The midsize Ford Ranger pickup is in the third year of its reincarnation after an eight-year hiatus, and it is making inroads against its competitors.
After 39 years, Ford stopped making its compact Ranger pickup truck in 2011 for the U.S.A. and watched as Toyota’s Tacoma dominated the country’s midsize pickup market and Ford’s F-150 continued to dominate full-size pickup sales.
During 2020, Ford Ranger sales were second behind Tacoma, which was double Ranger’s, but Ranger sales outpaced the rest: Chevrolet Colorado, Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline, and GMC Canyon.
2021 Ford Ranger 4X4 Supercrew Lariat Review
For 2021, the Ford Ranger is maintaining its momentum with minor decals on the exterior, options on the base XL, an off-road Tremor upgrade option on the Lariat, and four new paint colors.
We tested the 2020 Ford Ranger Lariat Supercrew 4X4 with a five-foot bed, basically unchanged for 2021, top trim above base XL and XLT with buyers choosing between two cab styles (Crew and SuperCrew) and two truck-bed lengths – (5 or 6 feet).
Our eight options totaled $7,040 and included a $1,995 Black Appearance package that included black 18-inch wheels, cladding, and grille plus black Ranger badging.
Multi-colored decals noted the FX4 off-road package (another $1,295) and a $495 towing package ($495) to handle 7,500 pounds.
Like all pick-up trucks, big and small, there are myriad options, customizable to buyer preferences.
Our 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine was manipulated by a smooth 10-speed automatic transmission with manual paddles and a mildly clunky stop/start wearing 18-inch all-Terrain Hankook tires.
Handling was excellent, responsive and controlled with no turbo delay upon acceleration, and the ride typically bouncy
over rougher pavement.
Ground clearance of 8.9 inches resulted in wheel-grabbing access with no driver front pillar grab handles.
Strong safety features included dynamic cruise control down to 10 mph, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, parking sensors and pre-collision assist.
FX4 added skid plates, off-road shock absorbers and electronic differential.
Ranger earned a 4 out of 5 in government crash tests.
Inside, an 8-inch pinch/ zoom LCD dashboard screen was easy to reach and Ford’s SYNC3 connected apps, like Apple CarPlay and showed good voice-activated navigation.
Technology is top tier with WiFi 4G hotspot, two USB ports, EV outlet, 10-speaker audio, etc.
Knick-knack spaces are sparse but trays sit on and below the dashboard.
Cloth-covered seats were well padded; front seats adjust manually and the rear pull-up bench covers two small storage bins.
Visors don’t extend fully; there is an underbody spare tire.
At a Glance
LIKES: Handling, acceleration, price, very off-road capable
DISLIKES: Stop/start jerks, no complimentary maintenance
BOTTOM LINE: Has become strong competitor in midsize pickup market
Fact File: 2021 Ford Ranger 4X4 Supercrew Lariat
2.3-liter, Ecoboost, DOHC, I-4
270-hp at 5,500 rpm
310 ft.-lbs. at 3,000 rpm
10-speed automatic, manual paddles
20 mpg city/24 mpg hwy
0-60 in just under 7 seconds
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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.