By KEVIN WEAKS
The two newest midsize pickups on the market today are the Ford Ranger and the Jeep Gladiator. Last year Ford revived the Ranger nameplate in hopes of competing with the long-anticipated Jeep pickup and an expected midsize Ram truck. For 2020 the Blue Oval brand is upping the ante with an off-road-ready version of the two-wheel-drive Ranger. The FX2 Off-Road package includes some of the gear found on the all-wheel-drive FX4 variant.
The FX2 package is available on 2020 Ford Ranger XL, XLT and Lariat models. Among the items available in the FX2 package are an electronic locking rear differential, a retuned suspension with greater travel, standard 17-inch and optional 18-inch off-road tires and a front underbody guard which deletes the standard chin spoiler, which improves the vehicle’s approach angle. Also included is Ford’s off-road instrument cluster, which displays vehicle yaw, pitch and roll in real time.
If you’re scratching your head why Ford would add an off-road option for a two-wheel-drive truck, here’s their thinking:
“FX2 expands Ranger’s options for customers who want tough, off-road style with the functionality of a locking differential but don’t need four-wheel drive,” said Brian Bell, Ford Ranger marketing manager. “This is another way our customers can personalize Ranger to match their lifestyle while getting a great value. The FX2 Package is a result of us listening to our customers and what they’re demanding from their trucks.”
The FX2 package is a $595 option that will be offered on 2020 models with deliveries scheduled this fall. Ford is taking orders for the 2WD Ranger fitted with the FX2 Package and is asking $595, whereas the FX4 package is $1,295.
The Ranger carries a starting price of about $25,500 and tops out at $47,000 in fully loaded Lariat guise. The competing Jeep Gladiator starts at around $35,000 for a basic Sport model with a manual transmission and reaches $60,000 in top-of-the-line Rubicon trim. All Ford Ranger models are powered by a 270-horsepower 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo 4-cylinder engine making 310 horsepower. A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard.
FROM COMMUTING TO ROCK-CLIMBING
“Midsize truck customers want a vehicle they can commute in, park in their garage, and take on the occasional adventure,” Ford Ranger marketing manager Brian Bell told Motor Trend magazine. “It’s a lifestyle vehicle for them,” he said. “They need a vehicle that can haul them and their gear out to the place where they’re going to recharge.”
Ford’s consumer marketing manager Chad Callender continues. “We’re seeing sales trends that tell us to grow Ranger’s capability and appearance options even further. The FX2 package is a result of us listening to our customers and what they’re demanding from their trucks.”
The Ranger is now positioned as a vehicle for buyers who don’t necessarily need to drive a truck every day but are willing to pay a little extra for one that meets their size requirements and expectations of a daily driver.
According to Ford, Ranger buyers want more personalization options, as approximately two-thirds of buyers are opting for either the Sport, Chrome or STX appearance packages. One-third of Ranger buyers are adding the FX4 package.
The Ranger is built at the retooled Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. The Ranger lineup includes the Ranger XL, Ranger XLT and Ranger Lariat. The available FX4 Off-Road Package which features selectable-drive modes with Trail Control, giving the Ranger enhanced traction and consistent power over rough or rocky terrain.
The Ranger is based on the same T6 platform as the global Ranger, which has been available overseas since 2012. The North American version of the Ranger has a new, fully boxed and reinforced frame along with a number of chassis improvements intended to reduce weight, improve comfort, and offer more towing capability. Some of those upgrades include rear parabolic leaf springs, hydraulic engine mounts, and cast-aluminum front steering knuckles.
DEDICATED TO OFF-ROAD RASH
For 2020 Ford also made a minor change inside the cabin where the instrument cluster now incorporates a dedicated off-road section providing the driver with useful information. It will come in handy when tackling rough terrain as the driver will have access to pitch, roll, and yaw details in real-time.
Customer deliveries are scheduled to being towards the end of the year.
The interior layout of the 2020 Ranger is simple, with tough seat fabrics and upgrade leathers befitting a work-or-play truck. The standard instrument panel features a real tachometer with a physical dial, while the tech package gets you configurable instruments including a digital rev counter.
Available Ford driver-assist technologies include Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Assist with available Pedestrian Detection, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning and Blind Spot Information System with trailer coverage.
The Ranger is EPA-rated at 21/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined in rear-drive form and 20/24/22 mpg with four-wheel drive.
The Ranger is offered as either an extended cab with room for four or as a crew cab with full rear doors and room for five. The extended cab comes with a standard-length 6-foot bed while the crew cab gets a shorter 5-foot bed. The Gladiator, on the other hand, is available only as a crew cab with a 5-foot box. If alfresco driving appeals to you, every Gladiator comes with a roof that can be removed, doors that come off, and a windshield that folds down.
While both are great in their own way, the Ranger appeals to every-day sensibility and more urban markets, while the Gladiator appeals more to dyed-in-the-wool Jeepers.
(Contact Kevin Weaks at firstname.lastname@example.org).