I made a post just yesterday morning saying I needed to test drive one, so I was like what the heck! let’s do it! so stopped by my local Ford dealer during lunch. I really wanted to try this out to know what all the hullabaloo is about. This is the first time I have ever driven a truck, and guess what? I like it. Only ridden in various Rams, F150s, Colorados before. Test drove a top of the line Lariat 4x4 short bed with the Fx4 package in this excellent Orange
Exterior: I like the way the Ranger looks, if it doesn’t have any Chrome. The size is right, I parked it next to an F150 after the test drive and although it’s not any shorter, it’s lower and narrower which makes driving and parking a breeze. Yes, yes I know midsize trucks have gotten much bigger but it was manageable for someone with zero truck experience.
Interior: Keep in mind this is the loaded Lariat version so everything’s nice inside compared to an XL/XLT. I would say it looks nice even if it may not feel nice when you touch it. Hard plastics are present but are lower in the dash and consoles. Leather seats were comfortable, getting in and out was easy. Visibility is excellent all around. It had all the tech and safety features you needed. The gauges are typical ford with the central speedo and 2 small displays but it is useful and clear. Could they have gone full digital dash, yeah perhaps. Maybe for the refresh. All buttons and controls are easy to reach. Sync 3 is fast and responsive. No complaints. It had the option B&O system sounded very good. I had space to sit behind myself but wish the seats were reclined just a little bit. I have seen complaints the interior feels old but I didn’t have a problem personally. Yeah, If you compare it to the latest Rams yes but I think it is competitive in this class.
Driving Experience: OK the main thing I wanted to test is how “truckish” this felt. In my limited experience I think this is the least “truckish” of them all, barring the Ridgeline which I assume drives just like a Pilot/Passport. It’s smooth, quiet and very refined, and it handles quite well. The 2.3Ecoboost is a terrific choice by Ford it has excellent low and mid range! But it’s still apparently slower than a Colorado V6 at 6.8 Seconds vs. the Colorado’s nearly 6 second 0-60. Steering is fine, didn’t sway me one way or the other and same thing can be said about the engine noise. Brake pedal felt wooden but brakes were good, gas pedal feel was good, not too sensitive or too tight. On the freeway it’s quiet, for a truck. I have some mixed thoughts about the 10 speed and many reviews say it’s very smooth. It is, when you floor it and it acts like a 6 speed, however in half throttle applications when you’re not committed it does shudder a bit and there is some clunkiness. It’s not perfect and I found the Honda 10 speeds to be much better. But leave it in Drive and it is unobtrusive and you can hardly feel it shift. Sport mode keeps the engine on boil and it’s ready to go and makes it a fun.
I wish this had a 4WD Auto mode because I was in 2WD mode and it lighted up the rear tires when I turned from a stop. I don’t want to bother with manual 4WD H/L etc. but then I realize I am asking for an AWD system not a 4WD system in a truck. Still, I think some trucks have 4WD Auto.
And since it is a truck the suspension does feel different and I can feel the bed jiggle around a bit especially at highway speeds with no load in it. I did feel a little weird because of the way it rides especially after the freeway stint but I guess it’s all in my head and one can get used to it. I don’t know how to explain it as it so different to every other type of vehicle I have ever driven. Motortrend spoke about it in their recent review saying “it’s never settled” and weight in the bed might help but I haven’t driven other trucks and lack experience to compare the feel.
Road and Track summed it up better than I could- “The new Ranger is rather busy over small road ripples, and lateral pavement imperfections like frost heaves or small speedbumps toss you around a bit. There’s only so much good behavior you can coax out of a solid rear axle with leaf springs—the Ranger’s front suspension is as smooth and refined as a crossover, it’s the back end that reminds you that you’re driving a pickup.”
Final thoughts: For me, this is the most amount of “truckishness” I can live with. I can’t possibly tolerate driving something that’s more rough, unrefined, louder, rides higher or rolls more. I’d probably get sick of it real quick.
I do like the Ranger a lot and they’re targeted a younger, more urban consumer who’d use this as an “adventure lifestyle” vehicle and I think they did well, but it’s expensive and I know the argument you can get an F150 for that price but I really don’t want or need. I still must test drive a Colorado/Canyon just to compare and also the Rdigeline but I have driven the new Passport and I think it will feel more or less the same. I think an XLT trim discounted around $35K is the way to go. I think if you’re in the market and not 100% brand loyal it’s worth a test drive.