuel cell development and promises to have 20 electric models in its lineup by 2023.

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.