Cars.com graphic by Paul Dolan
There it sat in my driveway, resplendent in brilliant Lightning Blue paint, a new 2019 Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 4×4 SuperCrew. That's a mouthful, to be sure, but I had a road trip ahead of me, so my big question was this: What gas mileage does a new Ford Ranger get in the real world? It was equipped with four full doors, part-time four-wheel drive, an utterly fantastic 2.3-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine and 10-speed automatic transmission (just like a Ford Mustang) and the FX4 Off-Road Package, which amps up the Ranger's dirt-rompin' capabilities.
My weekend destination was downtown Toronto, Canada, the biggest city in Ontario province. Good food, fun bars and a big, empty-bed, round-trip slog along the ungodly boring Ontario Highway 401 from Windsor, just across the border from Detroit, up to the multicultural lakeside metropolis. To Toronto and back to Ann Arbor (just outside Detroit), the voyage was 566 miles using cruise control for nearly 80 percent of the trip with the remaining 20 percent comprised of urban stop-and-go driving. What was the Ranger's fuel economy? Calculated from the pump, it was 17.8 mpg combined, which was less than the 19.0 mpg that the Ranger's trip computer said we were getting. Both were considerably less than the Ranger 4×4's EPA ratings of 20/24/22 mpg city/highway/combined.
Yikes. How could it be so far off the ratings? Tires were inflated to proper specs, the 18-gallon fuel tank was filled with the recommended 87-octane, climate control was activated and set to 68 degrees, and I kept the automatic cruise control set to no more than 75 mph. Well, as the old saying goes, your mileage may vary — and a few key factors contributed to mine varying considerably.
Conditions were less than ideal — it was chilly, but not terribly cold, with the truck's thermometer reading about 40 degrees. Of bigger concern was the steady 10-15-mph headwind, which changed direction two days later and continued to be a headwind as we returned from Toronto to Ann Arbor. Payload consisted of me and my better half plus luggage for two — about 550 pounds of people and gear.
Headwinds should account for some of this discrepancy, but speed was never above 70-75 mph. We suspected this test truck's FX4 Off-Road Package may have had something to do with the poor fuel economy performance — the all-terrain Hankook Dynapro AT-M off-road tires that came with the package look chunky and sticky, so great for traversing trails but terrible when serenely cruising down the highways of North America. The final drive ratio doesn't change from the base Ranger when you specify the FX4 package (it only ever comes with a 3.73:1 gear), so that wasn't a factor.
A Ford spokesperson confirmed that the EPA ratings for the Ranger are based on the highest volume model, which is the XLT SuperCrew, not the Lariat FX4 we were driving. So yes, the rolling resistance of the chunky all-terrain tires and the lack of a front air dam on the off-road model were indeed factors in our test. But with all the highway driving we did, aerodynamics was the biggest factor — overcoming wind resistance gets exponentially harder the faster you go. With our 10-15-mph constant headwind all the way to and from Toronto, Ford suggested that realistically the engine was spinning as if the truck was going 85-90 mph. That would indeed suck down gasoline at a greatly increased rate.
This is not the only time we've failed to see the EPA-rated gas mileage with the Ranger, however. Another time the Ranger Lariat 4×4 FX4 SuperCrew came up short on its highway mileage rating was in our comparison with the , though it did take the overall win.
A follow-up test is definitely in order with a different Ranger, the volume-leader XLT, on a nicer day. Given the extraordinary environmental conditions and the disadvantage the FX4 Off-Road version has versus its more conventional on-road versions, we're going to call this test a "to be continued" result as far as extracting the EPA-rated fuel economy from the Ranger.
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