By Chuck Giametta
What changes will make the 2020 Ford Ranger different?
Nothing earthshaking, to the disappointment of Ford fans panting for a 300-plus-horsepower Baby Raptor inspired by the full-size F-150’s. Instead, Ford will apparently reserve that performance flagship for its hot new Bronco compact SUV, which is built on Ranger’s underpinnings.
So, 2022 Ranger shoppers will have to be content with the Tremor Off-Road Package. The option ($4,290 for model-year 2021) muscles up this compact pickup’s trail-clawing prowess and beefs up its styling — but retains the 270-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine used in every other Ranger.
Expect some new colors for model-year 2022, perhaps yet another appearance package. We’d advocate Ford give the entry-level model more standard safety features. Otherwise, the ’22 Ranger should soldier on little changed until its next full redesign, likely for model-year 2024.
Until then, it’ll remain an Americanized version of a Ford pickup marketed overseas since 2011. Today’s Ranger debuted in the U.S. for model-year 2019, reviving the name of a Ford compact pickup sold from 1983-2011. The resurrected Ranger returned the automaker to a class perennially led in sales by the Toyota Tacoma and recently expanded by arrival of the Jeep Gladiator. Ranger’s holding its own. It was the segment’s No. 3 seller through the first three quarters of 2020. It and the Jeep were the only entries to post year-over-year sales gains.
Should you wait for the 2022 Ford Ranger or buy the 2021?
Little reason to wait. The 2022 Ranger will essentially be a rerun of the ’21 but almost certainly cost more. Waiting, however, will give you the opportunity to cross-shop the redesigned 2022 Nissan Frontier as well as the new Hyundai Santa Cruz, both direct rivals.
It’ll also let you assess a smaller alternative from Ford itself, the 2022 Maverick. As the Ranger shares its traditional-truck, body-on-frame engineering with the Bronco, the Maverick will borrow its car-type unibody understructure from the Ford-Escape-based Bronco Sport crossover. The Maverick looks much like a Bronco Sport with an open bed and will similarly offer front- or all-wheel drive and two turbocharged engines, a 1.5-liter three-cylinder and 2.0-liter four.
If you do want a high-performance Ranger — in SUV form — waiting also allows you to consider the 2022 Bronco Raptor (which Ford could end up calling the Bronco Warthog). By any name, it’ll be a counterpunch to the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 and its 470-horsepower V-8. Look for the ’22 Bronco “Raptor” to use a twin-turbo V-6 of more than 350 horsepower and cost upwards of $60,000.
Don’t wait for the ’22 Ranger if you like the ’21 lineup. The ’22 will return two cab styles and two cargo-bed lengths. The four-passenger extended-cab SuperCab will again have rear-hinged back doors and a 6-foot bed. The far more popular five-seat crew-cab SuperCrew gets four conventional doors and a 5-foot bed. Both will again be available with a choice of rear-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). All configurations should again come in three basic model grades: XL, XLT, and Lariat; each available with multiple option packages.
Will 2022 Ford Ranger styling be different?
No, aside from minor exclusives that might come with any new appearance packages. Returning ’22 Rangers will retain tough but contemporary styling that contrasts with the brick-like Gladiator and the blockier General Motors rivals, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. With a high beltline, raked windshield, and sloped nose, the ’22 Ranger’s blend of muscle and modernity will again have more in common with the aesthetics of the Tacoma and the Frontier. And it’ll certainly look more trucklike than the crossover-based Honda Ridgeline.
All ’22 Rangers will continue with pickup-classic body-on-frame construction. In this competitive set, only the Santa Cruz and Ridgeline use crossover-type unibody engineering. Tacoma and the GM competitors will again offer two wheelbases (the distance between front and rear axles) to accommodate specific cab and bed lengths. By contrast, all ’22 Rangers will again share one wheelbase and have the same bumper-to-bumper length.
In a side note, we’ve been of the school that Ranger and its similarly sized competitors are “compact” pickups, the smallest on sale in the U.S. and a clear class below full-size pickups. Introduction of the Maverick finally slots in a class-size-smaller pickup, meaning it could assume the compact mantle while the Ranger and its competitive set now formally qualify as “midsize” pickups.
