No matter how much Ford tries convincing you that it changed the frame and that the American Ford Ranger is so much different than the international one, the reality is that the current T6-platform truck has been around since 2010 — 13 years! And as competent of a truck as it is, with its torquey turbocharged 2.3-liter engine, 10-speed auto, and beefy construction, the looks are old both inside and out. While the rest of the world got exciting Ranger variants like the Ranger Raptor, America made do with just one powertrain and no hard-core off-road trim; why? Because even when it launched for the 2019 model-year, the Ranger was a dead man walking. There was no point in investing more effort into a truck that, let’s be honest, was a bit of a stopgap meant to get Ford quickly subbed into the then-rapidly-heating-up mid-size truck game. But now that Ford has bided a bit of time, it’s launching an all-new Ford Ranger — one that was initially designed with the U.S. market in mind. Ford calls the Ranger the “F-150 of [the rest of] the world” — a high volume truck meant for hard work. But for the U.S. market, Ford’s focusing on marketing the mid-sizer as a truck that is “ready for epic adventures.” Behold America’s new 2024 Ford Ranger.
As I mentioned in my article “I Just Saw The 2024 Ford Ranger And Ford Ranger Raptor But I Can’t Tell You Shit Until May 10 (But I Can Show You This Teaser),” Ford flew me from LA to rural Michigan to attend “Ranger School” — a crash course on everything I need to know about Ford’s new mid-size truck, which aims to take on all the new mid-sizers that have launched since the Ranger’s debut for the 2019 model year. Those trucks include the 2020+ Jeep Gladiator, the 2022+ Nissan Frontier, the new 2023 Chevy Colorado (and its GMC Canyon sibling), and most importantly the GOAT of the class: The upcoming new Toyota Tacoma, set to debut in just nine days.
The midsize truck segment is shifting from one made up of old-timers on old ancient bones adopted from faraway lands (The outgoing Chevy Colorado was designed for debuted in Thailand in 2011 before GM modified it lightly for the U.S. market) to one that includes properly modern, stylish trucks specifically developed with the U.S. in mind. Remember, just ten years ago the world was saying the midsize truck segment is dead, and then when automakers realized that there was potential in selling trucks that can actually fit into garages, they had to get offerings to market quickly. And now that a hot midsize truck segment has been around a while, we’re starting to see real effort — more modern interiors, powertrains, and suspensions — going into it. And that definitely applies to the new Ford Ranger.
Two ‘New’ Powertrains
Okay, let’s get to the good stuff. It’s probably safe to say that the vast majority of people who have driven the current Ford Ranger are reasonably happy with the 270 horsepower, 310 lb-ft 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four and the 10-speed automatic that it’s bolted to. When I reviewed the car for Jalopnik, I really had only good things to say about the truck’s engine (shown above), writing:
The 2.3-liter EcoBoost hooked up to the 10-speed transmission is a downright quick combination, accelerating the truck surprisingly purposefully and producing a sound that’s actually somewhat sporty—at least, more so than the naturally aspirated V6s that populate this segment.
That engine and transmission combination acts as an excellent propellant for back-road buffoonery, which is made possible by the vehicle’s sharp steering. Crank the wheel, and the Ranger’s nose—which sits nice and low relative to my seating position, allowing for excellent forward visibility—darts almost immediately into a turn.
But one key way to compete with increasingly stiff competition in the midsize truck segment is to offer choice; Ford, purveyors of the best-selling truck of all time (the F-series), knows this better than anyone, telling journalists that, per the company’s customer research, “performance” was a major reason why certain buyers declined to buy certain midsize trucks. This stuff matters. So for 2024, The Blue Oval is offering the Ranger with a 2.7-liter V6 making 315 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque — that’s up 45 horsepower and 90 lb-ft over the base 2.3-liter, which is largely unchanged from the ’22 model year.
