CHATHAM, Mass. – Sometimes a five or six-foot bed, 7,500-pound towing capacity and room for up to five passengers is all a pickup-truck buyer needs, so Ford two years ago expanded its pickup line to include the mid-size Ranger.

There was a time when mid-size – originally dubbed compact — pickups were prominent, but as they grew closer to the size of their larger brethren upon each new iteration, consumers shifted overwhelmingly to full-size trucks. Stiff competition in that segment led to even larger full-size variants which then produced a demand for something a bit smaller, more economical, yet still capable of pickup-truck activities.

For about 30 years until 2012 Ford offered the Ranger as part of what then was known as a compact pickup segment. The model was dropped due to lessening demand, but some seven years later as consumer desires for pickups of all sizes increased, the seller of America’s most popular full-size pickup, the F-Series, brought back the Ranger name. This was Ford’s move to to seize a place in a resurgent mid-size segment filled with the likes of Toyota (class leader), Nissan, Honda, Jeep, Chevrolet and GMC).

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Co-Pilot 360 ADAS help solve congested road conditions

A week of driving the 2021 Ford Ranger Supercrew XL 4X4 reaffirmed my feelings that a mid-size pickup is just the right size for daily driving through the congested towns and villages of Cape Cod in the summer. With the summer population exploding on the Cape, it was reassuring having less truck to maneuver as well as having the help from the (optional on this trim level) Ford Co-Pilot 360 package of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).

This collection of ADAS brings:

  • Auto-High Beam Headlamps
  • BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) w/Cross-Traffic Alert and Trailer Tow Monitoring
  • Lane-Keeping System (Lane-Keeping Aid, Lane-Keeping Alert and Driver Alert System
  • Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) (Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning, Dynamic Brake Support)
  • Rear View Camera

These features are becoming common in modern vehicles, but their significance, especially when driving pickup trucks with limited sightlines, cannot be understated. Features like the blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alerts and pedestrian detection are major safety enhancements, especially under congested conditions.

The lane-keep system provides subtle, but clear, haptic vibration signals when the Ranger drifts over lane markers, thus not disturbing passengers while ensuring the driver is adequately warned of this transgression.

The Ranger SuperCrew XL is not a luxury vehicle but equipped with the STX Special Edition and STX Special Appearance packages, it contains a comprehensive suite of comfort and convenience features for the up-to-five passengers.

The eight-inch color screen offers touch controls for the vehicle systems along with the dash and steering-wheel controls for infotainment, the dual-zone automatic climate-control system, and ADAS. Voice activation can supplement these tactile buttons, switches, screen and knobs as well as calling either Siri through the included Apple CarPlay (which is joined by Android Auto).

Also part of the infotainment system are SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming audio.

Eight-way manual adjustability for the driver’s seat (six for front passenger) along with a tilting and telescoping steering wheel allows the driver to find a suitable driving position.

Once in position, the driving experience is a positive one overall. Ride with the five-foot bed empty can be a bit rough – a typical pickup-truck characteristic; but it is not unduly so – I never wanted to shorten my ride because of how the suspension treated me.

Other factors of the ride are just fine – the cabin is relatively quiet allowing the infotainment system to do its job; the seats are comfortable and the view from the large windows all around is excellent.

All truck under the skin

The Ford Ranger SuperCrew XL is all pickup truck with a traditional body-on-frame setup. The frame is high-strength steel with a short- and long-arm independent front suspension with tubular stabilizer bar, and Hotchkiss-type live rear suspension with leaf springs and outboard shock absorbers.

Stopping and vehicle-control is provided by power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes with four-sensor, four-channel antilock braking system and AdvanceTrac® electronic stability control. The front brakes feature 12.24- x 1.33-inch rotors, 2.0-inch twin piston calipers and non-asbestos organic pads, while the rears are 12.12- x 0.94-inch discs, 2.12-inch single piston calipers and non-asbestos organic pads.

These operate within (as part of the STX package) unique 18-inch black aluminum wheels shod with 265/60R18 A/T tires.

Making this all go is Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost® four-cylinder engine with Auto Start-Stop. Turbocharging helps push the motor’s horsepower to 270 with 310 pounds-feet of torque, with this power getting to the road through an automatic 10-speed transmission and, in the truck I drove, part-time four-wheel-drive system.

Considering all these factors – high-riding (8.9-inch ground clearance, 71.5-inches high), weight (4,441 pounds), boxy/truck shape, rugged design, excellent power – I expected mediocre fuel-economy figures. The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2021 Ranger SuperCrew XL at 22 miles per gallon overall (20 in the city, 24 on the highway); I was very pleasantly surprised to see the mpg meter in the truck never dip below 24 throughout my week, actually averaging closer to 25!

I never drove the truck trying to squeeze the next mile from a gallon of gas. Traffic congestion coupled with bursts of acceleration, when possible, normally wreak havoc on fuel-economy figures. The bottom line on this is Ford’s engineers have really worked their magic to make this a very reasonable truck with which to live.

Living with the Ranger SuperCrew XL

Living with the 2021 Ford Ranger SuperCrew XL is something I could deal with. Generally, as much as I have enjoyed some of the full-size pickups I have sampled in the last year (especially the all-new 2021 Ford F-150), they are generally a bit on the large size for me to envision as my every-day driver here on Cape Cod.

The combination of size, economy (in addition to the superb mileage numbers, this very-well equipped mid-size Ranger carried a very competitive price of $37,205 – a lot of truck for the money) and versatility would allow it to fit into my lifestyle quite easily and comfortably.

Next week TBR Drives the MINI Cooper convertible.