Only those who’ve been living under an especially virulent rock have missed the return of the Ford Ranger. This time around, the Blue Oval’s midsize foil to offerings from Chevy and Toyota is banking on its competitiveness instead of on its price point. With the company exiting the car game, it’s more important than ever to get each of their trucks and SUVs just right.
With that in mind, we saddled up a 2019 Ford Ranger FX4 and pointed it towards the British Columbia wilds. In case you need a refresher, this package is only available on 4×4 Rangers, but can be had on all three trims: XL (with pkg 101A), XLT, and Lariat. Our whip, painted the excellent shade of Saber, wore 265/65 light truck Hankook tires mounted on 17-inch wheels. The FX4 kit also brings an electronic-locking limited slip rear diff, skid plates, and monotube shocks tuned for off-road environs.
Turning onto a tight two-track near the outskirts of Whistler, we twirled the Ranger’s 4×4 three-position rotary switch squarely into 4H and mashed the terrain button until it was in Mud/Ruts mode. Making the most of its 8.9 inches of ground clearance, your author had an easy time sending the truck up and over a series of awkward and offset obstacles designed to max out the Ranger’s flex. Thanks to 4×4 and the diff, making it through the section was easy like gravy.
If you’re familiar with a Ford interior, and sales data shows that plenty of you are, you’ll feel right at home in the Ranger. All the controls are where you’d expect them to be, including buttons for Trail Control and the knob for its Terrain Management System. The former acts like off-road cruise control, holding single-digit speeds (from 1 to 20 mph in single step increments) on steep downhill grades without the need for pedal modulation by the driver. This frees his or her brain to focus on steering duties. It worked as advertised while gingerly traipsing down a roughly one-in-three off-road grade at 2 mph after plowing through a deep water hazard.
There’s just one thing missing from the lineup: you guessed it – a Raptor version.
With GM going guns blazing in the midsize off-road market with its ZR2 and Bison variants of the Colorado, plus Toyota getting into the thick of things with a Tacoma TRD Pro, the Blue Oval is surely leaving money on the table by not bringing the Ford Ranger Raptor to this country. Your author can personally count three Ford fanatics in his contacts list who would pay dearly for the privilege of sending monthly payments to the Glass House for a Ranger Raptor. Two of them are simply tired of the incessant needling from their bowtie buddies.
Sure, the diesel mill offered in the truck elsewhere might not play well here, but you can’t seriously tell me that the combined engineering might of the Ford Motor Company, the same business which kicked Ferrari’s ass at LeMans and literally invented the assembly line, can’t figure out how to bolt a few foreign market suspension dampers onto a left-hand drive Ford Ranger. The FX4 is a great piece of kit and has its place in the market, but it is no substitute for the Raptor.
It’s a good looking truck, this, particularly when Lightning Blue or Saber is paired with the Sport Appearance Package and its blacked-out addenda. It contrasts well with the silver lip on the 2019 Ford Ranger’s front bumper, making the truck appear taller than it actually is. Hammering F O R D into that surface like Toyota has done with its performance brand on the TRD Pro would ratchet up the visual drama even further.
Those looking for the sweet spot in the Ford Ranger’s current lineup would be well served to sample an XLT trim equipped with the FX4 package. Such a machine brings plenty of creature comforts, and the requisite off-road gear, but retains rugged cloth seats and a hose-‘em-out feel. Absent of leather seats and bling-filled stereo speakers, the XLT FX4 doesn’t feel like a truck you’re scared to get dirty despite its $37,950 sticker. This mid-level trim also comes with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite of driving aids which includes the likes of pre-collision assist and lane keeping.
And while we’re on the subject of the 2019 Ford Ranger FX4, who’s in charge of naming the company’s three-digit option codes? At GM, the Z71 package actually reads ‘Z71’ on the option sheet. You’d expect, then, for Ford’s FX4 to appear as the same three characters, right? Nope. It’s ‘914’, like the old Porsche. The Blue Oval has a history of this, offering inscrutable options like Rapid Spec 302A rather than calling it Custom Luxury or something. The mind reels.
Back at the trailhead, we hit the highway back to town and opened up the 270 horsepower 2.3L EcoBoost. Those FX4 monotubes serve just fine for daily duty – no one is going to have any fillings shaken out of their heads.
Since this North American version is based heavily on the Ranger T6 platform that’s been in other markets since 2012, some time-weary features do tend to shine through. Your author was caught off-guard by the lack of damped tailgate, for example, as it slammed to earth like a turnip dropped from a sack. This is also one of the few machines, let alone pickups, on sale today which have a console-mounted manual handbrake eating into the console space.
But those details are largely academic. The 2019 Ford Ranger is a right-sized truck that’ll fit in most garages and plugs a Tacoma-sized hole in Ford’s showroom. Adding a Raptor version is all that’s needed right now. Come on, Ford; we know you can do it. A great truck like this deserves the best kit you can find in the corporate cupboard.