The Ford Ranger returned to the U.S. mid-size truck segment after an eight-year hiatus. It holds its own with competitors such as the Chevy Colorado, the GMC Canyon, the Jeep Gladiator, and the Nissan Frontier.
The Ranger’s most closely matched rival is the Toyota Tacoma, however. So, what advantages does the Ranger have over the Tacoma? The secrets can be found in the Ranger’s specs according to a review from CNET.com’s Road/Show.
The Ford Ranger has superior horsepower, torque, and fuel economy
You can opt for 4X2 or 4X4 drivetrain or for the SuperCab style with the 6-foot bed or the bigger SuperCrew with the 5-foot bed. But only one engine is available on the Ford Ranger. It’s a turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder mated with a 10-speed automatic transmission. On paper, a four-cylinder engine may not sound like much power.
But the EcoBoost produces 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. It packs plenty of gusto compared to the Tacoma’s 2.7-liter inline-four, which makes only 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. Buyers who want a Tacoma that can keep up with the Ranger will have to upgrade to its 3.5-liter V6 that makes 278 hp. But with 265 lb-ft of torque, the V6 Taco still falls short of the Ranger.
The Ranger’s refined 10-speed automatic transmission downshifts and upshifts when it’s supposed to. The Tacoma offers a six-speed transmission in both manual and automatic gearboxes. While a six-speed transmission isn’t in itself a bad thing, the Ranger’s additional gears help to improve the truck’s fuel economy.
Fuel efficiency is another way that the Ranger surpasses the Tacoma, thanks again to the Ranger’s EcoBoost engine and its more modern transmission. It gets 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, with 23 mpg combined. The 4WD version doesn’t take away from fuel economy, either, with 20 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 22 combined.
By comparison, gas mileage for the four-cylinder Tacoma is slightly lower at 20 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, with 21 mpg combined. The V6 Tacoma, interestingly enough, does about as well as the four-cylinder with 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 21 combined.
Towing and hauling
The Ford Ranger’s torquey engine also delivers in trailering capacity. With a tow rating of 7,500 pounds regardless of the cab style or drivetrain, the Ford Ranger is among the best in its class.
The only other mid-size trucks that rival it in towing are GM’s diesel-powered Colorado and Canyon and the Jeep Gladiator. The four-cylinder Tacoma can tow a middling 3,500 pounds and the V6 version is rated at 6,800 pounds.
Payload capacity is another area where the Ranger excels. With a 4X2 drivetrain, it carries 1,860 pounds, putting it ahead of the competition. The 4X4 has a payload of 1,560 pounds. In contrast, the 4X2 Tacoma’s payload is 1,505 pounds and the 4X4 carries 1,340 pounds.
It also doesn’t help with the Taco’s payload that it’s truck bed is only 41.5 inches wide, either. The Ranger’s bed measures 44.8 inches wide.
The Ranger’s cabin lacks flair and freshness, which is a slight downside that won’t show up in the specs. Materials and design are unimpressive at the lower trim levels. The Tacoma’s interior is plainer yet, though, perhaps because of Toyota’s heavy focus on offroading with this truck.
But what the Ranger lacks in style, it makes up in practicality and relative comfort. The front seats are well-bolstered and feel good. More adult-sized passengers riding in the back seat will appreciate the 34.5 inches of legroom in the Ranger SuperCrew, as compared to the Tacoma Double Cab’s 32.6 inches.
And the Ranger has optional tech features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that drivers expect as well as a USB port and WiFi hotspot as standard. You’ll have to wait for the 2020 Tacoma to get those features because earlier model years don’t have them.
The last metric where the Ford Ranger and the Toyota Tacoma differ is the price. The Ranger starts at $24,300 and can top out near $40,000 for a fully-optioned, top-of-the-line Lariat trim level. The starting price for the Tacoma is $25,850. But the top trim level TRD Pro starts at $42,810.
So, if you want a mid-size truck that offers both a powerful engine and good value, the Ford Ranger has just the right metrics.