Introduction – Find the best Ford deals!
Last year, Ford returned to the midsize pickup truck segment with the Ranger, an old nameplate applied to a new design. This year, the 2020 Ranger earns an award for quality in the annual J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS), leading the second-ranked Chevrolet Colorado, third-ranked Honda Ridgeline, and other models in the segment.
Available in SuperCab (extended cab) and SuperCrew (crew cab) styles, the 2020 Ranger comes in XL, XLT, and Lariat trim levels. Changes for 2020 include more standard equipment for the Ranger XLT, a new pickup box extender option, available front parking sensors, and a new FX2 Off-Road Package for rear-drive versions of the Ranger. The FX2 Package adds off-road suspension tuning, off-road tires, an electronic locking rear differential, and an off-road data screen in the driver information center.
Photo: Christian Wardlaw
For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a Ranger XLT SuperCrew equipped with the FX2 Package, Package 302A, the Technology Package, the Trailer Tow Package, a spray-in bedliner, a SecuriCode entry system, tray-style floor liners, and all-terrain tires. The price came to $37,290, including the $1,195 destination charge.
What Owners Say… – Find the best Ford deals!
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2020 Ranger, it is helpful to understand who buys this midsize pickup, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.
Ford Ranger owners, according to J.D. Power data, are older than those across all models in the segment, with a median age of 62 years (vs. 57 years). They earn more money, too, with a median annual household income of $98,571 (vs. $95,548). More of them are male, as well (88% vs. 85%).
Expectedly, 88% of Ford Ranger owners agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (vs. 55% for the segment). Unexpectedly, 53% agree that they’re willing to pay more for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (vs. 47%), and 78% are willing to pay more to ensure their vehicle has the latest safety features (vs. 72%).
Ranger owners are less concerned about maintenance costs and reliability. J.D. Power data shows that 60% of them strongly agree that they avoid vehicles they think will have high maintenance costs (vs. 68% for the segment), while 59% say reliability is a first consideration when choosing a vehicle (vs. 69%).
At the same time, performance and design are important to Ranger owners. The data says 83% of them agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (vs. 73%), and 54% strongly agree that they like a vehicle that offers responsive handling and powerful acceleration (vs. 45%). Ranger owners are also less likely to agree that to them a vehicle is just a way of getting from place to place (29% vs. 38%).
Owners say their favorite things about the Ranger are (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving dynamics and visibility/safety (in a tie), engine/transmission, and interior design. Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Ranger are (in descending order) the infotainment system, seats, climate control system, storage and space, and fuel economy.
In the J.D Power 2019 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Ranger was the top-ranked midsize pickup out of six models.
What Our Expert Says… – Find the best Ford deals!
In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the 2020 Ford Ranger measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the APEAL Study.
Any Ranger looks better with the Sport Appearance Package, which includes a dark gray finish for the grille, bumpers, wheel lips, and aluminum wheels. Paired with the unusual Saber paint color, which is a golden orange hue, the test truck looked terrific.
Photo: Christian Wardlaw
Even without the Sport treatment, though, any Ranger is appealing, blending bold fender flares, sculpted flanks, a creased hood, and oversized RANGER lettering stamped across the tailgate. You could even make the argument that the XL trim’s silver steel wheels are retro-cool. In any case, there isn’t an awkward line on this clean and cohesively styled truck.
Overall, the Ranger’s interior materials are a cut above what you find in most midsize pickups. Plus, there is a sense of style to go along with the solid build quality, and some of the switchgear is drawn from a common component set that is also used for Lincolns costing twice the Ranger’s price. Controls are simple and functional, the only oddity being the power window switch located on the dashboard rather than on the door panel.
Photo: Christian Wardlaw
Equipped with comfortable front seats wrapped in cloth that looks good and feels durable, the test truck supplied 8-way power adjustment for both front seats yet still offered a manual seatback recline function.
As is true of most midsize pickups, the Ranger SuperCrew’s back seat is tight for adults but supplies proper support. Fully padded and fabric-wrapped front seatbacks help knees and shins to find a happy home.
Climate Control System
Standard equipment with XLT and Lariat trim, the Ranger’s dual-zone automatic climate control system is quite effective at cooling the cabin. However, Ford does not supply rear air conditioning vents to passengers. If cold weather comes, heated front seats are available for the XLT and standard with Lariat trim.
As infotainment technology advances, Ford’s Sync 3 system isn’t keeping up with the march of time. Mainly, the issues with Sync 3 relate to slow loading time and voice recognition that isn’t as sophisticated as buyers increasingly expect.
With that said, Sync 3 remains a user-friendly platform. The 8-inch touchscreen is nicely sized for the Ranger’s cabin, and separate stereo and climate controls do limit the need for a driver to interact with the display.
Sync 3 is also feature-rich, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, FordPass Connect services including a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot supporting up to 10 different devices, and a FordPass App for smartphones and Apple smartwatches. FordPass App powers the Ranger’s remote engine starting and remote door lock operation functions, and supports use of both Alexa and Waze.
Storage and Space
Ranger owners rate the truck’s storage and space as among their least favorite things about the vehicle. Most likely, this has to do with the SuperCrew’s popularity and this cab style’s 5-foot cargo box. Midsize trucks from Chevrolet, GMC, Nissan, and Toyota all offer a 6-foot bed with a crew cab configuration.
Inside, the Ranger does have a rather small bin under the center armrest. Otherwise, you can use the good-sized storage bin forward of the transmission shifter, the tray on the top of the dashboard, the accommodating door panel bins, or the bin underneath the back seat.
Visibility and Safety
Thanks to the test truck’s front parking sensors and backup camera, as well as it’s tidy and easily judged dimensions, visibility was not an issue.
Ford also installs its Co-Pilot360 collection of driving assistance systems on the Ranger. It is optional with XL trim and standard for XLT and Lariat versions of the truck. For the Ranger, it includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, a blind-spot warning system with trailer coverage, rear cross-traffic warning, and automatic high-beam headlights. Additionally, the test truck had adaptive cruise control.
With everything adjusted to as close to a medium setting as is possible, I can report that the forward collision warning system is shrill, the lane departure warning system’s steering wheel vibration is excessive (on smooth pavement), and the lane keeping assistance system often seems to be asleep on the job.
I can also report that when traffic ahead on the freeway came to a sudden and complete stop, I needed to brake well before the adaptive cruise control figured out what was happening. Once again, this situation underscored that all of these driving aids exist to assist and not replace a driver.
When it comes to crash-test ratings, the Ranger falls a bit short. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the truck Good ratings except for an Acceptable rating for small overlap frontal-impact protection for the front passenger and Marginal ratings for both the headlights and accessibility of the child safety seat anchors.
Meanwhile the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Ranger 5-star ratings except for a 4-star rating for front passenger protection in a frontal impact collision. All Rangers also receive a 3-star rollover resistance rating.
Thanks to a refined turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine making 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque, the 2020 Ranger boasts plenty of giddy-up and is genuinely enjoyable to drive. It can tow up to 7,500 pounds of trailer and haul as much as 1,860 lbs. of payload, too, when properly equipped. And I have no doubt that midsize truck buyers in high-altitude regions just love this turbocharged engine.
The standard 10-speed automatic transmission delivers seamless shifts, but when the truck is in Normal driving mode it is reluctant to downshift when exiting a curve or a corner. Switching to Sport mode resolves this problem. On harder acceleration runs, the powertrain exhibits an unusual surge of power as the transmission upshifts. This trait is not unpleasant. Just unexpected.
Apparently, I had too much fun driving the Ranger. The EPA says this truck should get 23 mpg in combined driving, but the test vehicle returned just 19.5 mpg on the testing loop.
When Ford re-introduced the Ranger last year, I tested one with Lariat trim and the standard suspension setup. The experience left me dissatisfied with the truck’s ride and handling, which I thought was too soft, too bouncy, and generally lacking in terms of a feeling of control.
This test truck, equipped with the FX2 Package, was much better in the ride and handling department. Credit the tauter off-road suspension tuning for the change in character. Because of the firmer ride, flatter cornering, and better controlled ride motions, this Ranger FX2 is far more satisfying to drive. Fun, even. Sure, some of the truck’s inherent bounce and wobble remains, but that’s to be expected given the type of vehicle this is.
Better yet, in typical daily-driving situations, the FX2 suspension doesn’t cause any discomfort. Rather, the test truck proved nimble and athletic in urban and suburban environments, able to conquer broken pavement and speed bumps with equal ease.
Final Impressions – Find the best Ford deals!
My second go-round with the Ranger since Ford brought it back to America left me with a better impression, mainly thanks to the optional FX2 Package. I recommend it (or the FX4 Package on Rangers equipped with 4-wheel drive).
Beyond the driving dynamics, the Ranger supplies a satisfying powertrain, comfortable seats, a simple and useful cabin, and rugged good looks. Improved crash-test ratings and a longer 6-foot-bed option with the SuperCrew cab would be nice-to-haves, but otherwise this high-quality midsize pickup truck delivers satisfaction.
Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.
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