While Ford Motor Co. won’t offer a terrain-chewing Raptor version of the 2019 Ranger midsize pickup when it goes on sale in January, the automaker does plan to give the truck extra off-road capability and aggressive looks with a catalog of 150-plus accessories.
Ford held a start-of-production celebration for workers at the Michigan Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit on Monday. It constructed an off-road course to demonstrate the Ranger’s ability to climb and descend a large hill and hold a 20-degree angle with the optional FX4 off-road package.
More than 3,000 stamping and assembly workers begin regular production of the first Ranger in eight years Oct. 29. The Ford Bronco will follow with its reintroduction in 2020. The previous-generation Bronco was built from 1966 to 1996 at the same plant.
The base Ranger XL starts at $25,395. It generates 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque and offers a maximum 7,500 pounds of towing capacity and up to 1,860 pounds of payload. Better equipped models will sell for up to $40,000 without accessories.
Ford is positioning the Ranger as a lifestyle vehicle instead of a work truck. It will be the smaller sibling of the F-Series, the top-selling pickup truck in the U.S. for 41 years.
“Accessories are going to be a key part of this vehicle,” Brian Bell, marketing manager for the Ranger and F-150, told Trucks.com.
“The primary owner we see for the midsize truck segment really isn’t using it for a work truck,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of new customers that are hitting the stage in life where this is the right vehicle.”
Wide fenders, 18-inch black wheels, a bull bar and body graphics can add aggressive looks to the Ranger. Many accessories, such as roof-mounted carrying cases, racks and carriers for bikes, kayaks, paddleboards, skis/snowboards and ladders are from Yakima and Warn, which provide warranty coverage. Black or chrome step bars, front tow hooks for both 2- and 4-wheel drive Rangers are available. The FX4 off-road packages include segment-exclusive steel bash and skid plates.
“If you’re going off-road, you want something stronger that is not going to crack or break,” Bell said.
Last week in Las Vegas, Ford demonstrated the FX4’s terrain- and trail-control technology, a slow-speed version of cruise control. Trail control works with any of the Ranger’s four drive modes: normal; grass, gravel and snow; mud and ruts; and sand. A driver can override the system by stepping on the gas or brake pedal. Trail control works in reverse at up to 5 mph.
Some industry analysts have questioned whether Ford is too late to make inroads into a crowded segment led by the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado, which sold 183,909 and 104,838 units, respectively, in the first nine months of the year.
“If you look at the data, the midsize-truck segment has been growing faster than most of the segments in the industry,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s executive vice president and president for global operations. “It’s going to be a half-a-million-unit segment, which is plenty big enough to compete in.”
He said some sales shifting from F-150 to Ranger is inevitable.
“In many cases, those were people who wanted a truck but had to overbuy in size or capability,” Hinrichs said. “The F-150 has gotten a lot bigger and more expensive over time. There’s room to slot the Ranger in very nicely.”
Editor’s note: Photos by Alan Adler, Trucks.com