When it comes to pickup trucks, a budget of $46,000 affords one a wealth of choice. It can buy anything from an entry-level diesel heavy-duty to a mid-sizer with every box ticked, like a 2020 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4—ostensibly the fanciest, rowdiest Ranger you can buy in America. But is a truck with a short bed and a long receipt the smart buy? In the case of the aforementioned Ranger, which I’ve been driving for the last week, I don’t think it is.
Quick Specs & Info
|2020 Ford Ranger “SuperCrew” Cab||Class: Midsize pickup truck|
|Base Model||As Tested: Lariat FX4|
|Powertrain||2.3L turbo-4cyl, 10spd automatic||Powertrain||2.3L turbo-4cyl, 10spd automatic|
|Base MSRP||$26,810||MSRP as tested||$45,715|
Though new to the US market, the current “T6” Ranger is fairly old at heart, having entered production in 2011. Its age makes it an almost direct competitor to the 2012-vintage Chevrolet Colorado, though Ford redid the Ranger’s fascia in 2018 hoping you’d mistake it for something more modern. A lengthy list of options theoretically let the Ranger be tailored to any (if not every) purpose, from adventuring with the FX4 package, to impressing dates with the Lariat’s leather. In reality, the Ranger’s performance in these various roles is mixed.
Design, Interior, & Tech
Originally a “global” design, the Ranger looks more like a Transit than it does the stern, squared-off F-series. Its less desperately macho design wins points with me, though it’ll have the opposite effect with pickup buyers who treat their trucks as extensions of their ego. I have less favorable things to say about its interior, wherein the Lariat package does little to mask dated styling. The leather found on frequently touched surfaces like the front seats, steering wheel, and shifter falls short of some pleathers I’ve felt in significantly cheaper vehicles, and for such a bouncy vehicle, the seat bolstering is loose, though the spinal ergonomics are on point.
Fitting with the rest of the aged-like-an-open-soda interior is the Sync 3 infotainment system, whose UI is ancient, and whose touchscreen isn’t nearly as responsive as what’s in your pocket. Navigating a maze of ill-organized menus to find the audio balancing screen is necessary to get the most from the 10-speaker B&O sound system, which produces an intolerably buzzy bass at default volume. There are enough USB outlets to allow all five passengers to plug in their own devices, and listen to their own music, though that feels like a compromise your family shouldn’t have to make in a truck this costly—especially when sound systems as good or better can be had in vehicles costing barely half as much.
Standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto on the Lariat (and lower XLT trim) preclude the need for the passable factory nav, and the Ranger’s discernible dimensions make the forward parking sensors feel similarly unnecessary. They do, however, enable adaptive cruise control, which is attentive, but lead-footed, and struggles to match the advertised highway mileage in even mild traffic. Speaking of which…
Driving & Capabilities
Ford’s promise of 22 MPG combined is fulfilled only via conservative throttle use. If you’re willing to visit the pump regularly, you’ll be able to enjoy the power produced by its 2.3-liter Ecoboost, which makes the Ranger either respectably rapid for a truck, or capable light tow duty. Again, though, expect MPG to go out the window if you hook up a dinghy or Airstream.
Off-road, the FX4 package’s combination of ground clearance, all-terrain tires, locking E-LSD, and low-range 4WD make it adequate for almost any trail you don’t specifically need a Jeep Gladiator to tackle. It must be said, though, that while the FX4’s monotube shocks are properly tuned for graceful landings from small ledges, they’re on the soft side for road use, and make the Ranger jiggly over bad tarmac, not to mention come across as cumbersome for its size. Not that you want to fling a Ranger FX4 it around like a ZR2—you’ll risk tossing around the contents of its relatively small, five-foot bed, though the bed itself will be fine; optional bedliner resisted scratching by both an engine fetched from the junkyard and the toolbox whose contents were used to tear it down.
At this Ranger’s sky-high price point, it faces down the very best of the midsize truck market. Both the comparable Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and Jeep Gladiator Rubicon can be bought for similar money, and resold for more down the line, though the latter admittedly trades anything resembling refinement for ruggedness. If combining both these virtues is important, it could be worth cross-shopping a Lariat FX4 with the upcoming 2021 GMC Canyon AT4, though if you have the patience to wait 2021s to hit dealers, the new Bronco also needs to be a part of the conversation.
- The FX4 package is as capable as it is good value.
- Its exterior design has aged handsomely.
- Ford’s 2.3 Ecoboost punches above its weight.
- The Lariat trim is underwhelming, and unrefined for a truck this expensive.
- Highway mileage is subpar for this segment.
- Sync 3 can be frustrating to operate.
This Ranger is supposed to make the argument for splurging on every optional extra, but unfavorable comparisons with other midsize pickups at its price point instead have me recommending Rangers of lower trim levels. Much of what this Ranger does right can be done for $10,000 cheaper on an XLT FX4, though if you intend to pull the trigger on a midsize Ford truck in 2021, don’t do so until after taking the new Bronco for a test drive too. They say to look before you leap, and when that leap is a five-figure financial commitment, looking twice can never hurt.