Semantics aside, expect visual distinctions between 2022 Ranger trim levels to again run to such details as black bumpers and mirrors for the XL; body-colored exterior trim and foglamps for the XLT; and body-colored and chrome accents, plus LED headlights and foglamps, for the Lariat.
Wheel type and size will continue as differentiators, too: 16-inch steel rims standard on the XL, 17-inch alloys optional there and standard on the XLT, and 18-inch alloys standard on the Lariat and available on the XLT. All Rangers with 4WD and the 2WD XLT and Lariat models will again include two front tow hooks.
Ford could make the ’22 Ranger available with additional dress-up options to go along with returning ones such as the STX Appearance Package for the XL (17-inch silver-painted alloys, foglamps, cargo-box STX decal, and upgraded cloth upholstery). The XLT and Lariat should again be available with a Chrome Appearance Package (chrome grille, body trim, and wheels) and with the Sport Appearance Package (black grille, Sport decal, and dark-tinted 18s with complimenting body trim).
The boldest-looking ’22 Rangers will again be equipped with the Tremor Off-Road Package. Introduced for model-year 2021 as the costliest Ranger package, it should again be available on XLT and Lariat SuperCrews. It elevates ground clearance nearly an inch, to 9.7 inches. It widens the truck’s stance an inch via wheel lips needed to clear 32-inch all-terrain tires on special 17-inch wheels. Hoop-style side steps; rear recovery hooks; blacked out trim, including a black grille with red-outlined “nostrils;” Tremor decals; and optional hood and body graphics add to the look.
Inside, expect the ’22 Ranger’s cabin to return with serviceable materials quality, with reasonable heft to the plastic panels and padded placed strategically. But some ergonomic shortfalls should again reveal a slightly dated design.
Principal among these are tiny climate controls relegated to a central-dashboard surface slanted forward at its bottom. The angle makes it almost impossible to distinguish the poorly marked buttons in daylight; it’s hardly easier with nighttime backlighting.
The Lariat should return with a partly digitized gauge cluster that crowds an undersized tachometer and other vehicle data into LCD displays flanking the analog speedometer. The XL’s standard 4.2-inch-diameter the dashboard infotainment screen is small for a modern vehicle. The 8-inch display optional there and standard on the other models is better, but still not cutting-edge.
Upholstery for the XL and XLT models will remain various grades of cloth depending on trim package. Leather should return as a standard Lariat exclusive. To XLT or Lariat upholstery the Tremor option adds synthetic suede inserts and stitches “Tremor” into the seatbacks. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever should again be optional for the XLT and standard on the Lariat.
No compact pickup can match the room and comfort of Honda’s crossover-based Ridgeline. But the ’22 Ranger’s passenger accommodations will again be more than commensurate with those of its body-on-frame brethren. The front buckets are supportive and generously proportioned. You’ll need the SuperCrew for a rear seat that’s legitimately adult-friendly. Both cabs’ rear benches are rigidly upright, but that contributes to decent knee and foot clearance — so long as front occupants don’t slide their seats fully rearward.
Any 2022 Ford Ranger mechanical changes?
There’s an outside chance Ford could boost engine output to keep performance a clear step above that of the new Maverick. That lighter, less expensive pickup is expected to offer up to 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it moving.)
If Ford decides such a Maverick is no threat to the Ranger, it’ll again equip every 2022 model with a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder of 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The sole transmission would remain a 10-speed automatic that, like the engine, is calibrated to emphasize torque at low and midrange speeds.
You’ll find wider options in the competition, including V-6s and, in the Gladiator and GM rivals, turbodiesel options with 442 and 369 pound-feet of torque, respectively. Still, our Ranger tests reveal Ford’s done a fine job with Ranger’s sole powertrain, mainly by eliminating most turbo lag. One 2021 Lariat 4×4 we tested did suffer some surging and bogging as the turbo’s boost and transmission’s gear selection fell out of sync. It occurred when throttle was applied after costing or coming out of gentle cruising. Other test models suffered no such behavior.
Overall, acceleration should remain quite satisfying: lively off the line and robust from midrange speeds. Shifting the console-mounted gear lever into Sport mode amps things up nicely around town. Assertive highway-speed passing, however, requires some manual-type gear selection, available only by thumbing a toggle placed awkwardly on the side of the shift knob.
For ’22, we’d suggest Ford recalibrate Ranger’s idle stop-start feature. Intended to save gas, it turns off the engine when the vehicle is stopped and automatically restarts it when the driver releases the brake pedal. In our tests, restarts were jarring enough to send a shudder through the structure. Luckily, there’s a defeat button on the console.
Rear-wheel drive will remain standard, 4WD with low-range gearing optional. This is a part-time 4WD system, not intended to remain engaged on dry pavement. The Gladiator and the GM rivals are available with the convenience of full-time 4WD designed for all surfaces. The Santa Cruz and Ridgeline are all-wheel-drive pickups without low-range gearing.
Rear-drive ‘22 Rangers will return with 8.4 inches of ground clearance and be available again with an electronic locking rear differential, a useful traction aid included with the FX2 and Tremor and and FX4 Off-Road packages. The FX4 package will remain optional on every 4WD Ranger and include three skid plates, off-road suspension tuning, all-terrain tires, and an off-road display in the instrument cluster.
Also included again in the FX4 and Tremor packages will be a terrain-management system that works in 4-high and 4-low. A mode-selecting console knob calibrates powertrain and traction systems for Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand conditions. Included as well will be Ford’s Trail Control, off-road cruise control that works in any drive mode up to 20 mph and automatically manages vehicle speed, power, and braking to let the driver concentrate on steering.
Ranger’s answer to the Gladiator Rubicon and Willys and the Colorado ZR2 and ZR2 Bison, the ’22 Ranger Tremor will again build on the FX4 with the additional ground clearance, plus a fortified suspension with added wheel travel, and specially tuned shock absorbers and springs. It also adds a dash-top, six-switch auxiliary power bank to control such off-roading aids as winches, extra lights, and an air compressor.
The Ridgeline will continue as the sole compact pickup with an independent rear suspension. The ’22 Ranger and all the others use a solid rear axle with leaf springs. Ranger shares with its comrades some tail skittishness in bumpy turns when the bed’s empty or lightly loaded. Otherwise, rough surfaces are traversed with impressive absorbency if a bit too much vertical body motion. That forgiving nature also promotes body lean and noseplow in quick changes of direction. Overall, though, steering that’s syrupy but nicely weighted and good balance in steady-state cornering make Ranger a perfectly acceptable handler for this type vehicle.
Also entirely tolerable are noise levels. Wind and road rustle are kept in the background, even with the FX4’s more aggressive tire tread. And there’s even a nice growl from engine and exhaust when you prod the throttle.
Will 2022 Ford Ranger fuel economy improve?
Not without some adjustment to engine output. And that’s fine because you’ll again need a diesel-engine-equipped Gladiator, Colorado, or Canyon to beat the overall EPA ratings of Ford’s compact pickup. Expect ’22 Rangers to again rate 21/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined with rear-wheel drive and 20/24/22 mpg with 4WD. Ford recommends 87-octane gas for this engine.
By comparison, a Colorado or Canyon equipped with GM’s turbodiesel 2.8-liter four-cylinder rates 20/30/23 mpg with rear-drive and 19/28/22 with 4WD. That engine is a $3,730 option. With its mandatory automatic transmission, the Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel is a $6,000 option. It comes only with 4WD and rates 22/28/24 mpg (21/27/24 in the Rubicon).
Will there be new 2022 Ford Ranger features?
New trim packages could mean minor equipment additions or a mix-and-match of existing items. But none is apt to drastically alter Ranger’s established feature set.
Credit Ford with including autonomous emergency braking standard on every 2021 Ranger and almost certainly on every ’22 model, as well. It’s designed to automatically stop the pickup to avoid a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian.
