Home » I Drove The 2024 Ford Ranger And It Feels Like The Old Truck In A Nice Suit

I Drove The 2024 Ford Ranger And It Feels Like The Old Truck In A Nice Suit

2024 Ford Ranger First Drive
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Especially since the Toyota Tacoma got its update this year, the Ford Ranger has felt a bit like the old-timer in the mid-size truck world, having debuted for the 2019 model year with an exterior and interior that date back to around 2015. Others in the segment like the new Chevy Colorado and even the Jeep Gladiator (which debuted for the 2020 model year) also make FoMoCo’s outgoing midsizer feel dated. But now there’s a new Ranger for 2024 hoping to keep Ford competitive; it’s got all-new interior and exterior styling, more tech, and some revised hardware underneath. I had a chance to drive the thing last week, and found that it feels… pretty familiar — an evolution, certainly not a revolution over the outgoing Ranger.

It’s true. The 2024 Ford Ranger hasn’t really changed that much. Under the hood of the trucks I drove was the same 270 horsepower, 310 lb-ft 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four that we’ve seen in the old Ranger since 2019. The mill is mated to the same 10-speed automatic, and it’s bolted to a similar ladder frame with an independent front suspension and a leaf-sprung solid rear axle.

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[Full Disclosure: Ford flew me from LA to Salt Lake City, put me up in a nice hotel, and fed me various foods that I normally would be far, far too cheap to buy on my own. Also worth noting is that The Autopian was co-founded by the president of a large dealership franchise whose primary store is a Ford dealership. This obviously won’t affect how I review the truck, but it’s worth pointing out. -DT].  

To be sure, it’s not exactly the same frame, and it’s not the same body. But as is often the case with body-on-frame vehicles that keep the same basic dimensions and suspension designs as their predecessors, they’re not exactly “ground up,” but instead based on those predecessors (the outgoing then “all-new” Tacoma, for example, featured bits from its predecessor, and Toyota freely admitted it). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course; why reinvent the wheel?

Ford certainly hasn’t, with a company representative referring to the new Ranger as an “advancement of the T6 architecture,” which are bones that date back to around 2011. If I understand it correctly, the new truck’s longitudinal rails are quite similar to those of the outgoing truck, but the crossmembers and suspension mounts are different, as are dimensions like the track width and wheelbase.

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Ford talks about the frame “enhancements” made to the outgoing truck in this press release about the 2024 Ranger, 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.

Since we’re talking about frames, let’s get into the hardware-nitty gritty a bit more.

The Hardware

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I’ll paste much of this section from my article “2024 Ford Ranger: Here’s My First Look At The New Engines, Improved Interior, Revised Frame, And New Ranger Raptor Model,” because it’s worth noting what makes this truck new from a hardware standpoint.

The 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:

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The new truck moves the shocks closer to those inputs — outboard of the leaf springs, right up against the tires:

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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:

‘Outboard coilovers help with motion ratio in roll. Motion ratio is an effectiveness of the spring and damper. In pure vertical [motion like a bump], [shocks] can be located anywhere on the axle and have a good motion ratio/effectiveness, but in roll, further outboard improves motion ratio and allows you more axle control without having to upsize components and add weight. As you improve motion ratio, the axle control is more fluid and less abrupt for a given level of spring rate and damping control’

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, 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.

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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:

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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:

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And here’s how that K-brace looks on the outgoing Ranger:

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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:

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And here’s the outgoing Ranger:

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Here’s the outgoing truck’s underbody, which is similarly laid out:

Image for article titled The 2019 Ford Ranger Should Put Up a Strong Off-Road Fight Against Other Mid-Size Trucks

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As I say in my old article, this isn’t a criticism of the new truck. It’s a body-on-frame pickup with similar dimensions, the same front and rear suspension type, and the same tow rating. It’s fine that there weren’t dramatic chassis changes, though perhaps a move to a coil-spring setup would have been cool to see on this base truck, though that would have added cost (and value is a key element in the Ranger’s appeal).

The Ranger Raptor model gets coil springs, but I won’t get into that now, since I’ll be reviewing it later this week.

What Else Is New?

 

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As the Ford Ranger’s chief engineer Juan De Peña mentions in the video above, the Ranger offers a number of other small enhancements over the outgoing model. The all-new interior, for example, gets fancier screens. Here’s the old cabin:

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And here’s the new one, which can be had with either an eight or 12.4-inch digital gauge cluster and either a 10.1-inch or 12-inch infotainment touchscreen.

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The image above shows the 12-inch infotainment screen; the 10.1 has larger bezels:

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Other changes to the Ranger include new Advanced Driver Assist features — things like Pro Trailer Backup Assist, an integrated brake controller, and a 360-degree camera. Plus there are power seats with a memory function, there’s 4G connectivity, there’s wireless charging and more.

