PRESERVING & CROSSING COUNTRYSIDE: There are park rangers, forest rangers, Army Rangers and the Texas Rangers, both baseball and highway patrol. And then there are Ford Rangers, which have included an Edsel station wagon, F-Series pickup and Bronco SUV trims, and most famously three generations of compact boxed frame pickup trucks.
COMPACT TIES BROKEN: By the time a Ford tie-up with Mazda for B-Series pick-up trucks ended, compacts were waning and the Dearborn light truck maker exited the segment. Stabilized fuel prices in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s prompted primary competitors in the U.S. market such as Chevy [S-10 to Colorado]-GMC [Sonoma to Canyon] and Toyota [Hilux pickup to Tacoma] to grow their compact pickups to mid size dimensions. All the while the Ranger nameplate continued in Latin American and SE Asian markets.
TRAIL UP-TREATED: Implementing a two-prong return to the robust urban outdoor active lifestyle Ford chose a revamped Australian designed overseas market Ranger mid-size pickup that would double as foundation for a storied Bronco SUV revival. Preserving the vaunted Raptor title for dedicated Ford Performance desert autocross marauders, the Blue Oval light truck team pursued a slightly lower strung approach for it’s first volume specialty off-road mid size pickup, the 2021 Ford Ranger XLT Tremor 4×4.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
WHAT: 2021 Ford Ranger XLT Tremor 4×4. The fourth Ford “Ranger” and the brand’s first American mid-size pickup truck foray, is based on the T6 Ford Australia re-design. For the U.S. market the frame is fully boxed out, with an aluminum hood and tailgate. Tremor is an offroad package available on Ranger XLT or Lariat Supercrew models.
Standard Powertrain: intercooled twin-scroll turbocharged 2.3L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 w/ idle Start/ Stop = 270 hp / 310 lb-ft @3000 rpm
- + 10-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transmission
- + 2-speed part time electronic transfer case 4-wheel drive to Dana AdvanTEK open front & electronic clutch limited slip rear differentials.
- = +35 hp, +41 lb-ft vs. GMC Canyon V-6;
- = -8 hp, +50 lb-ft; vs. Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: The all-new to Yanks 2021 Ranger XLT Tremor 4×4‘s cloak seems old hat to some Asian Pacific and South American markets. Nonetheless the mid size pickup truck sports that Euro exaggerated hood to fender flaring, hexagonal border dark grille, trapezoid swept twin lens headlight front end.
Borrowed from FX-4: lateral grille bars replace standard chain link latticing; Radiator, power steering motor, transfer case and fuel tanks skid plates though front bash plate is dipper black.
XLT Tremor’s own: Active Orange highlight grille frames; “Magnetic Alloy” graphite colored wheels, wheel arch cladding & bumpers; Hoop steps in lieu of running boards; Raptor rear quarter panel decals.
WHY: Blue Oval rumbles into mid size pickup fray
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Autumn 2020
WHERE: Ford new consumer truck dealers
WHERE MADE: Wayne, Michigan, U.S.A.
WHERE TO: Electronic two-speed helical gear transfer case selection can do 4×4 High on the go. Have to stop to go 4×4 Low.
- +1 Automatic Terrain Management = Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts and Sand w/ command dial
- -1 No Baja dune jumping mode
- +1 Trail Control crawl cruise control uses steering wheel spoke toggle to adjust speed
vs. standard Ranger Supercrew 4×4:
- Fox 2.0 monotube dampers, rears w/ external piggyback fluid reservoirs
- Upgraded steering knuckles
- 32″ inch General Grabber highway all-terrain tires
- 9.7″ -inches ground clearance = +0.8″ -inches courtesy of multi-leaf springs
- +1.0″ -inches wider front & rear track
- +2.2° approach, +1.7° departure, +2.7° breakover angles
- 6.5″ inches front, 8.1″ inches rear wheel travel
- +130 lbs.
- -130 lbs. payload
HOW STRONG: Before denigrating the single choice of a 2.3L twin-scroll turbocharged four pot powerplant where the competition offers V-6s, be mindful that it is a detuned one from the base Ford Mustang Ecoboost. Hooked up to the same 10-speed auto shifter from the F-150 Raptor, it spools lag-free, enabling spright off the line. On the motorway, with only sequential shifts, it seems to take a while to arrive at the appropriate cog, hampering highway overtaking. As a caveat, forced induction is not as efficient when heavy on the throttle, which is rather often in the 2021 Ranger XLT. Thus, it is hoped the future holds some form of battery electric hybridization.
HOW LIMBER: Perhaps a full aluminum body ala the full size F-150 Series would have lowered Ranger XLT Tremor’s center of gravity for flatter movements. To be sure mid-size proportions make for more satisfying nimbleness than a half ton. Upgraded Fox 2.0 bypassers and multi-leaf springs add height yet also calm the rear hotchkiss suspended solid axle for less bump resonation. Ford steering is responsive despite the tall sidewalls. Four-wheel brake rotors are welcome in a segment which often relies on rear drums [talking to you, Toyota Tacoma], although pedal feel is on the stiff side.
HOW FAR: 21 mpg combined fuel economy; 450 miles highway range
- observed combined fuel economy = + 20% vs. GMC Canyon V-6 ; = + 17% vs. Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ Will fit inside a 20 foot garage, just barely; √ Compact car row 2 passenger legroom; √ 4×8′ drywall or plywood fits above wheelhouses and hangs over bed with liftgate lowered by about 1 foot.
