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Will Ford’s 2020 Jeep Gladiator countermeasures include a Ranger Raptor?

2020 Ford Ranger

What changes will make the 2020 Ford Ranger different?

Maybe a Baby Raptor to counterpunch the launch of Jeep’s Wrangler-based 2020 Gladiator. A 300-plus-horsepower off-roader inspired by the full-size F-150 Raptor would be a thrilling addition to Ford’s compact-pickup line. Not that a thrill is desperately needed: Ranger’s been in high demand hit since it hit showrooms as a 2019 model.

Barring addition of a Raptor, the ’20 Ranger should return little changed, with two cab styles, two bed lengths, three trim levels, and just one engine, a turbocharged four-cylinder. It’ll remain an Americanized version of a truck developed by Ford and marketed overseas since 2011. Reviving a nameplate used in the U.S. on a Ford compact pickup sold from 1983-2011, the resurrected Ranger returns the automaker to a revitalized segment led in sales by the Toyota Tacoma, recently revived by the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, and awaiting the glamorous Gladiator.

Note that driving impressions and other subjective conclusions in this review are based on road tests of the 2019 Ranger. In areas where the ’20 might be different, we’ll reserve judgment.

Should you wait for the 2020 model or buy the 2019?

Wait if you’re enraptured by the prospect of a Ranger Raptor. Ford sells one overseas and a U.S. version would borrow its fortified suspension, modified body, and custom interior. It’d likely get a twin-turbo V-6 with 25 percent more horsepower than the regular Ranger.

Don’t wait for the ’20 Ranger if you like the ’19 lineup. There might be a new color or two and maybe some revised feature sets but returning 2020 Ranger models won’t change materially. They are, however, almost certain to cost more than their ’19 counterparts.

Repeating will be the four-passenger extended-cab SuperCab with rear-hinged rear doors and a 6-foot cargo bed. Also back, the five-seat crew-cab SuperCrew with four conventional doors and a 5-foot bed. Both will again be available in three trim levels — base XL, volume-selling XLT, and well-equipped Lariat – all with a choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive (4WD).

Indeed, other than a potential Raptor, today’s Ranger won’t be altered significantly until the next-generation arrives. Some sources say it’ll debut as early as 2021, as a 2022 model. Like today’s American-market Ranger, it’ll be built by Ford in Michigan from a design developed by its international engineering team. (It’ll also be used by Volkswagen as the basis for the redesigned Amarok pickup, though it’s uncertain if the Amarok will come to the U.S.) Spy shots of a next-gen Ranger mockup taken in Australia show what looks like a scaled-down F-150, with squared-off styling and a grille and C-shaped headlamps similar to those on the 2020 F-250.

In fact, fans of compact Ford trucks have a lot to wait for, including the model-year-2020 return of the Bronco, an off-road-oriented Wrangler-fighter built on the current Ranger frame. Also in the pipeline – though perhaps not for the U.S. — is yet another revived Ford nameplate, the Courier. Smaller than the Ranger, this unibody truck will be built off the next-generation Focus compact-car platform.

Will the styling be different?

Only if Ford offers U.S. buyers a 2020 Ranger Raptor. It would share with the overseas version an off-road-ready suspension with 11 inches of ground clearance (versus 8.9 inches for regular 4WD Rangers). Taking cues from the F-150 Raptor, its body would get bulging fenders to accommodate oversized off-road tires and its front and rear bumpers would be recontoured to improve approach and departure angles. The blacked-out grille would spell F-O-R-D in block letters. The front bucket seats would have enhanced bolstering, the steering wheel a red stripe at the 12-o’clock position, and the cabin leather and faux-suede upholstery with contrasting stitching and logos.

Returning ’20 Rangers will be visually unaltered, retaining tough but contemporary styling that contrasts with the cubist look of the GM rivals and the bricky shapes of the Gladiator. With a high beltline, raked windshield, and sloped nose, Ranger’s blend of muscle and modernity is distinct, even from the similar aesthetics of the Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline.

All ’20 Rangers will continue with pickup-classic body-on-frame construction; in this competitive set, only the Ridgeline uses 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. The ’20 Ranger will return with just one, roughly equal to that of the crew-cab short-bed GM trucks. And both its cab and bed configurations will continue to share the same body length, which is about equal to that of crew-cab short-bed competitors. Wait for the next-gen Ranger to see if Ford matches Chevy, GMC, and Toyota with a crew cab offering both 5- and 6-foot cargo beds.

Styling distinctions between the 2020 Ranger trim levels will 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 2WD XLT and Lariat models will again include two front tow hooks.

Ford could make the ’20 Ranger available with additional dress-up option packages 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 the Sport Appearance Package (black grille, Sport decal, and dark-tinted 18s with complimenting body trim).

As current as its exterior is, the ’20 Ranger’s interior will again feel dated. In fact, it’s less like that of a pickup truck and more like that of a crossover SUV, with shapes, materials, instruments and controls that mirror those of Ford’s Edge midsize crossover. That won’t change until Ranger is redesigned. On the upside, most dashboard buttons and knobs are easy to see and use, although those for the Lariat model’s dual-zone automatic climate control are difficult to access and faintly marked. The Lariat also borrows the Edge’s partly digitized gauge cluster that crowds an undersized tachometer and other vehicle data into LCD displays flanking the analog speedometer.

No compact pickup can match the room and comfort of Honda’s crossover-based Ridgeline. But Ranger’s passenger accommodations are 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, however. 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 mechanical changes?

