Ford Ranger, now in second year after re-launch, continues to make improvements

Powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine with 270 horsepower and 310 lbs.-ft. of torque paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission, the 2020 Ford Ranger is available in either SuperCab or SuperCrew configuration. It can be optioned with 4x2 or 4x4, and comes in three trim levels – XL, XLT and Lariat. Metro Creative Services photo
Powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine with 270 horsepower and 310 lbs.-ft. of torque paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission, the 2020 Ford Ranger is available in either SuperCab or SuperCrew configuration. It can be optioned with 4x2 or 4x4, and comes in three trim levels – XL, XLT and Lariat. Metro Creative Services photo

This week, I’m driving the 2020 Ford Ranger. One of the last Fords I was in was the 2019 model. I felt Ford missed the boat with it and that even as a “new vehicle” it felt dated. This year, the Ranger has a few new features but is still mostly the same truck it was last year, when it was relaunched and reintroduced to the U.S. market.

I still stand by my point that the Ranger could be really special if Ford had reinvested and reinvented it, rather than bring the same truck to the U.S. mainland they were selling overseas. That being said, Ford knows trucks and they know truck consumers. The Ranger fills a gap in the market the F-150 just doesn’t fulfill.

Ironically, the Ranger, which is considered a compact truck, doesn’t feel very compact. In fact, it feels F-150ish. That’s a good thing for most consumers. Last year, I felt the Ranger was too basic. This year, my tester was the top-of-the-line Lariat trim; that might have something to do with changing my opinion somewhat.

The 2020 Ranger feels nice. It also, as I mentioned, feels big. The vantage point from the driver’s seat is excellent. Running boards existed on my tester but weren’t really needed. Even Mrs. Driversside commented that running boards weren’t needed to get in or out but were a nice aesthetic element. My race red-colored Lariat Ranger with the five-foot box looked impressive. It felt modern and attractive.

Ford has really done wonders with turbocharging technology. Their engineers have mastered getting maximum performance out of smaller engines. With the Ranger there’s a turbocharged four-cylinder 2.3-liter engine. It produces 270 horsepower and has a 10-speed automatic transmission. It feels powerful with no turbo lag. Despite the Ranger’s weight and size, the engine never once balks at what you ask it to do.

The Ranger can even tow up to 7,500 pounds, which is great for the compact truck segment. With the smaller engine comes good fuel economy. The Ranger has an EPA rating of 20 mpg/city and 24 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of mostly suburban driving, with no towing, I averaged nearly 22 mpg.

The interior of the Ranger is nice, but it’s no full-size truck usually packed with luxury and nice touchpoints like an F-150. The touchpoints in the Ranger are good but there are some plastic materials to be found. Additionally, road noise is fairly noticeable, but that’s pretty typical for a truck.

The back seat provides ample legroom. I’ve spent a lot of time in a Toyota Tacoma and can say the Ranger has a much bigger-feeling backseat.

Ford’s Sync 3 system is such an improvement over the second iteration of that infotainment system. Ford will be launching Sync 4 with the 2021 model year, and I’ve seen a lot of that system and can’t wait. As such, the Sync3 system is intuitive, the voice commands work well and the integration with smart phones is outstanding.

The base Ranger, which is very basic (think work truck) starts at less than $25,000, making the Ranger affordable. My tester, the top-tier Lariat, had a base price of $38,675. With the FX4 off-road package, trailer tow package, black equipment package plus the technology package, my tester had a final MSRP of $46,990.

The 2020 Ford Ranger stands to show I do love some domestic vehicles and that I can be critical but can also have my opinion changed, too. The 2020 Ranger deserves its moment in the sun.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

2020 FORD RANGER LARIAT FX4

  • Price/As-tested price................................................ $38,675/$46,990
  • Mileage.......................................... 20 mpg/city; 24 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 2.3-liter 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower................................. 270 hp/310 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission................................. 10-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ 4-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Wayne, Michigan