A truck made for those who don’t want a truck but need to keep up with the Joneses’

When Ford decided that 2019 would be the year they would be charging full-steam ahead against Toyota, General Motors, Nissan, Jeep, and Honda with a mid-size pickup, people were beyond excited. The Ranger ended production here in the United States in 2012, and so Ford, while very successful with a truck you may have heard of, the F-150, still needed something to cut into mid-size truck sales. They already had the full-size market in their grasp, so why not just bring over the international Ranger that already sells well overseas?

Its first year back in the United States it sold 83,571 units. Its chief rival, the Chevrolet Colorado, sold 121,703. And that was a sales slump of nearly 10-percent. However, Toyota sold a monster 248,801 Tacoma trucks last year.

Enter the 2020 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4. There are a few things new for 2020, including the 10-speed automatic gearbox that is shared with the Mustang, F-150, and pretty much every other GM SUV and truck. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost, the motor that was in my tester, now sports stop/start technology, which can be manually disengaged, but not permanently.

As I said I had the 2.3-liter EcoBoost motor, which is the only engine available for all Ranger trims, and with the FX4 four-wheel drive system, this truck adds up to $45,915. Granted, my tester did have $6,045 worth of options, and press cars are typically fully loaded. The options include: the $2,005 501A group, which is what adds the Lariat, technology package with a Bang & Olufson 10-speaker sound system, Sync 3 (this also, obviously, includes SiriusXM, AM/FM radio, etc.), and remote start. The FX4 off-road package with an electronic-locking diff will run you $1,295, trailer tow package for $495, $160 worth of trays that are under the rear seats, a $95 keyless pad, which is an old Ford favorite for not having to use your keys to lock and unlock your car, and finally the $1,995 which adds adaptive cruise control, black appearance package, 18″ black-painted wheels, which automatically adds 265mm tires all-around, a spray-in bedliner, and 5″ wide running boards. My presser was painted in Race Red with Medium Stone leather interior, and a 5-foot bed.

I would just like to say, quickly, at just a hair under $46,000, this Ranger is literally the same value of a 2017-2018 F-150 with 10,000-30,000 miles. Trim? You pick it. You can get a Lariat, which will give you similar options as my Ranger presser, all the way up to a Platinum, which will give you a ton more, such as cooled seats, a giant sunroof, a power rear window, neither of which the Ranger has, cooled seats, and a concert hall for rear seat space. That said, shave a couple of options, and at $40,000 this Ranger becomes a good bit more appealing, especially as a new vehicle with a brand new warranty.

Once you start the Ranger Lariat, you’ll have peak horsepower of 270 at 5,500 rpm, and torque is a healthy 310 lb-ft and coming in at 3,000 rpm. After the engine turns over, for some odd reason, it sounds more like a larger, full-size pickup truck with a V8. I suspect it’s the engine fan kicking on at full blast for about 15-20 seconds. At first, if you don’t know, you would suspect there was a V6 under the hood with the natural-feeling pulling power. Ford really do an excellent job with their turbo motors, easily matching the performance feel of BMW’s turbo engines. And when you start driving, the Ranger is simple. It doesn’t drive like a truck, but also not like a car. Which is why I say it’s perfect for someone who doesn’t want the truck-like driving nature of a Tacoma, but want something with a bed and four-wheel drive. You will also be able to tow 7,500 lbs, which is just 600 fewer lbs than the 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition I had just the week prior.

I cannot tell you that you’d love the Ford Ranger, because it seems that you either like it or don’t, at least from some that I’ve talked to. Personally, I enjoyed it. I have been driving my dad’s 2018 F-150 Platinum FX4 for the past 6-ish months to give my GT350 a break in the winter. So getting into the Ranger Lariat I was happy to be in something smaller, lighter, more economical at 20 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, respectively, with an average of 22. I was getting about that in my week that I drove it. So, you know, pretty good truck fuel economy. Driving the Ranger it feels good, albeit a bit light and loose. It’s easily controlled, but it doesn’t feel hefty. So it’ll be easy for anyone to drive it with ease, which isn’t easy for a truck in general. It’s also a pretty damn quick truck. Point the wheels, squeeze the throttle, and with barely any turbo-lag, the 2.3-liter turbo 4-cylinder comes alive thanks to quick jump down shifts with the new 10-speed automatic. You’ll get a surge of power and torque, and move along as quickly as you please.

