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Summertime Radness: 2019 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 Test Drive

There’s a definite theme to the photo gallery for the 2019 Ford Ranger on the Blue Oval’s website: fun outdoors. One picture shows the Ranger with a rack holding two kayaks above the cargo box. In another shot, a surfer in a wetsuit is loading his board onto his Ranger’s rack. There’s also a photo of a Ranger and a trailer on the shore of a river and two fishermen getting their rods and inflatable dinghy ready for their trip downstream.

In the video section of the Ranger page, you’ll see people using the midsize truck to go mountain biking, snowboarding, and even camping – in a tent mounted over the bed (I’ll tell you all about what that’s like in an upcoming review of the Ranger XL). So when I reserved a 2019 Ranger Lariat ($44,960 as tested) to review for this site, I knew what I had to do.

2019 Ford Ranger

2019 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 Exterior

It arrived in my driveway wearing Lightning Blue paint and red and gray letters on its back fenders that read “FX4.” Those meant my test truck was ready for action away from paved roads. The FX4 Off-Road Package makes the Ranger more capable in the rough and protects it from Mother Nature by adding features such as an off-road tuned suspension, 265/65 Hankook Dynapro tires, a locking rear differential, and skid plates that guard the front differential, fuel tank, and transfer case.

Ford added some form to that function by ticking the box for the Sport Appearance Package. That includes cosmetic upgrades such as “Magnetic” front and rear bumpers, grille surround, and 17-inch wheels.

2019 Ford Ranger

My press loaner’s five-foot cargo box didn’t have any special racks or a sleeping space above it, but that didn’t stop me, my girlfriend Eli, and my pal Dan from hitting the great outdoors. Once Eli and I got to Dan’s apartment, I lowered the Ranger’s tailgate and helped Dan load his nine-foot kayak into the lined bed at an angle. The kayak was heavy enough to hold itself down, but just to be sure it didn’t go anywhere once we were on the move, Dan and I bungee-corded it into place using the cargo box’s conveniently placed tie-down anchors.

2019 Ford Ranger

2019 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 Interior

We had a few bungee straps left over, so I opened one of the back doors and lifted the bench seat up. Doing that revealed two storage compartments that offered more than enough room for the cargo I had to hide away. I flipped the seat back into place so Dan could jump in, then I climbed behind the wheel, and we all headed to Lady Bird Lake so Dan could get in some time (and upper body exercise) on the water and Eli and I could walk the nearby nature trail. The intense Texas heat and draining humidity made me lament the fact that my test vehicle had unventilated black leather seats, but one push of the Max A/C button cooled the cabin off quickly enough. Ford equipped my weekend wheels with the Technology Package, which instantly made the rough and tough truck feel more comfortable by adding the convenience of adaptive cruise control and navigation running on an eight-inch touchscreen.

2019 Ford Ranger

The back of the center console didn’t have any HVAC vents in it for Dan to use. Fortunately, the cab is compact enough that the cool air from the dashboard vents had no problem reaching him. Although the back row of the Ranger was a little snug, Dan didn’t complain about legroom. I think I know why. We’re both about 5’10”. I left the driver’s seat adjusted to my height, then sat directly behind it. I had more legroom than I had initially expected because the backs of the front seats have a cavity in them that frees up rear-seat legroom. Dan also learned a lesson back there: If you want to lower the center armrest so you can put one of your drinks in the cupholder, grab the little loop at the top of the armrest, then pull directly out and down. And do it hard. If you just pull down on the loop, that armrest will stay in place and you’ll have to hold your cold drink between your knees.

2019 Ford Ranger

The day after our time by the lake, Eli and I decided we’d go cool off at the Barton Springs Pool. We threw my uninflated floating lounge and her uninflated giant palm frond float into the back of the Ranger, then headed to a gas station to air them up. Eli’s float nearly filled the bed. To ensure that it didn’t fly out and onto the highway, I secured it with some straps and the bed’s cleats. I had to slightly bend my lounge to fit between the Ranger’s two rear doors. It wasn’t the best fit in the world, but I didn’t care as long as I could get it to the water fully inflated. The trip was a success. After a long week, Eli and I cooled off in the roughly 70-degree water. The only thing missing was a pair of umbrella drinks.

2019 Ford Ranger

2019 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 Performance

The Ranger’s engine helped me enjoy the time I spent getting to our summer fun destinations. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder power plant generates 270 horsepower and a stout 310 lb-ft of torque, which it routes through a 10-speed automatic. Ford’s calculations show that a Lariat SuperCrew with four-wheel drive can carry a payload of 1,560 pounds (how many pool floats is that?) and pull up to 7,500 pounds of trailer and cargo. According to the EPA, a Ranger just like the one I tested can get 20 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg combined.*

Two major hardware/software parts of the FX4 Off-Road Package are Ford’s Terrain Management System (TMS) and Trail Control technology. Pushing a button in the middle of the transfer case’s control dial cycles through TMS’s various modes, which adjust a variety of the Ranger’s settings so it can best handle pavement (in the Normal setting), grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand.

Trail Control works as a sort of off-road cruise control. You set a speed between one and 20 mph and Trail Control manages the throttle and braking to keep that speed. All you need to do is worry about your steering. If my go-to off-road park wasn’t an hour away from me and closed on the weekends, I would’ve been able to put both of those to good use. But I’m not going to complain about getting a chance to relax and cool off.

2019 Ford Ranger

2019 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 Safety

Aside from adaptive cruise control, my Ranger test truck didn’t have any upgraded safety features. It didn’t really need them, anyway. It came standard with a forward sensing system, lane keeping assistance, a pre-collision function with automatic emergency braking, and blind spot/cross-traffic monitoring.

2019 Ford Ranger

2019 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 Overall

If you want a 2019 Ranger so you can go enjoy the rest of summer with your friends and family, don’t overthink it. Even without a bunch of special equipment, it can help you soak up the sun or cool off in the water. Put on your flip-flops and head to your local AutoNation Ford dealership to find it. Prices start at $24,300.**

*Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

**MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

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