The Ford Ranger was a popular choice with midsize truck buyers for many years before its retirement in 2011, and many Ford truck fans were excited about the triumphant return of a well-loved classic in 2019. With a new style for its old nameplate, the Ford Ranger had returned to compete for a new audience, and compete it did. In the first quarter of 2020, sales of this midsize truck had more than doubled from the first quarter sales totals of 2019. Over the course of its second model year, the Ranger surpassed annual sales of the Chevy Colorado to become the second most popular midsize truck on the market after the long-running Toyota Tacoma. Ford is continuing to improve the Ranger for the upcoming model year, so it is time to dig into the changes between the 2021 Ford Ranger vs 2020 Ford Ranger.
While many midsize trucks tend to have low tow ratings, the new Ford Ranger has a surprisingly capable engine and a capable trailering package. The interior is laid out in a functional and fairly intuitive design, with the instrument cluster and center stack both having user-friendly interfaces. Seats for front passengers are comfortable and have powered accessories, while the back seats for the different cabs will vary in capacity. Exterior appearance from 2020 to 2021 has remained largely the same, but there are some exciting new styling and paint options to make your truck stand out.
Otherwise, the Ranger sets itself apart from the F-series trucks with its own style of grille, fenders, and headlights. In upper trims, the Ranger will be decked out with LED lights, heated side mirrors, a chrome grille, and an auto-locking tailgate with the option for running boards and a chrome tip exhaust. Unlike some midsize competitors such as the Honda Ridgeline and Jeep Gladiator, which are only available with a crew cab and a short bed, the Ranger offers buyers the choice of an extended cab and a long bed for improved truck capabilities.
Engine and Performance
Will the engine change for 2021 Ranger models? In short, no. In 2020 models, the Ranger is equipped with a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a well-received 10-speed automatic transmission. That will continue to be the case for 2021. This engine makes 270 hp with 310 lb-ft of torque, which allows for a maximum towing capacity of a whopping 7,500 lbs. It’s also worth noting that the Ranger has a class-best payload capacity of 1,860 lbs, which is most impressive for a truck of this size. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and four-wheel drive is optional for all trims in both 2020 and 2021 models.
With both the 2020 and 2021 models, a ground clearance of 8.4 inches is standard for rear-wheel drive, while four-wheel drive offers 8.9 inches of clearance. This is important to take into account if you plan on taking your truck off-road, as this extra clearance will help make the Ranger less likely to scrape the undercarriage in rough terrain. Adding the Terrain Management System will further improve off-road capability through the addition of selectable terrain drive modes.
Towing will be a snap with the Ranger’s comparably tough engine and the Trailer Tow Package. Available with every trim, this package includes a class four hitch and a 4/7 connector, though all trims will come standard with provisions for adding these features later. Both the 2020 and 2021 Ranger XLT and Lariat come standard with the Ford CoPilot 360 safety package, which includes the Blind Spot Information System and Cross Traffic Alert to assist in keeping both the truck and trailer safe in high-traffic situations where it may be hard to see other vehicles. This package is also available as an option for the XL.
Technology on the 2020 Ranger differs from one trim to the next, but FordPass Connect, Bluetooth, and a 4G hotspot are included on every trim. FordPass Connect is a comprehensive system in its own right, with the ability to connect up to ten devices at once, and an app that allows control over certain features like remote starting, locking and unlocking, and checking maintenance items such as fluid levels and tire pressure.
The available SYNC 3 system will add an 8″ central touchscreen as well as hands-free technology for music and phone integration. For the 2020 model, the STX Appearance Package is available to add certain technology and styling features. In 2021, Ford is now offering a new STX Special Edition Package, which will offer the SYNC 3 system for additional connectivity on the base trim.
For the XLT and Lariat trims, the 8″ touchscreen comes standard, with the option to add a navigation system and a premium 10-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system. The SYNC 3 system is standard for the two upper trims, including Amazon Alexa and Waze. Once Alexa is connected to your Ford Ranger, you can share all the information and preferences of your home Alexa with your truck to play music, podcasts, read audiobooks, or keep shopping lists and reminders. Waze is an online navigation tool that shares road information from users in real-time and can be particularly useful for traffic data. This system is available in both 2020 and 2021 models.
For 2020, the Ford Ranger includes a number of safety features for all trims, such as pre-collision assist with auto emergency braking, 911 assist, a rearview camera, an airbag system, child seat tethers, AdvanceTrac with roll stability control, and curve control. Roll stability control utilizes gyroscopic sensors to maintain vehicle equilibrium and control, preventing rolling while cornering or swerving. Curve control will automatically slow down your vehicle when taking a corner too fast to maintain control. These features all come standard with the XL trim.
Bumping up to the XLT trim will include front and rear parking sensors and the addition of CoPilot 360 – a suite of safety features that includes a blind-spot information system, cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, automatic headlights, and automatic emergency braking. Though this safety suite is standard equipment for the XLT and Lariat, it is available as an option for the XL trim. All the same safety equipment available for 2020 models will also be available for 2021 Rangers.
Trims and Packages
For 2020, the Ford Ranger was offered in three trims: XL, XLT, and Lariat. These same trim levels will be available for 2021 Rangers. Off-road enthusiasts purchasing the 2020 or 2021 all-wheel drive models can opt for the off-road FX4 Package that upgrades the suspension and tires, adds skid plates and tow hooks, has a terrain management system, and offers a locking rear differential for handling those steep inclines. For rear-wheel drive models, the FX2 Package can be added to upgrade the suspension and tires, gain the locking rear differential and skid plates, and also utilize the off-road instrument cluster.
Last year, the Tremor Off-Road Package was made available only for the F-series trucks, but 2021 Rangers now will be able to take advantage of this option. The 2020 Tremor Package gave trucks significant off-road capabilities with a factory lift, improved suspension, and more. While the FX4 and FX2 packages provide a baseline off-road capability, the Tremor Package takes the Ranger to the next level.
Additional options for both the 2020 and 2021 Ranger include the choice of two bed and cab sizes, the Black Appearance Package, Sport Appearance Package, STX Appearance Package, Chrome Appearance Package, and the Trailer Tow Package. The Chrome Appearance Package will give your Ranger some bling with front and rear chrome fenders, fog lights, tow hooks, and wheel lip molding in body color hues. Adding the Sport Appearance Package will gain a magnetic surround with a black grille, magnetic bumpers, vent surrounds, wheels, and wheel lip moldings.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
There were a lot of fans of the Ranger before it was retired in 2011, and they were sad to see it go. With a reboot of the old truck, sales thus far are picking up at a decent rate. Ford knows its trucks well, with 43 years of the F-series sitting at the top of the world market, and the original Ranger leading US compact truck sales before its discontinuation. Critics have been asking for a Ranger off-road variant, and that desire has been answered with the new Tremor Package. Overall, the future is looking bright for the Ranger’s comeback.
With few changes between the 2020 and 2021 Ranger, most of the stand-outs are the packages to be added. Overall, the 2021 Ranger is keeping it simple. In a world where options are often too confusing and overwhelming, perhaps Ford is making a solid decision to give buyers a truck that’s been missed for nearly a decade. But whether you chose the 2020 model or the 2021 model, you will be rewarded with an outstanding midsize truck.