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Not to mention, there’s this available side step for the rear box:

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There’s a new flat-folding rear bench:

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Plus, the tailgate is damped, and the bed has become wider inside, making sliding in four-by-eight sheets of plywood possible:

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You can also cut that wood with a corded electric saw, which you can plug into the in-bed outlets:

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Like I said: fairly minor updates, but enough to keep things reasonably fresh, with a new interior that offers more modern tech, and some smart and usable features elsewhere — plus a new exterior and a new available powertrain, the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 that makes 315 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Sadly, I didn’t get to drive that one.

What’s It Like To Drive?

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The first thing Ford had us do after we flew to Salt Lake City and listened to a quick walk-around presentation was partake in a trailer backup demonstration. The point, here, was to demonstrate how the Pro Trailer Backup Assist function works. I won’t spend too much time on this since it’s not that exciting, but the short of it is that you spin the drive mode dial (the one on the center tunnel just aft and to the right of the shifter) in the direction you want the trailer to go.

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It takes a moment to get used to the whole “turn dial counter clockwise = trailer moves left; turn dial clockwise = trailer moves right), but once you get it, and you leverage the truck’s cameras and graphics shown on the screen (along with the mirrors), things become quite easy.

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I’ll admit that, at the event, I tried backing up a trailer with a Toyota Tacoma that did not have such backup assist-software, and I made a bit of an ass of myself. I thought I was good at backing trailers, given that I’ve purchased numerous non-running junkers and towed them home on U-Haul trailers, but at the press event, when I was surrounded by other car journalists and Ford reps, I blew it. I did not, however, blow it once I got behind the wheel of the Ranger:

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The system works. I’ll leave it at that.

Now to more interesting stuff like vinyl floors.

 

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I got to pilot two very different Ford Rangers, a base-model XL and a top-dog Lariat, both equipped with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. The XL wasn’t quite a stripper model, but it was close, and its easy-clean vinyl floors are awesome:

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Though I think it’s time we stop hating on luxury pickups, I personally strongly prefer simplicity when it comes to certain vehicles, especially utilitarian ones meant to haul things and go off-road. That’s why I asked for this XL model, which came equipped thusly:

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It got four-wheel drive ($3,645), a 3.73 rear differential with a locker ($425), running boards ($695), keyless entry ($95), and a bedliner ($355). The fog lamps, aluminum wheels, and all-terrain tires come with the truck, so really this is a very fairly base-model vehicle, with overall pricing at $39,465 including destination charge. That’s about in line with the competitions’ similarly-equipped base-models.

Aside from the running boards, this is exactly how I’d spec my own Ranger if I were to buy one. Do I really need more than a 10.1-inch infotainment screen? Do I really need more than an eight-inch digital gauge cluster? Am I really going to find a seat material significantly more comfortable than cloth? The answer to all of these is “no.”

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To drive home how basic this truck is, behold the mirrorless visor:

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Check out the useless storage slot that takes the place of what would normally be the keyless ignition switch (yes, this base Ranger still uses a key; you can see it on the bottom left of the image below):

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Check out the old-school PRNDL shifter that may as well be out of 2005:

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And behold the blanking plate in the bed where the in-bed charging ports would be:

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Still, even if it was missing a few creature comforts, the cabin was a nice place to spend time. The seats were cushy and there was acceptable room in the back seat:

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I took this bare-bones truck on highways near Salt Lake City, and my takeaways are, I hate to admit, not particularly insightful ones: The truck drives fine. It’s not magic-carpet smooth, and it’s not a back-breaker; it’s fine.

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There were times when it seemed the truck drove more smoothly than the last Ranger I drove (that was an FX4, and it was five years ago), but I’d be lying if I told you that the hour behind the wheel was enough for me to make that assessment; the trucks just aren’t different enough in my eyes. Both of their leaf-sprung solid axles will get jittery by battered-up roads, though they’ll both ride quite smoothly down reasonably-maintained highway stretches.

I didn’t throw the truck through turns too fast to check its handling or to see how that two inch wider track width affects agility, because this isn’t a sports car. In the corners, the truck was perfectly adequate when driven at normal speeds — an assessment much more practical to the layperson than a skidpad lateral acceleration calculation.

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The one thing I did take away from my short drive in the Ranger was how quiet the cabin is. Between that and the comfortable cloth seats, I could road trip the new Ranger to the ends of the earth.

 

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What about the power? It’s fine. It’s a 2.3-liter turbo making 270 horsepower and propelling a 4,400 pound truck around. There’s some lag in the power delivery (it’s an air-to-air intercooler at the front of the car, not a liquid-cooled charge-air cooler integrated into the intake like we’ve seen on many other modern vehicles — this probably doesn’t help) when you stomp on the throttle pedal, and until boost joins the party, you’re trying to move over 2.2 tons with a 2.3-liter little four-cylinder. Still, in boost, the truck moves reasonably quickly. It’s not fast, it’s not slow, it’s an acceptable amount of power for this truck.

