Behind the Wheel

2020 Ford Ranger Review: Hitting many high notes but we can’t name the tune

The Ford Ranger is a solid entry into the midsize truck segment

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Chevrolet Colorado is a good working man's truck. Want a step up? Get the GMC Canyon. Toyota's aging Tacoma is built for reliably tooling around. The Nissan Frontier is anxiously awaiting an upgrade while the Honda Ridgeline is busy being the best-kept secret of the segment. The Jeep Gladiator is the Wrangler of trucks.

What is the Ford Ranger besides just a slot-filler for the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker? A week behind the wheel would surely sort that out. Surely.

2019 Ford Ranger Not much changed on the Ranger between the 2019 and 2020 model years. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

As tested, the 2020 Ford Ranger Lariat is a top-tier option that starts at $38,675 but had a number of add-ons driving the price up to just under $46,000 all-in. While the exterior isn't particularly striking sans lift or beefy tires, the Ranger is, by most accounts, a reasonable looking truck. It's certainly not nearly as polarizing as the Ridgeline.

In the Lariat trim level, the Ranger comes with a long list of desirable features including LED headlamps and fog lamps, front tow hooks, cargo box tie-downs, power-folding side mirrors, and approach lights. The interior features list includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a 110-volt power outlet, cruise control, Ford MyKey, push-button start, eight-way power-adjustable driver and passenger heated seats, and flip-up rear bench storage.

In its cabin, the Ranger begins to show more of its true colors. The truck's dashboard and center console design earn Ford a solid "alright" in terms of design and appointments. It's all functional though not particularly modern and without any revolutionary components. The 8.0-inch touch screen infotainment system, 4.2-inch driver's information display, and steering wheel date the model more than anything else - and that's saying a lot in a segment where the Tacoma and Frontier live.

2020 Ford Ranger The wheel of the Ranger is a bit dated in its appearance, but completely funtional.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

That's not to say that the Ranger's interior doesn't have a lot to like. The Medium Stone leather-trimmed seats were comfortable and the front row's seat design allow the driver and passenger great visibility.

Ford also gets points for its strong 270-horsepower, 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine. That's the same engine that will power the new Bronco - the two are manufactured at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. The engine is paired with the same 10-speed automatic transmission that's is in the F-150 and proves to be just as smooth in the Ranger as in its big brother.

Operation of the switchgear inside the cabin is just as smooth. There's not particularly special about the buttons, knobs, and dials, but they do the job without much hassle.

In their most off-road proficient variety, the Colorado and Tacoma are forces to be reckoned with. The Ranger, though capable off-road, doesn't come in the ultra-proficient Ranger Raptor variant in the U.S. that is sold globally, and that's a shame. So, we're left with the more pedestrian variety and some available add-on packages. Still, it's a good daily driver leaving the average customer little to complain about.

2019 Ford Ranger The interior of the Ranger is not as outdated as the Frontier's, but it's not the most modern either.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

None of this moves one any closer to deciphering what the 2020 Ranger is. But, what if that's the magic of it? The Ranger doesn't have a defining characteristic or package or specialty. This U.S. model is a well-rounded machine that quickly leaves the impression that maybe what this Ranger is, is really good.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

General Motors has launched a new business initiative, BrightDrop.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is expanding its business offerings to include first-to-last mile delivery solutions for delivery and logistics companies. The new business is called BrightDrop and will offer its own all-electric vehicles and software solutions beginning in early 2021.

"BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services," said Mary Barra GM Chairman and CEO. "We are building on our significant expertise in electrification, mobility applications, telematics and fleet management, with a new one-stop-shop solution for commercial customers to move goods in a better, more sustainable way."

GM estimates that by 2025, the combined market opportunity for parcel, food delivery and reverse logistics in the U.S. will be over $850 billion. According to the World Economic Forum, demand for urban last-mile delivery, fueled by e-commerce, is expected to grow by 78 percent by 2030, leading to a 36 percent increase in delivery vehicles in the world's top 100 cities. At the same time, this increase in demand is expected to cause delivery-related carbon emissions to rise by nearly one-third.

To take advantage of these market opportunities, BrightDrop is developing an integrated set of solutions. BrightDrop will initially serve customers in the U.S. and Canada.

BrightDrop EP1

BrightDrop EP1

Photo courtesy of General Motors

The BrightDrop EP1 will be the company's first product to market. It will be a propulsion-assisted, electric pallet developed to easily move goods over short distances. It can reduce package touch points, costs, and physical strain on delivery drivers. It has built-in electric hub motors with adjustable speed up to 3 mph, the ability to secure and carry approximately 23 total cubic feet of cargo, a 200-pound payload capacity, adjustable shelving, lockable cabinet doors, and tight space maneuverability.

