There is no denying that the roads and highways, freeways, and byways of America are chock full of pickup trucks. They come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in all manner of reliabilities, workloads, efficiencies, and more. There is no telling with some of these trucks. How reliable is it? How strong is it? Can it actually get the job done? On top of that, is it fun? Can it handle the wilderness and all manner of terrain? Can I take it out for a night on the town? Unfortunately, with all too many truck brands, one never knows. Well, if you happen to be at a Ford Ranger dealer, there is quite a bit more certainty. The Ranger is a truck that doesn’t miss. It hasn’t missed for four decades. It’s been America’s truck since it launched, and it is only getting better.
The Start of a Ford Legend: The Compact Years
In 1976 the Ford Motor Company began dreaming of a compact pickup that would resemble its successful F-Series pickup trucks. It took Ford six more years of dreaming before they brought that vision to life. Thus, in 1982, the Ford Ranger was born.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road, the early design of the Ford Ranger was simple, to the point, and made for getting the job done without fuss or fail. Fast forward 41 years, and you’ll find that the Ranger has become an icon of the pickup truck class with elegance and a rugged work ethic. That early design, as simple as it was, proved to be supremely successful.
From 1987 to 2004, no other compact truck outsold the Ford Ranger. It dominated a market once cornered by the Japanese small pickup truck industry. Indeed, Ford created it specifically to compete with those small trucks coming out of Japan. That first tease in 1982, and the subsequent launch in 1983, saw a truck come onto the scene with a few different engine options, and that was about it. However, with Ford being Ford, the Ranger soon began to showcase a bit more personality.
The sporty Ford Ranger STX trim was launched in 1985. It featured two-tone paint, bucket seats, larger tires, and a sport chassis. The STX trim is unmistakable, thanks to the three stripes painted down each side. In 1988 the STX debuted with light alloy wheels and a five-speed transmission. This soon became the standard for all Rangers as well. Mid-1986 saw the launch of the Ranger GT, another souped-up trim. This one featured color coordination along the bottom panels, the bumpers, and the grill, bucket seating, a full instrument cluster on the dash, an optional center console, and anti-roll bars. 1989 found a refreshed Ford Ranger hit the road. A whole new front look and a slightly sleeker body coupled with some basic upgrades made for a more attractive, yet still very effective, truck.
The look really started to change in 1993, as the second generation brought a more sport-centric design to the exterior and interior of the Ranger. This was the year that flare and step sides first made the scene. The third generation of the Ranger lasted from 1998-2011 and saw the Ranger get a stronger look yet maintain the sport styling and design. The looks weren’t the only things to get an upgrade, with the later models coming equipped with a 4.0L V6 engine that produced 207 horsepower. While this was a beloved truck, it just couldn’t compete with the need for bigger and better trucks, and the compact Ranger was discontinued in 2012.
Bringing Back an Icon: Making It Midsize
While many thought that the Ranger name was dead for good, many others hoped for its return. Ford answered the call by reigniting the Ranger name in 2019; however, this time, the Ranger was a midsize truck. Slightly larger than its predecessor, the midsize Ranger set out to fill the void in the market for reliable trucks that weren’t as massive and fuel-consuming as the already popular Ford F-150. Many drivers wanted to downsize, and Ford gave them that option without sacrificing power.
The new version of the Ranger has a 2.3L turbo I-4 engine that produces 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. With a fuel economy of 21 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway, his sporty pickup was the perfect answer for those who were more inclined to use a pickup as a daily driver rather than a workhorse. Don’t let that fool you, though; the 2019-present Ford Ranger is still able to tow up to 7,500 lbs. Not to mention, this truck is packed with all of the modern amenities that a person could want, including an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with smartphone and Bluetooth connectivity.
Today’s modern Ford Ranger is class, style, and strength personified. Sitting firmly on the cutting edge of truck technology, the Ranger focuses on reliability, innovation, and maintaining Ford’s epic rugged work ethic. It is robust, elegant, and incredibly fun to drive. It fits in on the job site, in the wild, or in the VIP valet line, and it does all of that while still wowing critics, consumers, and the competition at every turn. There is no doubt that the Ford Ranger continues to dominate the midsize pickup truck world.
Competing With Greatness: The Colorado Rises to the Challenge
One of the Ranger’s often-mentioned competitors is the Chevy Colorado. Both trucks are, at first glance, fierce and rugged in their styling. Both have enjoyed sustained popularity, with the Colorado being amongst the most popular midsize pickups since its launch and the Ranger being hailed as the most dependable midsize pickup. Both trucks stack up pretty well in the strength department, with the Ranger outpacing the Colorado across the board, but not by a massive amount (the Colorado’s available V6 engine produces up to 308 hp, but its standard offering only gives you 200 hp). However, the Colorado’s standard engine will only give you up to 3,500 lbs of towing, which pales in comparison to the Ranger’s standard offering of up to 7,500 lbs.
A Truck Born of American Greatness
The history of the Ford Ranger is steeped in pickup truck perfection because it invented it. Critics have lauded it as supremely reliable for decades. Consumers have purchased it again and again. Families and businesses have built histories around it. When you find a Ford Ranger for sale at your local Ford dealer, you’re not just happening upon some random truck; you’ve found the best midsize truck. Ford has taken an intensely successful formula and amped it all the way up. No longer is the focus solely on reliability and efficiency; the modern Ford Ranger is so much more.
The soul of the original Ranger is alive and well in the 2023 Ranger. It brings class and strength to the table, and no small amount of technology as well. Its interior envelopes both driver and passenger, meeting every comfort and every need while its ride thrills and excites. Even with some fierce competition out there, the Ford Ranger manages to come out on top, showing that Ford knows what it’s doing when it comes to building trucks of any size. It truly is a modern marvel straight from America’s best truck manufacturer.