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2024 Ford Ranger First Drive: There's Nothing Mid About This Midsize Truck

The midsize truck segment might have a new front-runner

2024 Ford Ranger front three-quarter
  • Redesigned for 2024, the new Ranger is here to shake up the midsize truck segment.
  • Turbocharged engine options are all-around great.
  • New off-road-focused Ranger Raptor is ready to tackle trails.

We respected the peppy turbocharged engine of the last-generation Ford Ranger, but that was about it. The midsize pickup otherwise lacked the interior refinement, technology features and ride comfort needed to make it a fully compelling truck.

Now Ford has come out with the fully redesigned 2024 Ranger. Improved cabin? Check. New tech features? Check. Smoother ride? Yep. But is it good enough to make you want to buy one instead of a Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Jeep Gladiator or Toyota Tacoma? We headed to Salt Lake City, Utah, to drive a few Ranger variants to find out.

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2024 Ford Ranger profile

What's under the Ranger's hood?

The Ranger's base engine is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. That's the same engine the prior truck had, but no problem there, as it was our favorite part of the old Ranger. But Ford is now offering more engine options, including an available turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 and an even bigger engine in the Ranger Raptor (more on that later). The 2.7-liter powerplant is also featured in the Ford F-150 and Bronco, and here it's tuned to provide 315 hp and 400 lb-ft. Both engines run through a 10-speed automatic transmission. At launch, you'll only be able to get the base engine; the new V6 will be available in summer 2024.

The standard Ranger will be available in XL, XLT and Lariat trims. Bed and cab options have been simplified down to one setup: a four-door SuperCrew body with a 5-foot bed. Two-wheel drive is standard but you can add a locking rear differential. Four-wheel drive is optional along with (again) a locking rear differential.

What's this about a Ranger Raptor?

Yes, Ford is giving this Ranger generation a Raptor version to challenge the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. Like its big brother — the F-150 Raptor — this Ranger version gets more power and a whole slew of off-road performance goodies.

The extra power comes from a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 good for 405 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque. Four-wheel drive and the 10-speed auto are standard. A long list of drive modes includes Normal, Tow/Haul, Sport, Slippery, Off-Road, Rock Crawl and Baja. To combat turbo lag while running in Baja mode, Ford says the turbo keeps spinning for 3 seconds after the driver takes their foot off the throttle to keep the turbo spooled up and ready for action upon corner exit.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor wheels off the ground

It's disappointing that the Raptor doesn't get an additional lift over the standard four-wheel-drive Ranger. However, its 33-inch BFGoodrich KO3 all-terrain tires add a bit of ground clearance, so the truck is sitting 10.7 inches off terra firma. The chassis has been upgraded to include reinforced front frame rails and suspension mounting points to withstand a desert beatdown, and all the important bits underneath are protected by skid plates.

Stability is increased by a 3.5-inch-wider track and a Watts linkage and trailing arm setup in the rear. The rear leaf springs are axed in favor of a coilover setup, and there are 2.5-inch Fox live valve shocks with internal bypasses at all four corners. Heck, there are even piggyback reservoirs on the rear for better cooling of the Teflon-infused shock oil.

Wheel travel is up to over 10 inches in the front and over 11 inches in the rear, and most of the geometry looks pretty good, too. The Ranger Raptor has a departure angle of 26.4 degrees and a breakover angle of 24.2 degrees. However, its approach angle of 33 degrees is the worst in the segment, falling behind the ZR2 by a good 5 degrees and behind the Jeep Gladiator Mojave by over 11 degrees. Yeah, this thing needs a lift.

Making up for that approach angle are standard front and rear locking differentials, a boon to those who want to take their Raptor into the rocks. Also on tap is an active exhaust mode with Quiet, Normal, Sport and Baja noises. To prove your brand loyalty, you can even download the Baja exhaust note to your phone. Yes, really.

The Raptor's cabin gets the same gauge cluster and infotainment screen options as the standard Ranger, and the design is mostly the same save for some keen orange accents. The seats, however, are much more supportive and hug your rear and shoulders to keep you planted while bombing through the whoops.

2024 Ford Ranger front

How does the Ranger drive?

So far, we've only been behind the wheel of the Ranger with the base engine. Ford's 10-speed automatic might seem like it has an unnecessarily large number of gears, but then you notice that it never really hunts for a gear while accelerating. And having all of those ratios so tight helps the turbocharged engine to provide strong yet smooth power — like a perfectly brewed cup of strong coffee.

On top of that, the new Ranger has a wheelbase and a track that have both grown by around 2 inches. This bigger size seems to have had a positive impact on the Ranger's ride quality. Even versions with the FX4 off-road package and the more aggressive tire are impressively quiet and composed on the street. Compared to the Tacoma and Colorado, the Ranger's road manners give it a clear advantage.

The steering can be a little imprecise; there's the tiniest bit of play at the top of the steering wheel to remind you that you are indeed driving a truck. But it's still very easy to get the Ranger to track straight on the highway, and everything else feels so buttoned up that this small foible can be forgiven.

How comfortable is the Ranger?

The improved ride quality makes the Ranger more comfortable for passengers, and the front seats also seem to be improved as well, providing plenty of support for even long trips. Backseat passengers will have a few complaints; though headroom is ample, taller passengers might be hoping for a bit more legroom if they're tucked behind another adult-size passenger up front. And disappointingly, there aren't any rear air vents to be found so things might get a touch stale back there.

2024 Ford Ranger interior

How's the Ranger's interior?

Depending on trim, the interior of Ford's new truck ranges from utilitarian to serviceable. There aren't many luxury touches here, folks. There are some soft-touch surfaces, but fine leather and interesting textures are not part of the game. Give the edge on materials and overall interior quality to the Colorado. However, we love that some of the air-conditioning controls are physical dials — though sadly some controls are buried in the screen — and that the traditional shifter feels sturdy, though it has a few too many buttons down the side of it that make it sit weirdly in the hand.

Ford has also improved small item storage, with a helpful shelf added above the glovebox that's perfect for storing a phone and a decently sized center storage bin.

How's the Ranger's tech?

The new Ranger gets Active Park Assist 2.0 to help maneuver into both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces. Forward-collision warning is present, as is evasive steering assistance, traffic sign recognition, post-collision braking and adaptive cruise control.

Off-road tech includes a terrain management system with drive modes for sand, snow and the like. There is also the Trail Control system (it works like a low-speed cruise control for navigating off-pavement excursions) and a new forward-facing camera, which appears when you put the screen into its off-road view. It provides a better view of the path ahead and handy guidelines to show you where the front tires are pointing.

An 8-inch digital gauge cluster is standard, with an option to upgrade to a 12.4-inch instrument panel. The 10.1-inch center touchscreen is plenty big, but you can also select a 12-inch screen; the latter is loaded with Ford's updated Sync 4A infotainment system. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but there aren't an abundance of USB ports (just four total — two USB-As and two USB-Cs). However, wireless charging is available, and the rear seat is treated to a standard household outlet.

2024 Ford Ranger rear

How are the Ranger's towing and hauling?

The Ranger's usefulness gets a boost with a new lie-flat rear seat for hauling large items that need to stay secure. However, you'll lose all rear passenger carrying capability, as there is no 60/40 split to the rear seatback. There is also room to store smaller items under the rear seat, moving them out of sight of thieving eyes.

Towing capability remains the same at 7,500 pounds, but Ford has added some technology to make hauling your toys easier. You can program the size of up to 10 trailers into the system so the blind-spot warning system will cover the length of your trailer. There is also a new integrated trailer brake controller and the nifty Pro Trailer Backup Assist feature that takes the complicated steering out of the equation when reversing a trailer. The driver simply turns a knob on the center console in the direction the trailer should go. Also available is Trailer Reverse Guidance — a 360-degree camera that shows you everything you might run into when backing up.

The new Ranger can haul up to 1,805 pounds in the bed, and the wheelhouses have been pushed outward to just over 4 feet. That's wide enough to fit a sheet of plywood, though it will stick out of the back slightly. There is also a much-appreciated side step integrated into the frame instead of the bumper to make it more sturdy, so you can easily reach cargo in the bed, as well as in-bed lighting to help locate items.

2024 Ford Ranger front

What does the Ranger cost?

The 2024 Ranger XL starts at $34,265 including destination, much more than the Colorado, Frontier and Tacoma. That's followed by the XLT at $37,705, with the Lariat topping off the lineup at $45,225. Bear in mind those prices are for the two-wheel-drive trucks; jumping up to 4WD tacks on about $3,500 for each of those trucks.

The Ranger Raptor jumps that start price even higher to $57,065, about $8,500 more than its main rival the Chevy Colorado ZR2. Look for the Raptor in dealerships late this summer.

Edmunds says

Ford has kept the strongest part of the old truck while systematically upgrading nearly everything else around it. The new Ranger's pricing might be off-putting for some shoppers but overall we think you're getting your money's worth.  

2024 Ford Ranger front three-quarter