2021 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4 review
In today's truck world, mid-size means big — just not huge like a "full-size" pickup.
Case in point the mid-size Ford Ranger, which is actually two-plus inches longer and has a wheelbase seven inches longer than a full-size F-150 pickup had 20 years ago. That’s how much trucks have grown.
Friends and neighbors laughed when I told them the Ranger was Ford’s mid-size, noting it looks like a full-size pickup, or at least how it used to look. They were right.
It also didn’t help that this SuperCrew in mid-level XLT trim also piled on the Tremor package for $4,290. It’s an off-roading package for folks who put their $40+ grand romper through the mud bogs of the world. It also pushes a moderately priced pickup to (in this case) $44,430. That’s way more than my first house cost.
Now I don’t mean to pick on the Tremor, or the Ranger, as Ford is about to launch its new Maverick compact pickup to take the place of what used to be its compact Ranger (got that?) a few years back. Maverick will likely fit more budgets and at least look like a smaller pickup.
But the Ranger is tall and long at 210.8 inches compared with a 2001 F150 at 208 inches long. Ground clearance is 8.9 inches with this 4WD version, and we might as well get the Tremor package listing out of the way as it loads up the truck for serious off-roading.
Tremor includes (and I’ll skip a few minor trim and floor liner upgrades) an off-road suspension with Fox (high-end) shocks, Continental General Grabber R-17 off-road tires (noisy on the highway), snazzy step-like running boards, electric locking differential, front differential, fuel tank and transfer case skid plates to avoid damage off road, a terrain management system, upfitter (Ford’s word) switches, and rear tow hook.
I took the truck to a mild off-roading area and it took the big dips and humps with ease and it’s easy to turn the dial on the console for four-wheeling. That little excursion also tweaked something in the cab’s rear, so a rattle ensued thereafter even on smooth pavement.
While the off-roading suspension is tuned well for ditch banging, it’s mighty bouncy on city streets with railroad track crossings and dips or expansion joint spaces seeming to be the biggest bounce producers. Not real comfy for town driving, but stellar on smooth highways.
Aiding that is its quick steering, for a large, er mid-size, pickup. The steering weight is dead-on and easy to handle while parking is simple because the truck turns into tight spaces so well. The Ranger is an easy driver, just a rough rider.
As far as power goes there’s only one choice, but it’s solid. The 2.3-liter Ecoboost turbo I4 delivers an impressive 270 horsepower with a 310 torque rating. That makes Ranger quicker off the line than you might anticipate with a bigger truck. Gas mileage is only rated at 19 mpg city and highway with the Tremor edition, but I managed 20.8 and was a bit heavier on city driving. The computer insisted I was getting 23 mpg.
Power comes quickly and easily without too much engine noise, which seems improved since my last Ranger eval a few years ago. Its 10-speed automatic tranny is a smooth operator, too.
Folks wanting this off-roader to also be a towing machine will be pleased that it can pull 7,500 pounds and has a payload of 1,860 pounds. That’s segment-leading and currently only Nissan’s Frontier offers more horsepower at 310.
I should remind you that this was the SuperCrew version, which means it has four full-size doors and a roomy rear seat that will easily hold two or three adults. With two they can use the fold-down armrest/cupholders.
The SuperCab is basically the old extended cab with little rear half doors that fold backward and small rear seats that are cramped for anything other than a short haul or miniature people. The benefit of the SuperCab is that it has a full 6-foot bed while the SuperCrew’s bed is just 5-feet. So if you need to haul stuff it’s SuperCab, if you need to haul family then it's the SuperCrew.
On the pricing front the SuperCrew costs about $2,000 more and 4WD adds roughly $4,000 to any configuration.
On to the interior.
First, Tremor adds spiffy step-like running boards that provide easy step-ups for front or rear passengers, but these are better than the old solid bars. A smart and useful design, they are wider and easier to step on even when wet, plus open to let water and muck slide through.