An EP1 pilot program has been completed in partnership with FedEx Express. During the pilot, FedEx Express couriers were able to handle 25 percent more packages per day when using the EP1s. FedEx Express couriers shared feedback that the EP1s were easy to maneuver and reduced physical strain.

The BrightDrop EP1 will be available early this year.

BrightDrop EV600

BrightDrop EV600

Photo courtesy of General Motors

The BrightDrop EV600 will be the company's second product to market. It's an electric light commercial vehicle that will be purpose-built on GM's Ultium platform for the delivery of goods and services with up to 250 miles of range. It has a peak charge rate of up to 170 miles of EV range per hour via 120 kilowatt DC fast charging.

The vehicle also has 600 cubic feet of cargo area, a cargo area security system with motion sensors, auto-open cargo bulkhead door, wide cabin walkways, and front sliding pocket doors. It is available at a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds.

GM is installing a number of safety features in the vehicle including front and rear park assist, automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, following distance indicator, front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and a high-definition rearview camera. It comes with a 13.4-innch full-color infotainment screen.

The EV600 is set to take on the 2022 Ford E-Transit, which has a targeted range of 126 miles. GM will deliver the first EV600 models by the end of the this year. BrightDrop expects to make the EV600s available to more customers to order starting in early 2022.

Software-enabled services

BrightDrop app

Photo courtesy of General Motors

In addition to vehicles, BrightDrop offers an integrated, cloud-based software platform, which provides customers visibility and access to their BrightDrop products through both web and mobile interfaces. Built-in connectivity provides businesses with detailed data and insights that can help improve overall operations, including route efficiency, asset utilization and product upgrades. Drivers and couriers can utilize the mobile application for a variety of tasks.

Ford offers something similar with its Ford Telematics data system for Transit fleet owners.

FedEx Express is slated to be the first customer of the EV600, receiving their vehicles later this year.

Future product

​GM says that EP1 and EV600 are just the beginning. The business is committed to growing its product offerings to include a portfolio of integrated, zero-emissions products. Among the concepts currently being explored are a medium-distance solution that transports multiple EP1s, and a rapid load delivery vehicle.

BrightDrop will establish a customer support team to assist with every aspect of operating and servicing BrightDrop products, including supporting charging and infrastructure installation, advising on upfitting services, and retrofitting a current fleet vehicle to integrate with BrightDrop products. BrightDrop support services will also assist with maintenance needs, including securing parts and scheduling repairs.

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A new ad puts DJ D-Nice in the driver's seat of a 2021 Ford F-150.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

A new ad campaign from Ford Motor Company taps into a bit of hip hop history for its latest TV spot promoting the 2021 Ford F-150. The commercial features Derrick Jones, better known by his stage name D-Nice, a legendary music artist, producer and DJ in its main role.

Jones's history doesn't go as far back as Ford's, but there's some notable entries that fans of pre-Diddy hip hop will look fondly on. The Harlem and Bronx native formed Boogie Down Productions in 1986. He soon signed a deal with Jive Records and his debut record featured collaborations by KRS-One, Naughty by Nature, and Too Short.

In the late 90s and early 2000s Jones transferring out of the music world, forming a creative services company. In March 2020, Jones began hosting "Homeschool at Club Quarantine" on Instagram Live. He won a Webby Award for the effort.

The All-New 2021 F-150: Work It Out | Ford (:30) www.youtube.com

"The 'More Than Tough' campaign recognizes and celebrates the spirit of American ingenuity," said Dibrie Guerrero, multicultural marketing manager, Ford Motor Company. "By developing many innovative features to accommodate the diverse needs of its F-150 owners, Ford elevates what's possible with a little creativity and the right pickup truck."

The "Work It Out" 3-second television spot airs today on OWN, BET and TV One. It features Jones driving to a gig in a 2021 F-150 filled with DJ equipment. Respecting social distancing rules and his responsibilities toward masking up, D-Nice brings the party to the partygoers, utilizing the F-150's available Pro Power Onboard generator to run his equipment.

The ad runs with the hip-hop classic "Call Me D-Nice" serving as the soundtrack.

"Being tough has new meaning to me after partying in Club Quarantine with some of the strongest people I have ever met," said D-Nice. "I'm proud to help introduce the all-new 2021 Ford F-150 that they built tougher to take your hustle to the next level."

The new F-150 has unique features including a fold-out work self, fold-down shifter, tailgate with designated clamp-down areas, and the on-board generator.

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