- Wheelbase (SuperCrew, 5′ Box): 126.8″ inches = -1.5″ vs. GMC Canyon V-6 ; -0.6″ vs. Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road
- Row 2 legroom: 34.5″ inches = -1.3″ vs. GMC Canyon V-6 ; +1.9″ vs. Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road
HOW USEFUL: √ Crinkle finish sprayed-in bed liner; √ Hoop style low profile running steps; √ Easy action tailgate hinges; √ White LED overhead bed & under-rail lights ; √ 60:40 split 2nd Row fold-up bench cushions; √ 2nd Row sub-bench storage locker; √ 1st Row full fore center console deep storage management; √ 1st & 2nd Row door pocket management. OPTIONAL: ♦ Locking bed cargo divider
- -1 No cargo box power supply (12 V available only with composite bed liner package); No J-channel adjustable cargo box cleats; No backlight aperture (Lariat trim exclusive); No rear bumper steps; Short door pockets
- Ford Ranger XLT Tremor 4×4: √ Tow Rating (at tongue) = 7,500 lbs. (3.73:1 rear axle ratio, Max towing pkg.) ; √ Payload Rating = 1430 lbs.
- towing = + 500 lbs. vs. GMC Canyon V-6 ; = + 1100 lbs.; vs. Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road
- payload = – 290 lbs. vs. GMC Canyon V-6 ; = +255 lbs.; vs. Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road
HOW SAFE: Good IIHS scores, except Acceptable passenger’s side front small overlap; STANDARD: √ 6 airbags; √ Rear camera w/ predictive grid; √ Audible rear park assist; √ Roll mitigation; √ MyKey restrictive access;
AVAILABLE Safety Features (included in test 2021 Ranger XLT Tremor vehicle):
Ford Co-Pilot360: √ Blind Spot, rear cross traffic Warning; √ Post collision S.O.S. alert; Lane Departure Warning & Steer Prevention; √ Adaptive cruise control, full; √ Forward collision, pedestrian detection warning w/ avoidance braking; √ 2nd Row occupant minder; Automatic high beam headlamps; -1 Dim headlight broadcast
HOW FRIENDLY: Since the new Ranger arrives in the U.S. as an overseas already been cabins are done up Ford Europe mid 2010s. Shapes are not so uniform and lower panel seams display gaps. A smaller large center boss steering wheel steering grows up to fully integrated display and drive assist spoke controls. Instrumentation = sunwash prone twin analog dials and much switchgear seems culled from some more stale corporate part bins. A dominant center stack is slightly cluttered by the latest standards, and not very work glove appealing.
√ Vinyl seats, heated front, driver: 8-way manual adjust, front pax: 6-way manual adjust; √ Power folding side mirrors; √ A-Pillar, 2nd row headliner grab handles; √ Dual analog gauge cluster flanking colorized multi-function LCD display; √ Tilt/ telescoping leather wrapped steering wheel w/ horizontal spoke MFI, driver assist controls & audio switches; √ 2-zone auto climate control; √ Tandem contrast stitched soft-touch upper dash-top & door elbow panels.
+1 Cool Gizmo(s): Upfitter accessory switches x 6 (upper dashboard)
Tremor Package Inside Appearance: √ Miko sueded seat inserts; √ Front seat back “TREMOR” stitched lettering
- +1 Fairly quiet powertrain; Relatively low road noise; Minimal transfer case roar; Car-like cabin layout and controls; Soft elbow touching door panels, center armrest and upper dashboard cover;
- -1 Hard dark large grain plastics dominate middle dashboard, below the belt, pillars and cabin walls; Not all controls large work-glove friendly; Power side mirror controls located at left dashboard, obscured by steering wheel; Some interior rattles & wind noise at speed
HOW CONNECTED: √ MyFord Sync3 center dash embedded 8.0″-inch tri-pane, capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; √ Bluetooth & voice command hands-free communications; 6-speaker, 180 Watt √ GPS HDD Navigation w/ 3-D map, voice guidance; √ SMS messaging; √ USB-A x 4 (Rows 1, 2), 12V x 2 (center stack), 110V AC x 1 (Row 2)
- -1 Old Sync3 lower resolution infotainment; Non-concealed forward center console wireless device storage; No USB-C
HOW “APP” -LICABLE:
√ Android Auto / Apple Car Play smart phone projection; √ MyFord Sync3 Apps include Pandora, IHeart streaming music
- +1 MyFord Sync3 voice commands for climate, audio, SMS and navigation inputs
By Subscription: √ Sirius XM Traffic, Metro Weather radio & TravelLink apps (5 yrs. included); √ Wi-Fi 4G LTE hot spot (by Verizon Wireless)
HOW MUCH: $44,430 for a 2021 Ford Ranger XLT Tremor 4×4 = $34,745 Ranger SuperCrew 5′ Box + $4290 Tremor Off Road Package
WHAT’S MISSING: Work glove friendlier command center, heated front seats
ANY COMPETITION: Chevrolet Colorado ZR-2 / GMC Canyon ZR-2: +1 available 2.8T I-4 diesel engine/ e-locking front differential; Nissan Frontier: +1 newly revamped, V-6 power; Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road: +1 V6, Toyota reliability
FINAL SAY-SO: Seismic edition of Ford’s new mid size pickup rocks on-road.
(Contributing Editor: T. Paluch)