The snazzy Velocity Blue (bright metallic blue) Ranger doesn’t go wild with interior design — it's pretty straightforward and usable. There are red and gray Tremor logos on the seat backs, but the rest is black leather with gray stitching on the seats and black cloth inserts in the doors.
Door release and air vents are a smoked chrome while the console is flat black as is the dash and door trim.
The info screen is moderately sized but an easy touchscreen to use while the main instrument panel gauges were analog with turquoise needles that were incredibly easy to see. Radio volume and tune knobs are large and the climate controls are simple to figure out. Everything was easy to use while driving — not distracting like digital touchpads, etc.
Atop the dash are six auxiliary switches that can be programmed to use with accessories such as big over-cab lights, a wench, etc. That’s part of the Tremor package.
Safety equipment is sound as the XLT trim adds Co-Pilot 360 (Ford’s safety system with blind-spot warning) a trailer tow monitor, park sensors, the eight-inch screen and both WiFi hot spots and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Supposedly it adds lane-keep assist, but I didn’t see that on the tester and frankly was happy to not have it. It’s mostly an annoyance around town and obviously would need to be switched off when off-roading, like the parking sensors. I forgot to switch those off initially and crazy-making beeping ensued as I drove through tall grass.
A technology package for $995 added smart cruise control, a navigation system and forward sensing.
Seating is another Ranger strong point, as these seats provide excellent lower back, kidney and hip support. However, the seats are manual and not heated. The driver’s seat included a handle on the side to raise and lower it.
This mid-level Ranger also fell short on a few other items I would expect at $40 grand plus, such as push-button start. Not here, Ranger uses the old switchblade-like key. Unfortunately the tester’s key blade stuck in the fob and had to be pried out each time it was used.
There also was no wireless phone charger, just plug-ins, and the tailgate flops down like a soccer player looking for a penalty. Most tailgates now have an easy-lower mechanism that slowly deploys so as not to smack you as they fold down. Smartly there was a spray-in bedliner for $495.
Pricing is all over the place for the Ranger, starting at a low-ball $26,000 for the base XL SuperCab with RWD. This XLT with the SuperCrew and 4WD listed at $35,940, including delivery. After all the options, including $750 for Tremor graphics (pricey stickers) and a few other goodies, it hit $44,430.
I know that seems high for a “mid-size” pickup if you haven’t shopped for one as of late, but the full-size ones easily go for $50,000 - $70,000.
As it is, the Ranger is a good competitor for the top-selling Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado and its cousin the GMC Canyon, plus the new Frontier and Honda Ridgeline.
Overview: 2021 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Hits: Good towing power, quick acceleration, easy handling, dial-in 4WD, and roomy enough for four to five people. Co-Pilot safety system, handy side steps, bedliner, six auxiliary dash switches, comfy supportive seats. Solid off-road ability.
Misses: Extremely bouncy ride, no heated seats, no push-button start, no easy-lower tailgate, no wireless charger. Only a five-foot bed, tire noise on highway, tester had rattle in rear of cab, and switchblade key is hard to open.
Made in: Wayne, Mich.
Engine: 2.3-liter turbo Ecoboost I4, 270 hp
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Weight: 4.650 lbs.*
Wheelbase: 126.8 in.
Length: 210.8 in.
Cargo bed: 5-foot
Tow: 7,500 lbs.
Payload: 1,860 lbs.
Base Price: $35,940 (includes delivery)
Major Options: Equipment group 301A (auto, day/night mirror, 110-volt power outlet, reverse sensing, leather shifter and steering wheel covers, sport appearance package), $1,670
Tremor off-road package (see story), $4,290
Technology package (adaptive cruise control, navigation, forward sensing), $995
Spray-in bedliner, $495
Tremor graphics, $750
Remote start, $195
SecuriCode keypad, $95
Test vehicle: $44,430
Editor's Note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.