In addition to the engines whose displacements in liters start with a “2,” Ford also offers for the off-road-focused Ranger Raptor a new 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 (see below) just like the one in the Ford Bronco Raptor, though detuned a bit from 418 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque to 405 horsepower and 430 lb-ft. All engines are bolted to a 10-speed “SelectShift” automatic.
The Chassis Has Been ‘Enhanced’
The new Ford Ranger is “all-new” and “redesigned from the ground up,” but that doesn’t mean it’s literally a clean-sheet design. After all, the new truck shares the old truck’s leaf sprung solid rear axle suspension and double-wishbone front suspension — all hanging off a fully boxed ladder frame. This general chassis setup has been around for at least 50 years, and will continue to be for a while (electrification will likely kill the solid axle), so it’s no surprise that automakers are using the “carryover” previous-generation vehicle to act as the basis for the new one.
Why reinvent something that’s going to be similar, anyway? This is what happened when the new Toyota Tacoma launched back in 2015 — engineers admitted that, though it’s marketed as “all new,” some of the basic frame and suspension design is drawn from the old truck. The same is true about the 2024 Ford Ranger, which a Ford rep told me had an “enhanced frame,” going on to say “we significantly redesigned it.”
Ford describes its major Frame enhancements in its press release, writing:
In designing the backbone of Ranger, Ford engineers improved the truck’s fully boxed high-strength steel frame, with the wheelbase and track both stretched about two inches to provide more bed space and improved stability while remaining easy to navigate on trails. The rear shocks and shock mounts have also been moved outboard of the frame rails for improved ride and control. All versions of the Ranger also benefit off-road from improved ground clearance and better approach and departure angles. From day trips to multi-day journeys, the all-new Ranger is ready to bring gear to wherever the next adventure lies, with a maximum available towing capacity of 7,500pounds and maximum available payload capacity of 1,805 pounds.
You’ll notice how Ford uses the term “Adventure,” and doesn’t focus as much on truckish towing and payload performance. In fact, the term “adventure” shows up nine times in Ford’s press release, while “tow” shows up just five and “payload” just once. As I mentioned before, the mid-size Ranger may be a rough-and-tumble workhorse overseas, but in the U.S. it’s clear Ford thinks many of its customers will likely be beard-having, plaid-wearing, granola-eating yuppies.
Anyway, the big frame-changes involved shoving the front axle forward a bit for improved approach angle (which is only “decent” at 33 degrees for the Raptor and 29.2 for the FX4 package), and most importantly moving the rear shock mounts outboard. On the outgoing truck (shown below), those shocks sat inboard of the leaf springs, rather far away from the tires that provide the suspension with input forces:
The new truck moves the shocks closer to those inputs — outboard of the leaf springs, right up against the tires:
One of the benefits of moving the shocks outboard is that it means the displacement of the shock better mirrors that of the wheel. This means there’s a more optimal “motion ratio,” which is incidentally an improvement that competitor Jeep made when it moved the JK Wrangler’s shocks outboard for the new JL Wrangler, and it’s also something that Ford took pride in on its Bronco. Here’s a discussion about this improvement via my Jalopnik article on how the Ford Bronco compares to the Wrangler:
[A Ford engineering manager] also mentioned that having the coilovers far outboard on the axle offered dynamic advantages. “Certainly… having the damper and the spring as far outboard as it is has been a help from a dynamics perspective, and from an off-road perspective,” he said.
When I sent a follow-up email asking Ford to elaborate a bit, the company responded with a note about motion ratio, which describes the ratio of the spring’s displacement to the wheel’s displacement (you can imagine how, if a wheel goes up on a solid axle, a spring close to the center of the axle won’t compress much. This would have a low motion ratio). It’s sort of like the “lever arm” the wheel input has when working against the spring. From Ford:
Ford says having the shock and spring close to the wheel input provides dynamic advantages; the way I read this, the setup lets Ford reduce body roll without having to make the springs too stiff.
