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2024 Ford Ranger First Drive: Back in the Game

2024 Ford Ranger | Photo: D.Rufiange
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Daniel Rufiange
Improvements make the Ranger competitive again in its class.

•    Auto123 gets in a first drive of the 2024 the Ford Ranger.

Salt Lake City, Utah - The Ford Ranger has had a checkered career to date. Launched in 1983, it was a considerable success until 2011, when it was discontinued in North America. By that point it was out of date, having remained largely unchanged since 1993.

Its compact size and affordable price made it a favourite in some quarters. In 2011, you could buy a Ford Ranger for just under $18,000. That wasn't counting the discounts Ford offered on its last edition of the model.

The compact and mid-size pickup segment subsequently went through a period of decline, but was reborn in 2015. As the segment started to grow again, Ford brought back its Ranger for 2019. The problem was that edition was much more expensive - and already outdated. How’s that? Elsewhere in the world, production of the model had not ceased. In 2019, North Americans were offered, roughly speaking, a model launched in 2012 in Australia.

Ford had already used this strategy with the EcoSport, without much success. And not surprisingly, public response to the Ranger was mixed. It was easy to find something better elsewhere, including from Chevrolet, GMC and Toyota. Sales topped 100,000 units in the U.S. in 2020, but then slumped to just 32,334 units last year. By way of comparison, Toyota sold 234,768 Tacomas in the U.S. in 2023.

The arrival of a new generation is timely, let's say.

2024 Ford Ranger, three-quarters rear
2024 Ford Ranger, three-quarters rear | Photo: Ford

New foundations
The 2024 Ford Ranger is brand-new, really. It gets a new body, a new interior, and above all, an improved structure and a redesigned chassis. Among other changes, Ford added two inches to both the wheelbase and vehicle’s track. The rear shock absorbers and their mounts have also been moved to the outside of the frame rails, stabilizing the pickup for a more solid, reassuring ride.

Ground clearance has also been raised from 8.9 to 10.4 inches, and the vehicle offers improved approach and exit angles for off-road driving. These increase from 28.7 to 29.2 degrees at the front and from 25.4 to 25.8 degrees at the rear.

2024 Ford Ranger, front
2024 Ford Ranger, front | Photo: D.Rufiange

New powertrain to come
Under the hood, the new Ranger features the engine that powered the outgoing version, a 2.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder rated at 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.

What will be interesting is the addition of the 2.7L turbo V6 already used on the F-150. With the Ranger, it will deliver 315 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The aforementioned competitors offer either two engines (Toyota) or a variable-power engine (Chevrolet and GMC). Ford responds in kind.

Both engines work with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Towing capacity is rated at 7500 lb, while maximum payload is 1805 lb. The latter is an impressive figure in this category.

2024 Ford Ranger, three-quarters front
2024 Ford Ranger, three-quarters front | Photo: D.Rufiange

Versions and design of the 2024 Ford Ranger

The offering pretty straightforward with three variants: XL, XLT and Lariat, respectively priced at $44,065, $48,315 and $56,515, including transport and preparation costs. (Yes, there will be a 2024 Ranger Raptor, but we'll tell you all about that in a couple of days; that variant is a different ball of wax.)

Each model has its own style, sometimes enhanced by the STX package on the XL variant.

What really catches the eye is the overall styling, which is quite successful. The Ranger looks good and the colours are magnificent. It remains a matter of taste, but if I find someone who doesn't like the blue of one of the versions I tried, I'll treat them to a visit to the optometrist.

2024 Ford Ranger, bed
2024 Ford Ranger, bed | Photo: D.Rufiange

Two things stand out about this vintage. At the rear, a step has been integrated into the design, between the rear wheel and the bumper. Practical. Then, the wider track means the fender flares have been pushed outwards. As a result, a sheet of plywood can now be laid flat inside the bed.

The tailgate even features a ruler for work and a bottle opener. Inside the bed, we find 400-watt sockets for plugging in tools on the job site.

Wheel sizes are 17 or 18 inches, depending on your preference.

Only one cab format is available, the team cab.

2024 Ford Ranger, interior
2024 Ford Ranger, interior | Photo: D.Rufiange

On board, there's nothing to write home about, but we’d call the job Ford did perfectly honest. What's most interesting is in the second row. The storage bins under the seats have been redesigned and improved, and when you fold down the backrest you get a flat surface, making it easier to load larger items.

We found the quality of the materials used to be acceptable, but nothing more. Ford says it has given buyers in the segment what they want: easy-to-clean surfaces. This is a Ford Ranger, not a Rolls-Royce Spectre.

Connectivity was also a top priority. The company promises the most connected Ranger ever, with Sync 4 and a host of other apps. With the basic version, you'll find an 8.0-inch screen for the instrument cluster and a 10.1-inch screen for the multimedia system. With the other variants, the screens are 12.4 and 12.0 inches respectively. Wireless charging for smartphones is an option.

And bravo, beneath the multimedia system screen we find buttons for audio volume and for climate control levels.

2024 Ford Ranger, steering wheel, multimedia screen
2024 Ford Ranger, steering wheel, multimedia screen | Photo: D.Rufiange
2024 Ford Ranger, driver screen
2024 Ford Ranger, driver screen | Photo: D.Rufiange

The screen’s true utility is revealed when towing. For the first time, the Ford Ranger is equipped with the Pro Trailer Backup Assist system, which makes manoeuvring backwards with a trailer much easier.

How does it work? The system is childishly simple. If you've ever reversed with a trailer, you know that you have to steer to one side for the trailer to go in the opposite direction. You have to constantly adjust and keep this in mind. With Ford's system, you use a knob on the centre console and turn it in the direction you want to steer the trailer. All you have to do is control the speed. Child's play.

In all, the 2024 Ranger offers 31 drive-assist systems. We'll spare you the list, but it gives you an idea.

2024 Ford Ranger, profile
2024 Ford Ranger, profile | Photo: D.Rufiange

Driving the 2024 Ford Ranger

This new-generation Ranger is more planted on the road than the model it replaces. The adjustments made to the chassis are clearly noticeable, while the model is more solid and comfortable. Power from the 2.3L engine is good, but nothing more. The automatic transmission does an excellent job of shifting between gears, but it’s lazier when called upon for a quick start or downshift.

Those planning to tow heavy loads will want to opt for the 2.7L engine.

The final word
Driving the outgoing, aging Ranger felt exactly that - outdated. With this new model, the Ranger has been brought up to date, and can now be included in discussions about the best choice in its class.

Ford has done a good job with this redesign.

And while Ford products have often been rightly criticized for their chancy reliability, we have to admit the outgoing generation of the Ranger did rather well in that respect. Kelly Blue Book even recognized it as offering the lowest five-year total cost of ownership in the midsize pickup segment, taking into account insurance, maintenance, fuel costs and depreciation.

Now, with all the improvements, the Ford Ranger is back in the discussion in the segment’s lead group.

Strong points
- Engine/transmission combination
- Pro Trailer Backup Assist system
- Stronger, more stable ride

Weak points
- The model has a way to go with consumers
- Inflated pricing
- Lackluster interior

Competitors of the 2024 Ford Ranger

  • - Chevrolet Colorado
  • - GMC Canyon
  • - Toyota Tacoma
  • - Nissan Frontier
2024 Ford Ranger, rear
2024 Ford Ranger, rear | Photo: D.Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists