Summer is in full swing, and the adventurous heart has an action-packed itinerary full of fun outdoor activities. The thought of off-roading conjures images of giant Jeeps, big wheelers, and dune buggies. Who hasn’t pictured themselves careening down a sandy hillside, Mad Max-style, at least once? However, most of us are limited in our vision, picturing a cage-like body with comically large wheels, the kind of vehicle that has to be rented and hauled because it’s not street legal. What’s often overlooked is how easily this sort of adventuring can be had. Enter the 2022 Ford Ranger, a trust-worthy yet attainable pickup truck, versatile enough for city life, country life, and all that’s in between.
With dozens of options to customize the Ranger to your exact liking, this midsize pickup has asserted itself as one of the best in its class. These days, the pickup truck market is as diverse and cumbersome as any other vehicle style, coming in all sizes and performance abilities and widely ranging in price anywhere from a modest $20,000 all the way to six-figures. The 2022 Ford Ranger brings it back to basics by marrying value and performance and offering options that not only make off-roading possible but encouraged.
Options, Options, Options
It’s important to recognize just how versatile today’s pickups are built. While it may have once been a car for country roads and hauling equipment, pickups are not being built with the daily commuter in mind. A truck like the Ranger is small enough for city parking but sturdy enough to leave metropolitan life in the rearview and venture out to rugged terrain. It’s designed with versatility in mind, offering four-door, comfortable cabins and luxurious trim options while showcasing its strength and durability off the beaten path.
When bringing up a Ford truck, most drivers are probably thinking of the F-150, an icon in Ford’s lineup that has been hogging the pickup truck limelight for years. To give credit where credit is due, the F-150 is a powerhouse and has rightfully earned its reputation towing your RV and your fishing boat. Ford staked its claim among automakers in the business of pickup trucks. To satisfy growing demand, the F-150 spawned even bigger and stronger models like the F-250, F-350, and F-450, with a whopping towing capability of up to 37,000 lbs. But those of us who remain boat-less don’t see the need to house such a behemoth, let alone deal with its appetite for gas.
As a self-described car enthusiast, I had never considered the Ranger. But after doing some digging, it’s clear this truck is worthy of some serious stage time. Standing out from the usual midsize pickup 6-cylinder powertrain, the Range makes do with an impressive turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It’s notably the only turbo gasoline engine in its class. And where it may lack in size, it competes with payload and towing capability.
Not only does the 2022 Ranger come in three trims – XL, XLT, and the Lariat – but it also presents two different capacity types for each model. Unique to Ford, these trucks are available in what they refer to as the SuperCab and the SuperCrew. The SuperCab has four full-size doors and a 5-foot bed, while the SuperCrew is capable of seating five passengers with two smaller half-doors and a lengthier 6-foot bed. Both sizes can comfortably accommodate a night of laying in the truck bed and stargazing. Rear-wheel drive comes standard, but an all-wheel drive option is also available on all the models. The rear-wheel models offer a ground clearance of 8.4 inches, while the all-wheel drive version allows for 8.9 inches, an important consideration for all those rocky, backcountry roads.
The Ranger’s base model XL is anything but basic. With an impressive 2.3L turbocharged engine and 10-speed automatic transmission, power comes easily and affordably. Besides alleviating anxiety at the pump, the four-cylinder EcoBoost engine also manages to have the best torque in its class at 310 lb-ft. Light but nevertheless strong, models offer a maximum 1,905-lb payload and a tow rating of 7,500 lbs. For truck enthusiasts seeking the thrills of an off-road capable cab but not interested in the price tag of the aforementioned F-150, this is an excellent starting point. There’s great value without cutting corners on performance, and the smaller quantity of standard equipment means it’s not as heavy as the other trims, boosting acceleration and lowering fuel costs. The XL would be a great companion for camping trips, carpooling with loved ones to an outdoor concert, or just doing donuts in a gravel parking lot for thrills.
Next in the lineup is the XLT which comes standard with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 technology. An innovative driver-assist with Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and Lane Keeping System are key features for staying safe in traffic, so nothing gets in the way of all those adventurous plans. The XLT also comes with the FX4 off-roading package, delivering off-road monotube shocks, off-road tires with an aggressive tread, and traction-enhancing electronic locking rear differential.
It’s no longer just Jeeps that get to have all the fun. The XLT’s undercarriage can take a beating. It comes with an exposed steel front bash plate for rocky terrains. This model also opens the possibility of adding the Tremor Off-Road package detailed below.
Last but not least, the Lariat is the Ranger’s fully loaded option. If these models were Transformers, this one is the Optimus Prime. The heated, 8-way power-adjusted leather seats that come standard on SuperCrew models are handy for escaping from harsh climates and easier to clean than cloth interior.
Most notably, the Lariat comes with the Tremor Off-Roading package. This offer’s Ford’s Terrain Management System with four selectable driving modes to take the guesswork out of adventures. Drivers can elect to operate the car for road conditions modes that include normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, or even sand. If you can drive on it, Ford has equipped a mode for it. The Tremor package also boasts Magnetic-painted alloy wheels, modified suspension, and a head-turning front grille with red nostril inserts.
As far as styling, the 2022 Ranger brings back Splash trim as an option for XLT and Lariat models. The Splash package interior has orange stitching on the seats and special pin-striped trim, plus orange-and-black body-side graphics, 18-inch matte-black wheels, gloss-black exterior accents, and orange grille trim. If subtlety isn’t your thing, Splash trim is retro and attention-grabbing.
Let’s Get Moving
This could be a case of the chicken or the egg. Does having an off-roading capable car set the ball in motion for seeking thrills, or does the urge to ride into the sunset, over cascading hills and valleys, raise questions of what could really be important to the individual in a car? It’s a matter of exploring passion and weighing it against practicality.
Big wheels mean big opportunities for a truck that can handle getting a little dirty and a driver who doesn’t shy away from a path not yet paved. Maybe the confidence to drive through the wilderness comes from the car, or maybe it comes from the driver. Regardless, the 2022 Ford Ranger would make a great companion, offering key features to make your off-roading dreams a reality without constraining you to the liabilities of owning an offensively large truck. The Ranger deserves some recognition.