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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

2020 Ford Ranger: Midsize pickup answers the call of the dump and more

Last year, Ford resurrected its midsize Ranger pickup after an eight-year hiatus.

Its timing was perfect. During the pandemic, Americans have been on a home-improvement spree. They’re creating stacks of dump-bound debris.

A midsize truck like the Ranger answers the call of the dump and more. Small trucks are better suited to life in the burbs than their full-size brethren. They’re easier to drive in traffic and parking lots. They slip easily into the garage and go a little lighter at the pump.

The Ranger Is a Ford truck to its bones. Its ladder-frame construction creates a sturdy foundation. 

Ranger’s turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine is the star of this show. It makes 270-horsepower and a beefy 310 lb-ft of torque. 

Cabin is full-bore truck

It’s noisy at low speeds and at startup but delivers a smooth and steady stream of power. Its 310 lb-ft of peak torque occurs at just 3000 rpm. Aside from the occasional stumble at low speeds, the 10-speed automatic transmission knocks off clean, quick shifts. 

Properly equipped, Ranger can tow up to 7,500 pounds. It runs the 0-60 dash in 7.4 seconds and earns 22 mpg in combined driving.

There’s no mistaking Ranger for a truck of any brand not named Ford. It borrows heavily from its full-size sibling, the F-150. Its split-grille front fascia and headlight assemblies come straight from the F-150 style book. Fender flares and a touch of wheel-well cladding reflect the larger truck’s influence.

Ranger’s cabin is full-bore truck. Hard plastics and blocky dashboard elements exemplifies the Blue Oval’s “Ford tough” slogan. Decent but not great materials quality reflects Ranger’s budget orientation.

A truck’s ride and handling

Along with its truck capabilities come a truck’s ride and handling. With an empty bed, Ranger’s ride is stiff and unsettled. The jolt of a pothole is felt throughout the cabin.

Steering feels soggy and insubstantial. Its responses are sluggish and imprecise. 

Ranger is available in three trim levels: XL ($25,305); XLT ($28,460) and Lariat ($32,500).

It can be had with either of two cabins and two bed lengths. All trims can be had in rear-wheel and four-wheel drive configurations. Ranger’s part-time 4WD system uses a traditional two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing.

Rear-drive models have 8.4 inches of ground clearance; four-bys check in at 8.9 inches. An available Terrain Management System tweaks engine responsiveness, transmission settings  and other variables to optimize Ranger’s performance in wide-ranging conditions.

New off-road package 

For 2020, a new FX2 package is available for 2WD iterations of the XLT and Lariat trims. Its centerpiece is a locking rear differential that at low speeds can force the rear wheels to rotate at the same speed. This traction-boosting technique dramatically narrows the performance gap between 2WD and 4WD models.

The package includes a front skid plate and off-road tires. Its suspension is tweaked for trail-running and stump-jumping.

A similar FX4 package is available on 4WD models. 

XL buyers can add the locking rear diff as a stand-alone option.

A pickup bed extender is available this year for the first time on XLT and Lariat trims.

The Ranger XL is equipped with a four-speaker AM/FM audio system. There’s a single USB port. The phone-based FordPass Connect includes a Wi-Fi hotspot that can connect up to 10 devices. 

Riding the features escalator

Forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking are standard.

The XLT and Lariat trims add such features as satellite radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. An 8.0-inch touchscreen has swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability. 

The XLT adds blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning and automatic high-beams. Adaptive cruise and navigation are available.

Instead of bringing the Ranger to a complete stop when the car ahead has stopped, the
adaptive cruise system switches off at 22 mph.

For LED headlights, leather seating and push-button start, buyers must step up to the Lariat.

Even for those not replacing the kitchen, most buyers will find plenty of ways to put a small truck to good use. And Ford has a worthy one for their consideration.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2020 Ford Ranger Lariat SuperCrew
Vehicle base price: $25,305
Trim level base price: $32,500
As tested: $46,910 (includes destination and handling)
Options: 18-inch black-painted aluminum wheels; spray-in bed liner; running boards; tray-style floor liner; trailer tow package; keyless keypad; FX4 off-road package; folding tonneau cover
Tow rating: 7500 lb
EPA rating: 22 combined/20 city/24 highway
Regular gasoline specified



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.