Car Of The Day: 2021 Ford Ranger

Samantha Henman

For decades, the Ford Ranger was the go-to for someone looking for a powerful engine and surprising towing capacity for a compact-sized pickup truck. That’s not to mention its classic looks and other Ford bona fides. In 2012, Ford took the Ranger off the market—but in 2019, it made a reappearance. And a whole lot changed in the meantime. Is it back and better than ever, or is it a flop? Let’s take a look at the 2021 Ford Ranger.

Size Matters

Every Ford Ranger fan out there—myself included—was hoping that the new line would be a phoenix from the ashes of the classic Rangers. Why did people love them? Well, they were perhaps one of the most approachable pickup trucks. Their design meant that they didn’t quite have the virulently aggressive and intimidating aura of a Ram, with their monumental size, or their sister Ford F-Series, which can feel like the grille is staring you down.

The classic Rangers felt more in line with vintage trucks from the 70s and 80s. Well, that’s now a thing of the past. The new Ford Ranger definitely falls in the mid-size pickup range—but not all is lost. It still retains many of the elements that made the trucks that came before it great.

Flex Those Muscles

The 2021 Ranger comes in XL, XLT, and Lariat models—but under the hood, they’re all sporting the same turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission. The lighter weight on the XL means that the engine really roars on that particular model. Bed size and 2WD/4WD are the most significant differences between the different models.

On the other hand, the Rangers sport some standard features that come as upgrades on other trucks, including forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking. But where’s the beef? Towing and payload are key figures for pickup trucks, and the Ranger is no slouch. We’re looking at 1,860 pounds payload. When the towing package is included, add up to 7,500 pounds back there.

Safety First

Optional SuperCab or SuperCrew versions mean that you can opt for the basic 2+2 smaller doors with the Supercab, or a much roomier SuperCrew version with seating for five and four full-size doors. The driving experience may not look as slick and modern as some of its more expensive counterparts, but it’s nonetheless an option if you want your truck to also serve as a solid family vehicle.

The emphasis on safety features over appearance reinforces this—and it’s got the stats to back it up. In an NHTSA crash test, it scored four out of five stars. Aside from the basics, there are optional upgrades that keep safety in mind, including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. I’ve always considered the Ranger a fantastic truck for city folk, and these upgrades would be great for busy downtown streets.

Measuring Up?

So, do you pull the trigger on a 2021 Ford Ranger, or wait for the long-awaited Ford Ranger Raptor? What about another truck altogether? The Raptor line has proven to be a tempting alternative to other Ford base models, despite all the secrecy surrounding their release. There is one thing that the Raptor and a slew of other trucks have the Ford Ranger does not, and that’s off-road capability.

Sure, you can take it on some rugged trails, but it doesn’t feature the all-out capabilities that other trucks, like the Silverados and Tacomas of the world do. The best option you’re going to get for off-roading with the 2021 Ford Ranger line is the Tremor package, which offers an upgraded suspension and bigger tires. That is, until Ford makes the Ranger Raptor available—or at least releases more details on it…

What’s The Verdict?

Let’s face it—in this world, there are Ford F-150 people, and there are Ford Ranger people. If you already fell on one side of the fence, the 2021 Ranger isn’t going to get you to change your mind…unless, of course, for some reason, your garage shrunk by 50%. If you were already a fan, or in the market for a mid-sized truck that is actually mid-sized (we’re side-eyeing you, GMC Canyon), then the Ranger is absolutely one of the best options out there.

It’s a best-seller, but many other review sites differ on it. Edmunds gave it a pretty harsh 6.8/10, calling the whole line out for recycling a design that was previous sold outside of North American markets. Ultimately, if the Ranger intrigues you but you’re not 100% sure, there are two options. The first would be to simply head to your local dealership, sit behind the wheel, and see how it feels.

Otherwise, the second option would be to wait and see what Ford switches up for 2022. After three consecutive years of the new Ranger without a resdesign, they might just have a surprise in store for us.

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