Obviously, I’m far from a dynamics engineer, so I’ve reached out to our in-house dynamics genius, Huibert Mees, to give a bit more context, and will update this when he replies. But suffice it to say that moving the shocks outboard is a good thing from a ride and handling standpoint, and it also moves the shock mounting brackets out of the way of rocks.
Other changes for the Ranger include a new hydroformed structure at the nose of the vehicle, which grew 60 millimeters between the cowl and the front of the truck, in part to accommodate the new powertrains and — per Ford (and I’m guessing this was more of a result than a main driver) — to increase airflow, since more space means less underhood pressure to resist air flowing through the radiator.
Otherwise, the chassis is, architecturally, quite similar to that of the outgoing truck. Let’s have a look at how the two compare; here’s the new truck’s K-brace crossmember that holds up the transmission and transfer case:
You’ll notice a skid plate for the transfer case hanging off the cross-car portion of the K and bolting to the driver’s side frame rail:
And here’s how that K-brace looks on the outgoing Ranger:
The front suspension, too, is quite similar in geometry, though the control arms look different and really more similar to the current Bronco than the current Ranger. Here’s the new Ranger:
And here’s the outgoing Ranger:
For fun, here’s a Bronco’s front suspension (the Bronco was based on the outgoing Ranger’s T6 platform):
Anyway, similarities between the new and old Ranger are not surprising. Just like the outgoing truck, the new Ranger has the fuel tank on the left side just ahead of the rear axle, and the exhaust on the right side
Here’s the outgoing truck’s underbody, which is similarly laid out:
None of this is a criticism of the new truck. It has the same body-on-frame basic setup, the same front suspension type, the same rear suspension type, is about the same length as the old truck, and tows the same amount (up to 7,500) — naturally it’s not going to be an enormous change from the outgoing vehicle chassis-wise. At least, that’s the case for the standard truck; the Ford Ranger Raptor changes things up with a coil-sprung Watts Link rear axle instead of one clamped to leaf springs. This is a giant departure over non-Raptor Rangers, necessitating a unique frame.
The Ranger Raptor
I’ll be publishing an article this afternoon with my full thoughts on the new Ford Ranger Raptor, but for now, I’ll just talk basic hardware. First, the rear axle, shown above, ditches the leaf springs for coils, upper and lower control arms to control fore-aft loads and to prevent axle twist, and a Watts link to help the axle take lateral loads. Typically it is a track bar that bolts to the frame above and the axle below that keeps the axle centered when subject to lateral loads, but the problem with a track bar is that it has to rotate in an arc as the axle move up and down relative to the frame, and on an off-road rally truck like the Ranger Raptor, there will be quite a bit of travel. This arc motion causes the axle to move laterally, and contributes to a “rear-steer” phenomenon that can make handling feel a bit unpredictable.
Here’s a look at how a Watt’s linkage keeps the axle perfectly centered in the vehicle when the axle moves up and down over bumps, as it will in a vehicle designed for high-speed desert driving:
I briefly spoke with our suspension engineer Huibert Mees about the Ranger Raptor’s rear suspension, and how it necessitates a unique new frame. Here were his thoughts:
The Ranger Raptor also gets “2.5-inch FOX Live Valve shocks,” unique front knuckles and control arms, a unique fascia and apparently some chassis bolstering, with Ford saying in its press release:
Ranger Raptor is built on a beefy foundation, taking Ranger’s fully boxed frame up a notch by reinforcing the front frame rails, front shock towers, rear shock brackets, suspension mounting points, and other key areas so Ranger Raptor can handle more punishing off-road conditions.*
I’ll dig deeper into the Ford Ranger Raptor, which has a 3.5 inch wider track width than the standard new Ranger (which is already two inches wider than the outgoing truck) in an article later today.
The Outside Looks Decent
The new Ranger isn’t a massive leap forward in terms of exterior design when compared to the outgoing T6 Ranger. It’s still a bit conservative, especially from the rear, but it’s handsome nonetheless.
