TEST DRIVE REVIEW – 2019 Ford Ranger: You Want This Truck.


After a nearly seven-year hiatus from the North American market, Ford is about to bring its mid-size Ranger pickup truck back to US showrooms, in response to sales statistics showing a huge market for trucks here.  Ranger fans from its original run that began in the late 80s and ended in 2011 in North America, and owners of other mid-size trucks curious about the new Ranger, tell me that this truck has been eagerly anticipated for a long time, and that news of the progress of the launch has been devoured by the truck-buying public.

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South OC Cars N Coffee pic with John Faulkner, Photo credit: Mostyn Faulkner.
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Towing capacity is 7500, with the available tow package on the Ranger. Photo credit: Ford Motor Co. 

Over my two weeks with the all-new Ranger this month, which kicked off with participating in the So Cal media launch, followed by ten days at my leisure with a SuperCab XLT, two truths became apparent. One, there is a LOT of interest in this truck.  Second, the new Ford Ranger is going to sell like hotcakes when it hits dealers in January 2019. People were often seen with iPhones out taking video or photos as we drove around. I might as well have shown up with Brad Pitt at Cars and Coffee.


City Issues Handled.

Ranger is is the perfect size truck for a city dweller/commuter. There were no problems fitting in my garage, parking parallel, or finding a spot in a parking garage in downtown Los Angeles. Length is 210.8 overall, width is a manageable 85.8, and height is 71. Gas mileage for the 2.3 liter EcoBoost engine, paired with the 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, was better than its EPA estimates, which are best in class.  In a mix of classic OC/LA stop and go traffic and open freeway travel, my best was 23.8 mpg in nearly 800 miles of testing. I got high 22’s and low 23’s most of the time in the XLT 4×2.  The EPA ratings for the 4×4 are 20 city, 24 highway, and 22 combined, beating out all other gasoline engine four-wheel-drive midsize pickups.



Offroad Obstacles Handled.

Offroad in the midst of a ten acre ranch in the San Diego backcountry, the Ranger proved it could give driver and passengers a way to get through high- bank passes (26 degrees was the highest grade reached by a journalist at the launch),  over dirt moguls, over rocks, around hairpin turns, and through a faux riverbed with about 30 inches of water to plow through.

Uphill and downhill, I tested the TrailControl (Ford trademarked) technology, which allows the driver to program the truck so it will navigate terrain at the turn of the control knob and a couple of clicks without using the accelerator or brake pedal – the driver handles steering only, while TrailControl decides where to brake and to accelerate. Ford describes it as cruise control for offroading.  Tacoma has a similar system, which tests out as much more complicated to set up, requiring multiple steps and switches that are scattered throughout the cabin and are not well marked or understandable. Tacoma’s system in play on an off road course is seriously clunky and noisy.  Whereas Tacoma’s trail control system strains and creaks, Ranger’s works quietly and smoothly.

4x4 Trail Control knob
Knob is part of the TrailControl system. Photo credit: Ford Motor Co.

Handling in the dirt was impressive.  I felt safe and never felt that the truck was “losing it” or that it became unstable. Simply put, it made this city dweller very comfortable tearing up a backroad. I had total confidence that the Ranger would get me through any offroad condition.



Trim Levels and Features

Ranger comes in three trim levels: XL, XLT, and Lariat, all of which will be familiar to Ford owners.  At the Lariat level, there’s leather and push-button starting, plus soft touch materials inside.  Available configurations are the SuperCrew 4×2, SuperCrew 4×4, SuperCab 4×2, and SuperCab 4×4.  All are body-on-frame construction, and made in Michigan.

16 inch 7.0 alloy wheels are standard. 17 inch and 18 inch 8.0 alloys are available, in three styles.

On the SuperCrew model, with two full size doors and back seats for 3, the bed is 5 feet long; on the SuperCab, it’s 6 feet long.

The SuperCab has two seats in the rear which do not adjust, to maximize the size of the bed. Two forward-opening mini doors open to allow access. Seat cushions in the second row remove easily to allow large items to be stowed inside the cab if necessary.

Both cab configurations offer the same dimensions in the front seats. It’s roomy in the front seats, with plenty of legroom.

A black spray-in bedliner with a Ford oval logo is available on all models.

Coming soon MS
Lightning Blue SuperCrew – a 4×4 that seats 5.

All trim levels have the same engine (EcoBoost 2.3 liter turbo, direct injection) and 10-speed automatic transmission that’s shared with F-150. As a result all have the same power ratings.  Ranger has the most torque in the segment, 310 pound feet, with 270 horsepower.