Continuing the safety picture, a version the Ford Co-Pilot360 suit of driver assists was standard on 2021 XLT and Lariat models and a $625 option for the XL. It included blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection, lane maintaining automatic steering correction, automatic highbeam headlamps, and forward and reverse obstacle detection. Making this edition of Co-Pilot360 standard on the entry-level 2022 Ranger XL model, too, would be a laudable nod toward safety.
Expect another driver assist — adaptive cruise control to automatically maintain a set distance from traffic ahead – to remain available on ’22 Ranger XLT and Lariat grades as part of the Technology Package. Priced at $995 for 2021, this package also backed up the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility standard on every Ranger with an imbedded navigation system that doesn’t require a cell signal to furnish real-time GPS mapping.
Figure on the return of an exclusive Lariat package ($2,005 for ’21) that bundles the Technology Package with a 10-speaker-plus-subwoofer Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and remote engine start.
Expect every ’20 Ranger to return with 4G LTE and WiFi hotspot connectivity, automatic headlamps, and a rearview camera as standard. Look for the 2022 XLT to again build on XL equipment by adding as standard a power locking tailgate, rear defroster, cruise control, intermittent windshield wipers, remote keyless entry, and one USB smart-charging port. All that will remain standard on the ’22 Ranger Lariat, plus the aforementioned leather upholstery, as well as heated power front seats with power driver’s lumbar, ambient cabin lighting, and keyless access with pushbutton start.
Will 2022 Ford Ranger prices be different?
They’ll almost certainly rise, but Ford’s apt to temper increases to minimize potential sales lost to the Maverick – and to deflect interest in the redesigned Frontier as well as any momentum gained by the facelifted Chevy and GMC rivals.
For reference, here are 2021 Ranger base prices, including Ford’s $1,195 destination fee.
For extended-cab SuperCrews with rear-wheel drive, the 2021 Ranger XL started at $26,015, the XLT at $30,065, and the Lariat at $34,105. For rear-drive 2021 Ranger SuperCabs, base prices were $28,415 for the XL, $32,240 for the XLT, $36,280 for the Lariat.
Look for Ford to again price 4WD at a rather steep $3,855 for XLs and $3,700 for XLT and Lariat models.
Among key options, expect the Tremor Off-Road Package to remain available only on 4WD SuperCrew XLT and Lariat models. The FX4 Off-Road Package should again be available across the board, at around $1,295.
You should again be able to bring an XL near XLT spec (minus the 17-inch alloy wheels) with a $1,135 equipment group and elevate an XLT to near-Lariat levels with a $2,800 Luxury Equipment Group.
For the XL, expect the STX Appearance Package to again run around $1,095 and include 17-inch alloys, fog lamps and box decals. For another $995, the XTX Special Edition package would again add 18-inch black-painted wheels, the 8-inch infotainment screen, satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, silver-painted cabin accents, and a rear defroster.
Expect the cool Black Appearance Package to return for the XLT ($1,090 for ’21) and Lariat ($1,995) and include among its items the black 18-inch alloys plus a black Ford logo with smoked-chrome surround, body-colored front and rear bumpers, black running boards, and a spray-in bedliner.
For 4WD LX models, Ford probably will again offer a $395 Bed Utility Package with a drop-in plastic bedliner, rearview camera, and 12-volt power outlet. Look for a $1,695 retractable tonneau cover to return as an XLT and Lariat option.
Increasing the standard 3,500-pound trailer capacity should again require the 7,500-pound tow package, an option across the board at around $495.
All this can add up. Equipped with the Black Appearance, FX4, Technology, and tow packages, our test 2021 4WD SuperCrew Lariat stickered for $46,910. That would have purchased a midlevel-trim F-150 SuperCrew with 4WD and a turbo V-6 or V-8 engine – and Ford should again be offering steeper factory discounts on its full-size pickup than on the ’22 Ranger. Still, Ranger’s size, styling, performance, and fuel economy is more appealing for many buyers.
When does the 2022 Ford Ranger come out?
Expect a 2022 Ford Ranger release date in the third quarter of 2021.
Best 2022 Ford Ranger competitors
Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, Hyundai Santa Cruz, Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma