We now have two all-new vehicles on the market, and we got both for a test drive, starting with the Ford Ranger. Actually, this has been sold in other countries for about eight years but was modified to be offered here for 2019.
The Ranger only comes with one engine, a 2.3-liter EcoBoost rated at 270 horsepower. It’s hooked to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Ours had the FX4 off-road package. It includes three drive modes and a computer system for driving in mud, sand, grass, rocks or normal roads. Maximum tow rating is 7,500 pounds, with 1,860 cargo in the bed.
We racked up 500 miles in all conditions, on and off the road. With that turbo engine and 10 gears, this truck moves out in a hurry. Fuel economy ranged from 17 to 24 mpg. With 9 inches of ground clearance and computer drive modes, our off-pavement trips had lots of potential.
The cabin is nothing fancy, but all controls are simple and easy to use. Even with the SuperCab four-door design, interior space is still cramped, especially for passengers in the back.
I really liked this truck, but getting one at a good price will be tricky. On paper it starts at $24K for the base two-wheel drive compared to $28K for the huge F-150 full-size truck. Loaded up, our tab was $41K. But while Ford offers big discounts to full-size buyers, there is little discounting on the little Ranger. They are in short supply at the moment, and the bigger F-150 is actually cheaper to make due to its larger sales volume, thus it gets more discounts. Buyers will need to shop carefully.
Our next all-new vehicle is the Chevrolet Blazer. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, but we had the potent 3.6-liter six rated at 305 horsepower. It moves this vehicle out with authority. In fact, the handling, steering and brake performance was very impressive. Not only does it have sharp-looking Camaro styling, but it drives like one. It also has enough ground clearance to go off road, which we did. The base price is right, starting about $28K. But dealers are loading them up, and my $51K total tab is not unusual.
We did have two complaints. First, like most cars today, there is a “Start/Stop” system that shuts the engine off at a stoplight to save fuel. Most vehicles have a disconnect button to turn this off if desired. Sadly, such a device isn’t on this vehicle. Given the number of drivers who dislike this feature, it makes no sense not to offer an off switch. Also, the radio has AVC, or automatic volume control. This raises or lowers the volume depending on vehicle speed. Again, almost all vehicles have an off switch, but the Blazer does not. This is a shame, because these are the only two potential gripes on what is otherwise a very nice SUV. But if Start/Stop and AVC doesn’t bother you, I say go ahead.
Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.