Not without a Raptor. Along with the functional off-road upgrades already mentioned, it would trade the overseas version’s turbodiesel engine for the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 from Ford’s Edge ST crossover, probably reflecting its 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. It would also get locking front and rear differentials, high-tech shock absorbers, and other back-country hardware.

Regular ’20 Rangers will continue with a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder of 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it moving.) It’ll again link to a 10-speed automatic transmission that, like the engine, is calibrated to emphasize torque at low and midrange speeds.

Ford here seems to have cracked the turbo-four/automatic-transmission code for 80 percent of the driving most people do daily. Expect the ’20 Ranger to again deliver lag-free acceleration off the line and robust midrange response. The transmission’s Sport mode amps things up nicely around town. Driving enthusiastically at highway speeds requires some manual-type gear selection, which is available only through a toggle placed awkwardly on the side of the console-mounted shift lever.

On non-Raptor 2020 Rangers, rear-wheel drive will remain standard and 4WD with low-range gearing will be optional. This is a part-time 4WD system not intended to remain engaged on dry pavement; the GM rivals are available with full-time 4WD designed for all surfaces, while the Ridgeline is all-wheel-drive pickup without low-range gearing.

Rear-drive ‘20 Rangers will return with 8.4 inches of ground clearance and be available again with an electronic locking rear differential, a very useful traction aid included with the FX4 Off-Road Package. 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 part of the FX4 package will be a terrain management system that works in 4-high and 4-low and gives the driver a console knob to automatically calibrate powertrain and traction systems for Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand conditions. Included as well will be 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.

Ridgeline will continue as the sole compact pickup with an independent rear suspension. The ’20 Ranger and all the others will continue with a solid rear axle with leaf springs. That’s customary for a body-on-frame pickup, and 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, though that forgiving nature promotes body lean and noseplow in quick changes of direction. Syrupy but nicely weighted steering and fair balance in steady-state cornering, however, 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 fuel economy improve?

Not for returning Rangers, and that’s fine because you’ll again need a Colorado or Canyon with the optional diesel engine to beat the overall EPA ratings of Ford’s compact pickup. Expect ’20 Rangers with the four-cylinder engine 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 has 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque and is a $3,730 option.

A rough projection would put EPA ratings for a 2020 Ranger Raptor with standard 4WD at around 15/20/18 mpg city/highway/combined. And Ford would likely recommend 93 octane to get maximum horsepower from the twin-turbo V-6.

Will there be new features?

Addition of a 2020 Ranger Raptor would of course add equipment specific to it, but don’t expect returning models to gain new features. Ford could, though, mix and match some already available to modify options groups or even create a new appearance package.

Credit the automaker with including autonomous emergency braking standard on every 2019 Ranger and almost certainly on every ’20 model, as well. It’s designed to 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 2019 XLT and Lariat models and a $735 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 all these features standard on every 2020 Ranger would be beneficial.

Adaptive cruise control to automatically maintain a set distance from traffic ahead probably will remain available on XLT and Lariat as part of the Technology Package. Very reasonably priced at $795 for 2019, this package also included an imbedded navigation system with an 8-inch dashboard touchscreen. Exclusive to the SuperCrew Lariat was a $1,795 Technology Package that included all that, plus a Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade with 10 speakers and a subwoofer, rain-sensing windshield wipers, remote engine start, and a windshield de-icer.

Expect every ’20 Ranger to return with 4G LTE and WiFi hotspot connectivity, automatic headlamps, and a rearview camera as standard. Look for the 2020 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 ’20 Ranger Lariat, plus leather upholstery, power front seats with power driver’s lumbar, Ford’s enhanced Sync3 infotainment interface with an 8-inch touchscreen, ambient cabin lighting, and keyless access with pushbutton start.

Will 2020 prices be different?

They’ll almost certainly be higher, though Ford’s apt to balance any increase against the 2020 Ranger’s need to compete with the Gladiator as well as the updated 2020 Tacoma, which gets freshened styling, connectivity and convenience upgrades, and additional off-road tech for its TRD Pro model.

Base-prices estimates here include Ford’s destination fee, which was $1,1195 on the 2019 Ranger. For extended-cab SuperCrews with rear-wheel drive, expect the 2020 Ranger XL to start around $25,900, the XLT around $29,550, and the Lariat around $33,850. For rear-drive 2020 Ranger SuperCabs, estimated base prices are $28,200 for the XL, $31,800 for the XLT, $36,100 for the Lariat. Look for Ford to again price 4WD at a rather steep $4,160 for XLs and $4,000 for XLT and Lariat models.

Among key options, expect the FX4 Off-Road Package to return at $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 $995 and for XLT and Lariat, the Chrome Appearance Package to remain around $795 and the Sport Appearance Package around $895.

Ford probably will again offer a $395 drop-in bedliner with a 12-volt power outlet for the XL and a $1,695 retractable tonneau cover for XLT and Lariat. 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; our nearly fully equipped test 2019 4WD SuperCrew Lariat stickered for $45,485. That’s similar to MSRP for 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 ’20 Ranger. Still, Ranger’s size, styling, performance, and fuel economy is more appealing for many buyers, and now Ford offers a fine pickup to suit those folks. It’ll appeal to even more if it unleashes a Ranger Raptor for model-year ‘20

When does it come out?

Expect a 2020 Ford Ranger release date in the third quarter of 2019.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyond, Honda Ridgeline, Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]