New Ford Ranger unveiled at Detroit auto show

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The latest Ranger has a mostly steel body.

DETROIT — After an eight-year hiatus, Ford Motor Co. is re-entering the midsize pickup segment with the 2019 Ford Ranger, which offers truck buyers some of the features and benefits they could get in an F-150 but with fewer customization options, a smaller footprint and lower price tag.

The revived Ranger, which will be made in Michigan and go on sale next year, has a similar architecture to the pickup Ford sells in dozens of markets overseas, but its design and powertrain have been developed specifically for U.S. buyers. Ford, which plans to formally introduce the Ranger at the Detroit auto show on Sunday, will offer only one engine option: a 2.3-liter EcoBoost mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The latest Ranger has a mostly steel body, rugged axles from Dana Inc. and an exterior design similar to its larger F-series counterparts. During development, it went through the same torture tests as the F-150.

“This is not about bringing the global Ranger here to the U.S. and selling it in our dealerships,” said Todd Eckert, Ford trucks marketing manager. “This is about designing and engineering specifically for the North American customer and the conditions the trucks will be put in here.”

The Ranger will include a host of new technology, such as a standard 4G-connected Wi-Fi hot spot, FordPass Connect and pre-collision assist technology as well as a number of other optional driver-assist features.

It will come in three trim levels: XL, XLT and Lariat. Ford will sell two-door SuperCab and four-door SuperCrew configurations.

An off-road FX4 package will be offered across all trims. That will give drivers the terrain-management system first offered on the F-150 Raptor that includes four drive modes: normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts and sand. The package also includes a new “trail control,” which acts as an off-road cruise control by accelerating or braking to maintain a set speed while traversing gravel or mountain trails. It’s an extension of the automaker’s hill-descent control, which controls braking on steep grades. The FX4 package will come with standard automatic emergency braking.

The Ranger will include a host of new technology, such as a standard 4G-connected Wi-Fi hot spot, FordPass Connect and pre-collision assist technology.

The Ranger also will have a blind-spot information system with sensors that can extend their line of sight to the back of a trailer up to 33 feet long. The system will be standard on the XLT and Lariat trims.

The exterior will include frame-mounted steel bumpers as well as the Ranger’s name prominently stamped into the tailgate and some grille designs. The interior includes an 8-inch touch screen as well as two LCD screens in the instrument cluster. The rear seats offer waterproof underseat storage.

Ford said it expects the Ranger to have best-in-class payload capacity but wouldn’t divulge any details on power, fuel economy, dimensions or weight.

While the U.S. midsize pickup market peaked years ago — at 1.32 million in 1986 — it has staged a modest rally in recent years, yet remains small, with the introduction of revived models from General Motors. U.S. sales in the segment haven’t topped 1 million since 2000 or 500,000 since 2007.

The Ranger was always among the segment’s top sellers, including No. 1 as recently as 2004. During the 1990s, Ranger sales routinely totaled more than 300,000 units a year before fading in the 2000s.

Ford hopes to recapture some of the midsize pickup buyers it abandoned when it closed the St. Paul, Minn., plant that built the previous-generation Ranger. It also aims to conquest from other brands, woo some F-150 buyers — though not too many, and only if they otherwise would have defected to a rival brand — and even snatch sales from small crossovers and sedans.

It wants the Ranger to add to its strong overall pickup sales; the full-size F series has been the nation’s best-selling pickup for 41 straight years.

“We see an opportunity,” Eckert said. “It’s one thing to get on top, but it’s also about staying on top.”

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