Here’s a look at the front grille treatments available on different trims:
I find the outgoing truck to be a bit handsomer, especially from the front, as the C-clamp style headlamps wrapped around the grille on the new truck are a bit busy to me.
The Interior Looks Like A Significant Improvement
The photo above shows the 2024 Ford Ranger’s interior, and the one below shows the outgoing truck’s. The new vehicle comes standard with a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment display, vertically oriented and integrated into the center stack. A 12-incher is optional, and joins an available 12.4-inch cluster in front of the steering wheel (an eight-inch display is standard).
Cabin materials varied. Base trucks had hard plastics, while pricier trims softened things. Cabin design ran across a huge spectrum, from understated in black, to warm in tan, to flashy with red accents on the Ranger Raptor:
There were even multiple shifter options. You can see the “short-throw E-shifter” here.
And here’s the shifter on lower-trim trucks:
I personally don’t love floor-shifters; I think they’re a waste of space compared to a column-shifter, but Ford insists that its customers want a place to rest their hand while they drive. Also, historically a floor shifter tends to be considered “tougher” (look at ads for old sports cars; floor shifters are marketed as much cooler than dainty column shifts), though I don’t quite agree that that’s still the case given the history of column shift automatics on heavy-duty trucks. I think they’re tough, and they’re a great use a space, but alas, no column shifter on the new Ranger.
Speaking of columns, the new Ranger offers also offers two engine-start methods. You can push a button on the column:
Or, somewhat surprisingly and delightfully, you can still twist a key:
Other things worth noting are the rear seats, which instead of folding up to reveal a big flat floor, actually fold down as a single, non-split-folded unit (so if you want to fit something big in your cab, you better not have more than just that single passenger up front):
It’s not exactly a giant space to store things height-wise, but it is a large flat surface, and looks easy enough to fold.
I still have a lot more to say about the Ranger, particularly the Raptor, in my follow-up article. But this new truck — which starts at $34,160 (Ranger Raptor starts at $56,960) — looks like a nice update. There are more powertrain options, the exterior looks different, the interior looks fresher, and it’s clear now that the mid-size truck category is done resting on its laurels.
Now to see what the Tacoma’s got on May 19th.
Did you happen to notice in the higher trims if they had cooled/ventilated seats in the front? What about moonroofs?
Even if I cared more for the rest of the truck, that giant screen is a huge dealbreaker. It kills me that if my truck were totaled today and I were to try and replace it with the same spec Ram, that I would be forced into that atrocious 12” screen. They need to regulate these things out of the market.
I’ll be frank, as an Australian, the Ranger could not interest me less. They’ve become the designated Road Rager’s vehicle of choice and their reliability is questionable at best.
When I used to do insurance repairs, Rangers were top of the list for catastrophic mechanical failure, if they’d been any more frequent we probably would’ve kept spare engines in stock and we didn’t even specialise in Fords.
They’re OK, but that is all, and the new face of Ford really rubs me the wrong way, all I can see is someone pushing the grill cross-piece too firmly into a soft clay model, deforming the nose, and no one noticing before production.
Disappointing that they didn’t add a hybrid option.
Given the popularity of the Maverick hybrid, I would think it would have been smarter to rework the engine bay/chassis to accommodate a hybrid and that would be more popular and relevant than the 2.7L V6.
Came here to say this. In 2023, releasing a new truck with no option for a hybrid powertrain just feels lazy. There are proven benefits to hybrid power in a truck, and it’s not like there wouldn’t be a non-hybrid option available for people who are ideologically opposed to anything that sounds like it might be good for the environment.
Yeah I’d get the hybrid Tacoma
Sad that it only comes in supercab. Had been hoping for a crewcab with a bed that would actually have some length to it.
That’s what happens when people buy these just to use them as grocery getters. We live in such a weird country…