Unless you live in a cave, you’ve probably already heard that the Ford Ranger pickup truck is back in the U.S. for 2019. For anyone interested in less than a full-size truck, this is great news. But, rather than being a compact hauler like the original Ranger, the new one is firmly midsize. It now rides on a new high-strength steel frame, and it is both much bigger, as well as more capable than any Ranger before it.  

Only one engine is available for now, but it’s a good one. Under the Ranger’s double-domed hood is the Mustang’s 2.3-liter turbo I4. Now updated for truck duty, it’s rated at 270-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. of torque. That’s enough to pull a best-in-class 7,500-lbs. of trailer through a 10-speed automatic transmission, which is controlled by a beefy console shifter with a manual gear change toggle switch. Rear- or four-wheel drive is naturally available.

Even with more torque than any other gas engine in the segment, it has the added benefit of the class-best fuel economy too.  

Body styles include SuperCrew and SuperCabs, but no Regular Cab. Both series are the same overall length, so choose wisely. SuperCabs get a 6-ft bed, while SuperCrew make do with a 5-ft bed. 

As to styling, this Ranger looks nothing at all like the compact Ranger. Nor, thankfully, is it a scaled-down clone of the F-150. It is its own unique and rather rugged-looking animal. Likely a result of the same basic truck being sold internationally since 2010.

Inside, you won’t find a bench seat up front anymore, but you will find more room and conveniences than before. An 8-inch touchscreen is available for SYNC3. Plus, just below are plenty of decent-sized manual controls. While over in front of the driver is a choice of two different gauge displays.

Rear seats, even in the SuperCrew, are tight for adults. While that is typical for the segment, they are more than adequate for the kids. Flip up the one-piece seat bottom for a pair of storage bins.    

Ride is not unlike the F-150. That is solid, but comfortable, with a very compliant suspension in both 2- and 4-wheel drive. 

Powertrain operation is quite impressive. There is plenty of power on tap, and this is the best application of a 10-speed transmission we’ve sampled yet. As for venturing off-road, the new Ranger can be quite a beast. Four-wheeling aides trickle down from Ford’s Raptor, and the Ranger’s steel front bumper means there’s less plastic to break when the going gets rough.   

For our complete test of the 2019 Ford Ranger, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3820, that begins airing on January 18, 2019. For a complete listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, go to motorweek.org and click the “About The Show” tab at the top. New episodes of MotorWeek premiere on Tuesday evenings on the MotorTrend cable network. 

While there is some capability and price overlap with the full-size F-150, without a doubt the 2019 Ford Ranger raises the bar for the midsize pickup truck segment. Once again the Ford Ranger looks like the right truck at the right time.