Ranger’s 7500 pound tow capacity is best in class. Also of note is the class-exclusive steel body and steel front bumper that’s frame-mounted, made for tackling anything that would get in its way without cracking, like the plastic ones on other trucks in the mid-size segment.

Ranger has a rugged, fully boxed frame with six crossmembers that are hydroformed and through-welded.  It has a parabolic leaf-spring rear suspension.

Payload on the SuperCab 4×2 (my tester) is 1,860 lbs, which is better than competitors’ by over 200 pounds.



State of the Art Technology on the Ranger Is Standard

Class-exclusive Blind Spot Information System handles trailer linkup for you. Ranger also features all-new Terrain Management System with TrailControl (standard only in the FX4 package) and FordPass Connect with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot that supports up to 10 devices as standard equipment.  Automatic emergency braking, electronic stability control, lane keeping assist, and a blind spot assist are also standard.

The Ford Sync3 system has been applauded by customers and represents the best system so far put out by Ford for infotainment.  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are compatible. Sound system by Bang & Olufsen.

Prediction:  Ranger Will Be a Good Seller for Ford. 

Pricing starts at $25,395 MSRP, including $1,095 destination and delivery.  The 4×4 SuperCrew at the top trim level is priced at $39,480.  Ranger is priced right for the mid-size truck segment, considering the innovative technology and the standard features that allow switching between all-terrain access and city driving effortlessly.  When a good product is priced right, it is usually a good seller.

Dealers are now accepting customer orders.  I recommend visiting Ford.com to configure yours before you visit the dealer.



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SuperCab in the XLT trim level with chrome package. Photo credit Mostyn Faulkner.


2018 Nissan Kicks Is The Techy Crossover For Entry Level Fun


Nissan Kicks_1 MPG August 2018

The newest Nissan offering was unveiled to a live DJ pulsating beat and light show last November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.  It drew a huge – and young – crowd.  Making my way to the stage as the masses cleared, I had my first walk around with the small crossover which rocked the show.  It’s finally hitting the dealerships, so earlier this month, Nissan brought one to the Motor Press Guild along with product reps for a personal meet and greet with Los Angeles based auto journalists.  Here’s the lowdown.

KICKS is a 1.6 liter four cylinder with CVT that gets 31 MPG city, 36 highway, and 33 combined.  It has a hatch with room for 25 cubic feet of cargo (easily fits two large suitcases and two roller/duffel bags), but with the back seats down, it has 32 cubic feet of space.  It seats five, but in the back, they better be small people, or it will be very tight.

All three trim levels (S, SV and SR) have the same engine, with 125 horsepower.

Nissan touts it as having best-in-class (small SUV) legroom, with good head clearance space, and zero gravity seats of “leatherette.”  For those who look for a spare tire instead of an inflator kit, be happy – it’s got a spare under the deck of the hatch.

There are front and rear charging ports in every KICKS no matter what trim level.  Not many new cars at this price point have rear charging ports. You have to go with a more expensive make to find them, so to have rear ports standard at this price level is actually a surprise.  There are 8 stereo speakers, with some built into the headrests of the front seats, and an upgraded  Bose system is available.  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included as standard tech on all models and the 7 inch infotainment screen does the job just fine.

Standard on all trim levels also is a 360 degree view surround camera, allowing the driver to see not only what’s going on in front and back, but also at the curb.  This tech is normally not seen at this price level.

Also impressive, and usually only seen at higher price points, is the standard automatic emergency braking feature, which gives the driver a warning when the car detects that a front collision is imminent.

It’s said by some to be a replacement for the phased-out Juke, but Nissan disagrees.  This is a different animal entirely.

Pictured here is the KICKS in Monarch Orange.  There’s a custom color studio for KICKS for customizing 12 different interior and exterior amenities.  I can’t think of another model at this price point that has this feature.

Check it out here:  https://www.nissanusa.com/vehicles/crossovers-suvs/kicks/customize

Nissan has a hit on its hands with young drivers who are looking for great tech in a crossover with great styling.

Manufacturer pricing starts at $17,990 for the S (base), goes to $19,6000 for the SB (mid level), and tops out at $22,000 for the SR trim level with the Bose sound system. It’s a bargain for what Nissan has packed into this small crossover.

Inspiration: Make a First Time Happen, Brought to You By Ford Motor Company

By Michele Spencer

There is within all of us a desire to do something, to be somewhere, to have a certain experience…but life gets in the way.   This video is a commercial for a brand new Ford sport utility vehicle, called the EcoSport, but let the story of a daughter making a “first time” happen for her mother inspire you, as it did me…!

You’re welcome!