Ford Ranger marks Ford's return to mid-size pickup market

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Set to debut at the North American International Auto Show later this week, the Ranger will join the reinvigorated mid-size truck market that is now being dominated by the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado. All the same, Ford knows well enough that you can't count exclusively on nostalgia for sales.

Ford sold more than 6.6 million Rangers in the USA over its 29-year history.

Powering the truck is a turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine.

The 2019 Edge also will feature a Ford-first with the introduction of an all-new 8-speed automatic transmission. Ford says that will give the truck the power of a V6 engine with the fuel economy of a four-cylinder. Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager, said the exterior, chassis and powertrain were redesigned for the US market. The steel front and rear bumpers are mounted to its frame, while the high belt line, raked grille and windshield, and short overhangs both look suitably purposeful while helping with things like clearing obstacles. A rugged steel bumper with an available integrated trailer hitch receiver helps make towing campers, ATVs or watercraft a breeze.

When it comes time to take the Ranger off-road, the FX4 Off-Road Package offers multiple enhancements to make this truck more capable where the pavement ends. That'll include off-road-tuned shocks and all-terrain tires, together with a heavy-gauge steel front bash late and skid plates both mounted to the frame, and FX4 badging. In a reversal of the Mulally-era One Ford touted for the '12 Focus, however, the Blue Oval truck people say the Ranger has been heavily redesigned for the USA market, and has its own, unique box-frame construction. It features four drive modes of normal; grass, gravel and snow; mud and ruts; and sand. Each will have its own throttle and transmission mapping, together with adjusting factors like traction, drivability, and performance. And while Ford left it unsaid, the new Ranger will be better-suited than the F-150 for all the car-sharing programs we're likely to see in the '20s. Think of it like cruise control, but for off-road driving. Intended for low-speed and tricky terrain, it handles acceleration and braking for each wheel individually, leaving the driver to focus on steering.

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There are Dana Track-Lok differentials on two-wheel and four-wheel drive models and an available electronic-locking rear differential that's standard on select trims.

Inside, there's space for five and cargo. A pair of LCD productivity screens in the instrument cluster can show vehicle info, as well as navigation and audio information. In a departure from the original Ranger, the 2019 truck will have plenty of driver-assistance tech too.

Safety features like forward collision warning with auto braking, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and post-collision braking are also included. The Lariat model will also come with adaptive cruise control and a pre-collision assist system with pedestrian detection.

Earlier in the week, Ford introduced its best-selling F-150 truck with an optional 3.0-liter diesel Power Stroke engine that will come with an EPA-estimated 30 mpg later this year. Ford's Smart Trailer Tow connector can warn about mis-connected trailer links. A lineup of SuperCab and SuperCrew models will be offered in XL, XLT and Lariat trim levels. Additional appearance and off-road packages also will be available.

Recent industry news included the seemingly cease-and-desist of the Fusion midsize sedan after 2020, and Ford announcing $1.2-billlion investment in support of truck and SUV production in MI.