In crash test ratings the 2020 Ranger with a crew-cab does quite well, according to the International Institute of Highway Safety. The Ranger posted the top mark of Good in small overlap front for the driver side, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats. It took an Acceptable (2nd place rating) in small overlap front for the passenger side, and a Marginal in LATCH ease of use (the system for strapping child safety seats into the rear seats) and headlights. As for my testing of the headlights, I would say the headlights are good, not great. So I agree with that rating.

And In NHTSA tests, the Ranger has a 4-star overall rating, with 5-stars in a frontal crash for the driver, and 4-stars for the passenger. For side impact, front and rear seat individuals get a 5-star rating, with 3 out of 5 stars in a rollover situation.

Regardless of which crash testing you look at, the 2020 Ranger is a solid, well-built, and safe truck for anyone, including a growing family. That being said, the Ranger does not have a large rear seat space, but then neither do any of the trucks in this class. However, it is comfortable and easy to be back there, so long as your drive and front passenger are not tall and have the seats far back. At that point, grab a Lyft or Uber and meet them where they’re going. I’m 5’10” and tend to sit closer to the pedals, because I have short, stubby legs, so most passengers behind me are happy campers. If you decided to increase rear space for stuff, you can put up the rear seats. Sadly, that doesn’t do a lot. The floor is rather high, and because the seat bottoms are so thick, there just isn’t much space back there. However, Ford, smartly, added some trays that sit under the rear seats that allow you to put some tools, blanket, extra clothes, and the like. My wife and I went downtown to visit with her mom for a bit before going out to dinner. She dressed casually for the hang-out, and then she had a nicer dress and shoes in a purse that she hid in the trays under the rear seats. It worked perfectly.

What you will get in the back, though, are two USB-A ports and a three-prong outlet. The outlet is something I’ve come to expect in a truck, but the USB ports area very nice addition. The front passengers also get two USB-A ports under the infotainment system. Speaking of infotainment, when it comes down to it, Sync 3 is pretty damn great. Sure, it can be a little slow to react, and has a few random bugs from time to time, for me, it is by far a superior experience these days than BMW’s iDrive. Just five years ago I would have never said that. Now, though, iDrive is so confusing and convoluted. I say that as a regular driver of a 2019 750i M-Sport and 2019 M850i xDrive. Oh, and when using Apple CarPlay on Ford’s Sync 3 sitting still (Android Auto is also here for those users), you can watch YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, or whatever else, with perfectly synced audio playing through the damn fine 10-speaker B&O sound system. The new BMWs do not have synced audio over Apple CarPlay.

Riding inside the Ranger it is comfortable, but there is a disappointing amount of plastic and hard surfaces all over. Cup holders are okay sized, but I could go for larger ones in the front area.

My main issues with the 2020 Ford Ranger aren’t vast, but they are annoying features. For instance, just like any other Ford, you cannot fold in the mirrors once the engine has been shut off. And if you turn the engine or accessory mode off while the mirrors are folding, they will stop and stay where they are. The rear doors do not open nearly wide enough, there are no cooled seats in a $45,000 vehicle, only heated, only the driver window is one-touch up, and there are no individual map lights for the front area.

If you do buy a Ranger and decide to spend the roughly $2 grand on the adaptive cruise control, you will appreciate that, unlike any other car I’ve driven, the cruising distance stays where it was the last time you used the system. It may sound stupid, but that is a big deal to me. I get tired of hitting cruise control and having to redo how I prefer it. Every other car I have driven or been in resets and automatically puts you the farthest behind the car in front of you, which will knock your speed down to 10 mph or more. Such a pain.

In the end, the 2020 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 is perfect for someone like me. I don’t need a truck often, and I honestly don’t enjoy driving them. Unlike some truck buyers, I don’t need to be the biggest vehicle on the road, and I don’t have the need for anything but, occasionally, picking up something that’s too big for my GT350’s trunk, or my wife’s VW GLI. The Ranger becomes a welcome vehicle for being able to mainly use it as a sedan-like vehicle with rear seats for passengers or stuff, without driving like a truck. It feels quick, drives easily, and allows you to be in good control with the usability of great technology and great safety tech. The Ranger is a solid buy, but at $45,915, I hope you can negotiate it down a bit.