Ford Goes Rough And Ready With 2019 Ranger Pickup — NAIAS

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The 2019 Ford Ranger answers the call with an all-new midsize pickup featuring a new exterior design, chassis and powertrain developed specifically for North American truck customers.

The Ranger, which will be shown Sunday afternoon at the Detroit auto show, won't be available for another year. Following the success of GM's reborn Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, Ford now expects that buyers of the new Ranger won't be a traditional F-Series customer.

While mechanically very similar to the existing T6 Ford Ranger sold in various other markets around the world, the North American version gets quite a lot of unique equipment. Ford pulled the Ranger from the USA market seven years ago so the company could focus on its full-size F-Series pickup. USA sales are up 83 percent since 2014 as a new generation of midsize truck buyers seek more maneuverable, fuel-efficient pickups.

One could be forgiven for assuming the Ranger would simply be a Euro-Ranger adjusted for North American crash and safety regulations, since it's already a best-selling nameplate in Europe and the second-best selling truck outside of North America. Globally, the Ford Ranger design is distinct for its fast windshield, high beltline, and short front overhangs, which make for good approach/departure angles. Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager, said the exterior, chassis and powertrain were redesigned for the USA market.

The company said at last year's North American International Auto Show that there's huge consumer demand for the truck. Separately, the midsize truck segment where Ford has no presence has seen an 83-percent uptick in sales since 2014.

Analysts have said Ford might cut into F-150 sales by releasing the Ranger in the US, but Ford executives have said F-150 shoppers are typically completely different from those who'd look to buy a Ranger. Marketing-speak translation: Ford wants buyers willing to splurge on the Ranger because they think it's cool, even if they in no way need a pickup truck.

The Ranger will be available in three trim grades: XL, midlevel XLT, and a high-level Lariat trim series.

Being that not every new, adventurous Ranger owner will have much off-road experience, Ford plans to offer a few pieces of tech on the FX packages to ensure that owners still have a decent chance to get where they're going, skillset be damned. The truck also gets an aluminum hood and tailgate and steel bumpers for this market. Powerful and strong, with a high-strength steel frame, Ranger is equipped with a proven 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine mated to the only 10-speed automatic transmission in the segment.

A "torture tested" 2019 Ranger offers new technology and all-terrain options created to woo outdoor adventurers. An off-road drive assist technology maintains speed as low as 1 miles per hour and as high as 20 miles per hour, in any transfer-case setting. The FX4 off road package will offer upgraded tires, a steel front bash plate, reinforced, frame-mounted skid plates underneath to protect vital drivetrain components, off road tuned shocks, and the previously mentioned E-locking DANA rear differential. The Terrain Management System will control the throttle, transmission, and other vehicle systems to help the Ranger get through various types of terrain, and it will have settings for normal; grass, gravel, snow; mud and ruts; and sand.

For times when Ranger owners are adventuring to work or on errands, there's Adaptive Cruise and Lane Keep assistance, standard on the top-spec Lariat trim and optional on the XLT trim. Available AC power outlets allow for charging of laptops and USB outlets provide more options for passengers to connect. A center stack includes an 8-inch touch screen for the available SYNC 3 system, while the instrument cluster features dual LCD productivity screens for real-time vehicle, navigation and audio information.

DETROIT, Michigan-It seemed perfectly reasonable seven years ago that Ford might remove the Ranger midsize pickup truck from the US market forever. Sales peaked in 1999 at around 350,000 but dropped steadily until its final year in 2011, when Ford sold 70,832.

"Ranger has always held a special place in the hearts of truck fans", said Ford's boss of product development and purchasing, Hau Thai-Tang. This year, it will replace the Focus and the C-Max there. Ford Focus production will move from MI to China. Ford engineers put Ranger through the same torture testing as the legendary F-150 goes through.

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