Ford Ranger bigger, but still a good option in pickup market

By Paul Borden

(October 3, 2021) MIAMI — If you are thinking about buying a pickup truck but don’t want, or need, a full-size model, the Ford Ranger may be just vehicle for you. Though it has grown a bit since its debut as a compact pickup nearly four decades ago, the Ranger is not so big that it is going to cause concerns as you encounter tight spaces but
still is up to handling the light hauling that comes with those weekend do-it-yourself chores.

The 2021 Ford Ranger is the third in this generation since it was re-introduced to the U.S. market. Ford took the Ranger out of the U.S. after the 2011 model but kept selling it in markets throughout the rest of the world so it wasn’t like the company had to start all over with the 2019 model.

It continues to be offered in three trim levels starting with the base XL and continuing with the upgraded XLT and top-of-the-line Lariat. This review is based on the Lariat with the five-capacity Supercrew cab and Tremor off-road package that was added to the lineup this year.

Included in the Tremor package are Magnetic-painted alloy wheels, Magnetic-painted grille with black cross bars and red inserts, rear recovery hooks, hoop style steps to help you get in and out, and an upgraded suspension system.

That’s on the outside. On the inside the Tremor package adds a little more class with exclusive seats with suede inserts and distinctive Tremor stitching and accents throughout the comfortable, spacious cabin.

There’s also a plethora of standard features starting with the Ford Sync3 infotainment system. All Rangers get A/C and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Standard on the Lariat are an auto stop-start system (it can be turned off via a button the console, keyless entry and push-button start, heated front seats and dual climate control, leather-wrapped shift knob, lane-keeping, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, and an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat.

Headlamps and taillights are LED, and the five-foot box features a lockable tailgate.

The Lariat’s 501A technology package includes navigation, a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, and adaptive cruise control and adds $2,005 to the starting $38,785 MSRP.

A turbocharged, 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine powers all Rangers. It is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and is offered in rear- or all-wheel drive configuration.

That Ecoboost engine is rated at  270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque that results in an impressive towing capacity of 7,500 pounds. Fuel efficiency is good as well with EPA ratings of 24 miles-per-gallon city, 20 highway, and 22 combined with all-wheel drive and using regular fuel.

It’s not a sporty performer, but is well up to the norm for its class. I never felt shortchanged in any respects when it came to throttle response.

With the Tremor package, Lariat Equipment Group 501A, and a couple of other options (Cyber Orange color, spray-on bedliner, trailer tow package, keyless entry keypad), the final bottom line came to $47,995 including the $1,195 destination and delivery charge.

If you don’t need the off-road capability offered in the Tremor package, that takes $4,290 off of that.

What I liked about the 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat: Technology is plentiful and the Sync3 infotainment system is easy enough to use. The Ecoboost engine delivers good gas mileage and power, and the ride is firm but pretty comfortable, especially for a pickup truck. The bed liner is well worth the extra $495.

What I didn't like about the 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat: The touchscreen can be difficult to see with its white background. Fortunately, setting the display in “night” mode remedies the issue, making the navigation map and other features easier to read. The cabin could use more places to put stuff, like a larger bin in the console.

Would I buy the 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat? Yes. It has enough size to be a good worker yet is not too big, making maneuvering through tight quarters such as mall parking lots much easier than a full-size pickup. The Supercrew cabin isn’t fancy, but is functional and roomy.