Revised for the second time in its model run, the Ford Ranger steps up power and safety in high-spec models for the 2019 model year.
Raptor power comes to the mainstream Ford Ranger line-up for the 2019 model year. Now, that would be an impressive point, if the new 2.0-litre biturbo engine wasn’t only incrementally more powerful than the 3.2-litre engine it sits alongside.
Be that as it may, the updates for the 2019 Ranger aren’t limited to the introduction of a new 157kW/500Nm engine and 10-speed automatic, available as an option on XLT and Wildtrak trims.
Starting at the workhorse XL grade (from $27,990 plus on-road costs), new features include revised suspension tune and a new interior trim, while ute-body models gain an easy-lift torsion-sprung tailgate, rear camera and rear park sensors.
Additional powertrain options include, as before, a 118kW/385Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel for 4x2 models or a 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel for XL 4x4, paired to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Moving up to the 4x4/3.2-litre XLS (from $49,190) adds new front park sensors, plus carryover standard equipment like 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog-lights, carpet floor covering and the option of Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment package with an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB+ digital radio, as well as dual-zone climate control, keyless entry with push-button start.
The most popular variant in the range, the XLT (starting from $50,290), scores a restyled front grille, front bumper, HID headlights with LED daytime-running lights, keyless entry with push-button start, and minor interior revisions.
Carry-over kit encompasses 17-inch alloy wheels, tow bar, chrome exterior highlights, privacy glass, rear step bumper with chrome inserts, power-fold exterior mirrors, the 8.0-inch Sync 3 navigation system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear lever, electrochromic rear-view mirror, and tyre pressure monitoring.
Both 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains are available, as are 3.2-litre/six-speed auto and manual or 2.0-litre/ten-speed auto powertrains.
Ticking the Tech Pack option box adds inter-urban AEB with pedestrian detection, park assist, traffic sign recognition, driver attention monitor, adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, and auto high-beam. Leather trim and black 18-inch alloy wheels are also available as stand-alone options.
Moving up to the 4x4 Wildtrak variants (from $60,590) sees LED fog-lights, a power-locking tailgate, black partial leather trim, and heated front seats added, along with the standard inclusion of the Tech Pack, including inter-urban AEB with pedestrian detection, semi-autonomous park assist, and traffic sign recognition.
Again, buyers will be given a choice of 3.2-litre auto and manual or the new 2.0-litre biturbo and 10-speed auto combo. Blacked-out alloy wheels are also available as an option.
In the interests of significance, we set out in an XLT 4x4 equipped with the 2.0-litre biturbo engine and 10-speed automatic – a $59,390 proposition before on-road costs and the $1650 leather trim, $600 prestige paint and $1700 Tech Pack options boxes are ticked.
Crunching the numbers, a Wildtrak (without prestige paint) starts at $63,990. Adding all available options to an XLT (including $750 18-inch black alloy wheels not fitted to the car you see here) makes it more expensive than a Wildtrak would be, without that car’s rear sports bar, roll-away cargo cover, power locking tailgate or powered driver’s seat.
You’d have to be completely in love with the XLT’s chromier aesthetics to take that plunge, surely?
Under the bonnet, the XLT and Wildtrak can be optioned with a high-output 2.0-litre engine (a $1200 upgrade itself) with identical outputs to the Ranger Raptor: 157kW at 3750rpm and 500Nm at 1750-2000rpm. That’s 10kW and 30Nm up on the standard 3.2-litre engine despite dropping one cylinder and 1.2-litres of capacity.
The extra grunt comes courtesy of a sequential turbo system designed to ensure torque comes on early without letting the engine run out of puff at higher revs without becoming breathless.
Unlike the Raptor and its 2.5-tonne maximum towing capacity, the regular Ranger models, be they 2.0-litre, 3.2-litre or 2.2-litre, Hi-Rider and 4x4, carry a 3.5-tonne rating (with XL Low-Rider rated at 2.5t).
The 10-speed auto and its greater gear ratio spread, in concert with the smaller and more efficient engine which includes start-stop, also benefits fuel consumption with an official 7.4 L/100km rating compared to the 3.2/6AT and its 8.9 L/100km figure.
In the real world, the new engine is still obviously a diesel, albeit one that generates less noise and vibration than the 3.2-litre five-cylinder without being completely silent or smooth. Power is progressive, and there’s no detectable transition between the low- and high-RPM turbochargers.
This new engine can’t match the heady surge of acceleration available in the Volkswagen Amarok V6 with 190kW and 580Nm, but from a standing start the smaller optional engine hesitates less than the carry-over five-cylinder ever did.
Rolling through town, the 10-speed automatic helps fill the gaps the relatively narrow torque band could otherwise create. There’s no lurching or slurring between gears, although in urban settings there are times where the transmission pauses for longer than it should before picking the right gear.
Not a major issue, but certainly frustrating as you squeeze the throttle but get nothing back in return for a half-second or so.
Head onto the open road and rolling acceleration tends to be less inspiring than standing-start sprints. Despite the driveline changes, piling on extra speed still takes time. Again, there’s an incremental improvement compared to the old engine and six-speed auto, but the Ranger doesn’t break the mould on the dual-cab segment.
Though it may not be deserving of the Raptor nameplate, the new powertrain combo seems like an ideal fit to the regular Ranger. A touch smoother and quieter, a little more flexible in day-to-day driving, with improvements to fuel consumption.
With dual-cabs growing in popularity as part-time tools of trade and part-time family transport, the option of the new engine makes sense. Traditionalists, meanwhile, can hang onto the tried and tested 3.2-litre engine and either a six-speed manual or auto if they’d prefer.
Since the Ranger formula was already well-sorted, Ford hasn’t meddled too much with the rest of the package. There’s been a minor change to front suspension to keep body roll in check – but, short of driving old and new back to back, it’ll be hard to pick and is claimed to make the biggest difference when laden. (Which we'll test in the future.)
The interior is similarly low-key in its changes. A new ebony colour scheme takes the place of the previous softer grey in XLT spec for a slightly more upmarket look, but robust plastics remain, along with a pair of TFT screens either side of the tachometer giving the Ranger one of the most comprehensive driver displays in its segment.
There’s still a powerpoint in the rear, too, however face-level air vents haven’t made their way into the Ranger with this update. Come summer that’s sure to impact the otherwise decent rear seat comfort.
Drive modes are a fairly simple affair on 4x4 models: Two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive low range switched from the centre console. No grass/gravel/snow, mud/sand, or rock setting for the four-wheel drive system like you might find in an Everest and certainly no Baja off-road racing mode like the Ranger Raptor.
As previously introduced, Ford’s five year/unlimited warranty continues, with Ford stressing a no-exclusions policy depending on buyer type and vehicle usage. Updates to Sync 3 maps are included for up to seven years, provided servicing is kept within Ford’s dealer network.
On the safety front, all variants include stability control, trailer sway control, load adaptive control and roll over mitigation. 4x4 variants come with hill descent control while all ute-body cars include rear park sensors and a reverse camera.
A more comprehensive Tech pack, optional on XLT and standard on Wildtrak, adds inter-urban AEB with vehicle and pedestrian protection, driver impairment monitor, adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert, lane keep assist and lane departure warning, auto high beam, traffic sign recognition and semi-automated self parking.
That puts the Ranger in rare company with the Mercedes-Benz X-Class as the only utes with available AEB, although it’s disappointing that Ford hasn’t offered the system as at least an option on all variants to become a safety front-runner in the ute market.
Even though the changes to the Ranger may not be immediately obvious at first glance, Ford’s incremental changes should keep sales of Australia’s number-two selling vehicle chugging along, keeping the threat from the new Corolla at bay, and putting it back to the more successful position it held this time last year.
Questions that simply can’t be answered yet – like the reliability and longevity of the new four-cylinder models and their accompanying 10-speed automatic – remain to be seen. Ford’s obviously aware of the potential impact a downsized engine might have on buyer perception, too, referring to it only as a biturbo, sidestepping the 2.0-litre elephant in the room.
Australia tends to be a tough proving ground for any car, let alone hardworking 4x4 utes, so it seems dangerous to implement any change that might be a backwards step. On the surface, at least, the changes seem positive.
Smoother, quieter, more advanced, blending further the lines between built-for-purpose and built-for-families, the 2019 Ford Ranger – especially in high-spec XLT trim – looks set to continue its streak as the jewel in Ford Australia’s sales crown.