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May 9, 2023
The 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor in its natural off-road environment.Ford Motor Co.
Ford’s Ranger mid-size pickup truck is entering a new phase in which it has been specifically tailored to the needs of North American customers as it prepares to square off against the all-new Toyota Tundra that is also debuting for the 2024 model year.
Ford introduced the then-compact Ranger in 1983, and the truck ran with only facelifts until 2012 when Ford pulled the plug on its small truck effort for the U.S. The company introduced a global replacement that has been so popular in other markets that Ford describes it today as “the global F-150.”
This popularity motivated Ford to return the Ranger to the U.S. market in 2019, but this adapted truck has not found the welcome Ford wanted. Quizzing would-be customers, the company learned that they are looking for a truck that provides the benefits of being smaller than the F-150. It needs to be easier to park and more efficient, while still delivering real truck capabilities. Customers also disliked the obstructed view out of the Ranger’s cab.
U.S.-Spec Truck Now
For 2024, Ford has an all-new Ranger that is built to address those concerns. The new truck also includes a high-margin Raptor off-road version that will boost the model’s profitability as an expansion of Ford’s successful family of so-called “icons.” The Mustang and Bronco are the main examples, along with the discontinued GT super sports car. But Raptor off-road versions of the F-150 and Bronco have demonstrated that Raptor is an emerging brand for Ford, so adding Ranger to this family makes sense.
The new Ranger builds on a stronger foundation, with fully boxed frame rails, and reinforced suspension mounting points. The new truck’s extra 2.5 inches of width provides space for the rear shock absorbers to be mounted on the solid axle outside the frame rails for improved geometry. The Raptor version is wider by an additional 0.8 inches.
The Ranger’s wheelbase is stretched to 128.7 inches, leaving reduced front and rear overhangs for improved approach and departure angles when climbing and descending off-road obstacles.
Modern vehicle crash protection requirements dictate a baseline of frame strength that makes that metric the domain of the company’s safety team, said Ford Performance chief engineer Carl Widmann, who was responsible for the Ranger Raptor. The frame’s front structure is hydroformed for an optimized shape. Because the safety team delivers a fundamentally sound frame, the dynamics team is left to focus on matters such as local strength at the suspension attachment points, Widmann said in an interview at the Ranger’s press introduction.
“We don’t worry about twisting [rigidity],” he said. Instead, the performance team gusseted the suspension attachments and in the case of the Raptor, raised the front shock towers to add 1.5 inches to the suspension travel for better off-road compliance and to give the Fox Live Valve dampers more opportunity to work their magic in controlling wheel movement.
The Raptor features coil spring rear suspension in place of the regular Ranger’s leaf springs. To provide lateral control of the axle, Ford uses a Watts link on the Raptor’s solid rear axle, a trick employed by the first-generation Mazda RX-7 sports car of 1978. This ensures zero lateral compliance for superb cornering characteristics, said Widmann.
Ford’s turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost I-4 engine continues as the Ranger’s base engine at 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. Customer demand for more power means that now the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine seen in the Bronco is also available, with 315 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. The Ranger Raptor has the same 405-hp, 430 lb.-ft. 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 featured in the Bronco Raptor.
The unliked rotary shifter has been replaced by a conventional sliding PRNDL shifter on the Ranger’s console as the base shifter for the 10-speed automatic transmission. Upmarket trim levels use a monostable joystick-style shifter that rachets through the gears but that doesn’t actually slide along a track and stay in different positions for each gear, leaving premium customers with a shifter that is more prone to driver mistakes. Ford proudly points out the Ranger’s use of physical knobs for functions like radio volume and HVAC temperature, so the company does understand that drivers want intuitive controls.
The Ranger’s standard powertrain is rear-wheel drive with an open differential as standard equipment and an electronic locking differential as an optional upgrade. The four-wheel-drive truck has open diffs front and rear as standard and an optional rear locker. The Raptor has locking front and rear differentials for maximum off-road grip when needed.
All of this hardware delivers the truck specifications buyers want, with a maximum payload of 1,805 lbs. on rear-drive trucks and 1,711 on 4x4s. The Raptor is rated at 1,411 lbs. of payload capacity, as the soft, compliant suspension that is so valuable for maintaining wheel contact with the ground in off-road driving is not ideal for carrying a lot of cargo weight.
Regular Rangers can be configured to tow as much as 7,500 lbs., while the Raptor’s towing tops out at 5,510 lbs. Ford is adding real-truck towing features to the Ranger too, so that means an available integrated trailer brake controller, Pro Trailer Backup Assist, and 360-degree cameras. Additionally, the blind spot monitoring learns the length of the trailer from the trailering app and guards the space alongside the trailer in addition to the truck’s own blind spot.
These ratings give the Ranger real-truck capabilities, making it an attractive alternative to an F-150 for people who either don’t want or don’t need the size of a full-size pickup. These real capabilities should come as no surprise because this mid-size model is bigger than an F-150 from the ‘90s. The Ranger is taller and has the same width as full-size trucks from that time. The length depends on the cab and bed configurations of the old trucks, but the Ranger has a longer wheelbase and is longer overall than the old standard cab F-150s.
Ford promises preview drives of these new Ranger models in the fall, so we’ll have to wait until then to see how well all these parts work together. Click through the photo gallery for a look at some of those parts.
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