But certainly, what was once the top-of-the-segment powertrain now feels merely adequate. I can’t wait to drive the 2.7.

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I jumped from that base truck into a well-equipped red Lariat, with a blacked-out upper fascia and silver lower fascia:

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Here’s a look at the inside the cabin, which features big screens, black leather, and a fancy “short throw” electronic shifter to replace the “long throw” PRNDL on the base truck:

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It also gets a secondary, upper glovebox that the base truck does not:

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That small upper box doesn’t open very wide, but I’d say definitely worth having, as front storage is always valuable:

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For reference, you’ll see that there’s no button to open the upper part of the dash on the base truck:

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You’ll also notice that our Lariat had a wireless charging pad ahead of the shifter, which — as previously mentioned — is a smaller electronic-style short-throw unit:

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It was nice; sure, many interior plastics were “durable” (i.e. hard) but it’s a truck and I can deal with that.

I drove that truck around town, again noted its comfortable seat and quiet cabin, and generally enjoyed the experience, though in the back of my mind I kept thinking: “Man, I really like the Tonka Truck look of the new Tacoma’s cabin more.” Tell me if you agree:

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Verdict

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When I reviewed the 2016 Toyota Tacoma approaching a decade ago, it was clear to me — a then-new blogger — that it wasn’t really that big of a step forward. “The 2016 Toyota Tacoma: A Spicy Taco That Doesn’t Taste All That New” was my headline. I feel similarly about the “all-new”2024 Ford Ranger, which was developed in Australia and “tailored to the needs of the North American customer.” Sure, it’s got new styling inside and out, it’s got new screens and ADAS options, and it’s got some clever improvements that make using the truck more practical, but in many ways, it feels like a mid-cycle refresh.

Who knows, maybe if I drove the new and old trucks back to back, I’d be able to see the effects of the longer wheelbase, outboard shocks, and increased track width. And maybe if there had been a 2.7-liter V6 at the event, I’d be singing a different tune. But as it stands, my short drive led me to see the new Ford Ranger as fine. Just fine.

Ford described at the press event what its customers were looking for in the new truck, saying: “Give me tough, give me more rugged, and give me modern.” I think the truck is still tough (the T6 has proven that), I think the new Raptor will add more ruggedness, and certainly the new tech brings the truck towards modernity. So in these ways, Ford accomplished its goal. But I wouldn’t call the end product inspiring. Competent? Yes; I quite liked the outgoing Ranger. But not inspiring.

 

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Marantzer
Marantzer
1 month ago

David, a very nice and detailed review! Over at CD one of the usual butt-sucks, Dan Edmunds put out a half baked review with huge holes in features. He bagged on the high end shifter without of course saying one can get the mechanical one in lower trims. Edmunds was a derp when he was at InsideLine and is just as bad at CD.

MDMK
MDMK
1 month ago

I wish the lifted pickup truck look would just die already. The otherwise attractive Ranger looks ridiculous sitting so high on its haunches as if a stiff crosswind could blow it into the nearest ditch. The 2WD Ranger trims should at least share the Maverick stance on the road which looks properly “grounded to the ground.”

Greg
Greg
1 month ago

Between the Maverick and the F150, prices included, why does someone buy this over the other two?

On TD, they ragged a bit on the quality and feel of it as well, this review from DT seems a bit more positive.

I think the work truck trim might make sense for the Orkin and pest crowd (and similar), or someone looking for a simplicity the larger trucks might not offer. Would love to see a long bed to make use of that new wider space back there!

Ben
Ben
1 month ago

Can’t say I love the interior of either the Tacoma or the Ranger, but the dealbreaker on the Ranger for me might be that those vent grilles are making me squirm. Must be a trypophobia trigger.

Zed_Patrol
Zed_Patrol
1 month ago

Looks to me that they mostly made the hood a little more horizontal, and grill bigger, not unlike the tacoma. This should help reduce frontal visibility a bit but who needs that right? As long as it looks more butch! Ugh, that screen too. Man I fear we will never escape them.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago
Reply to  Zed_Patrol

As long as the powers that be mandate a rear-facing camera, and you know that’s never going away, there will be a screen in all new cars. So you might as well get used to it. To what extent it’s used is the only variable at this point.

Zed_Patrol
Zed_Patrol
1 month ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

I don’t have a problem with that, just when the screen gets so big and starts replacing switches and makes things less convenient. Hopefully we’re not heading towards a future where everything is like a tesla model 3.

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