Three years into its return to the American market, the Ford Ranger receive a host of upgrades that make it the best Ranger ever built. Offered in ascending XL, XLT and Lariat trim, body choices include a SuperCab, an extended cab wearing rear-hinged rear doors and a six-foot bed, or a SuperCrew with four front-hinged rear doors and a shorter five-foot bed. If you prefer a regular cab, you're out of luck. It's not offered.  But it's the new additions for 2021 that most buyers will appreciate the most, especially if you're an off-road fan. 

What's New for the 2021 Ford Ranger?

For 2021, the new Tremor Off-Road Package transforms this pickup into most off-road-ready factory-built Ranger ever built. Ford says that the new Tremor Package delivers all-terrain capability without sacrificing the truck's everyday drivability, payload and towing capacity.

Offered on the XLT and Lariat, the Tremor gets a lifted suspension with off-road tuned Fox 2.0 monotube dampers and rear piggyback reservoirs, specially-tuned front coilover and rear leaf springs, 32-inch Grabber all-terrain tires and six-switch auxiliary power pack to manage accessories including winches, light bars and air compressors. New wheel lips and the Grabber tires lend the Ranger Tremor a tougher one-inch wider stance with 17-inch wheels, hoop-style steps, rear recovery hooks, a painted grille, and optional hood and body graphics. Inside, you'll be treated to exclusive vinyl-trimmed seats with suede inserts and black interior accents on the XLT, and leather seats with suede inserts on the Lariat.

The other new trim package being offered for 2021, a $995 STX Special Edition Package, can be fitted to the 2021 Ranger XL 4x2 or 4x4 in SuperCab or SuperCrew and can be added to other option packages, like the FX2 or FX4 Off-Road Package. The STX Special Edition Package brings unique 18-inch black wheels, an 8-inch center touch screen, SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and upgraded interior finishes. To your Ranger And, when ordered with the optional Black Package, it gets black Ford oval badging and updated bedside decals.

And what would a new model year be without the availability of new colors? This year, you can have your Ranger painted Cactus Gray, Carbonized Gray, Cyber Orange, or Velocity Blue in addition to those colors already offered.

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Available Ford Ranger Trims

Base Rangers are for those who just require the basics, with a few goodies to make your life easier while remaining a good value. Uniquely for its class, Ranger offers a suite of standard drive assistance features, even on base models.

Speaking of base models, opting for the XL means your Ranger wears handsome steel bumpers, black mesh grille and wheel kip moldings, a cargo lamp, front tow hooks, pickup bed tie down points, locking tailgate, folding manual side mirrors with integrated spotter mirrors trimmed in black, and 16-inch wheels. Inside, you'll find the XL provides the basics, but it's far from a life of misery. Yes, there's black vinyl flooring and a fixed glass rear window, but you'll also get cloth bucket seats, intermittent wipers, manual air-conditioning, power door locks, power windows, wiper-activated automatic headlamps, a rearview camera, three 12-volt power points, one USB port, auto-dimming rearview mirror, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and a four-speaker AM/FM stereo with Bluetooth. Driver assistant safety features include pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, and dynamic brake support. A full-sized spare tire is standard.

If you're going to be towing, you'll find four-pin wiring and ball mounting provisions in rear bumper, and trailer sway control are standard. A Trailer Tow Package adds a seven-pin wiring harness and a Class IV trailer hitch receiver.

FordPass Connect is also standard, and delivers a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 10 devices. You'll be able to remotely start, lock and unlock your truck, or schedule specific times for it to remotely start. You can also locate where it's parked and check its status.


As in 2020, numerous packages are available on any Ranger. 

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While you can't get the Tremor trim on XL, there are two other off-road packages: the FX2 Package for rear-wheel-drive Rangers, and the FX4 Package for four-wheel-drive Rangers. Both require you also get the STX Appearance Package, which includes 17-inch silver-painted aluminum wheels, premium black cloth seats, exposed front tow hooks, and fog lamps. The FX2 Package adds 4x2 "FX Off-Road" bodyside decal, 17- or 18-inch off-road OWL Tires, an electronic-locking rear differential, an off-road screen in the instrument cluster, and an off-road tuned suspension. The FX4 Package adds 4x4 "FX4 Off-Road" bodyside decal, 17- or 18-inch off-road OWL Tires, an electronic-locking rear differential, exposed steel bash pate, an off-road screen in the instrument cluster, an off-road tuned suspension, a terrain management system, Trail Control (basically, cruise control for off-roading), and skid plates for the fuel tank, transfer case and front differential.

Once you're buff enough to go off-road, you might to dress up your Ranger with a little chrome. There's an XL Chrome Package, which adds chrome bumpers with black tow hooks, fog lamps, and body-color wheel-lip moldings. On other trim levels, buyers also receive chrome door and tailgate handles, exhaust tip, bumpers, tow hooks, and grille. Lariats also get chrome mirror caps. Chrome running boards are available at extra cost.

 

Don't like chrome? Consider the Sport Appearance Package, available on XLT and Lariats, gives you a different look with 17-inch magnetic painted aluminum wheels, black grille, exposed front tow hooks and Sport bed decal. Or you can choose a murdered-out look by opting for the Black Appearance Package, with 18-inch black sidewall tires with aluminum wheels, black grille with black surround, and black mirror caps, sill plates, lower front fascia, running boards and a body-color front bumper. 

Definitely consider the Bed Utility Package with its plastic drop-in bedliner and a 12-volt power plug, although it's not available if you must have the pickup box extender, tonneau cover, spray-in bedliner, or the Black Appearance Package. OK, if that doesn't sound so tempting, you find the Technology Package more to your liking, as it adds adaptive cruise control, a forward sensing system, and navigation.

On XLs, the optional Equipment Group 101A adds cruise control, a day/night rearview mirror, anti-theft alarm, power side mirrors, remote key fob with tailgate lock and a six-speaker audio system with a 4.2-inch LCD display, Sync, a USB port, and 911 Assist.

Specific XL options include Ford Co-Pilot360, with auto-high beam headlamps, blind spot warning, cross-traffic alert, trailer tow monitoring, lane-keeping assist, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, dynamic brake support, and a rearview camera. 

Freestanding XL options include a second-row seat delete on SuperCabs, carpet flooring with floor mats, an electronic-locking differential, an engine block heater, manual-sliding rear-window w/privacy glass and defroster, reverse sensing system, 110-volt outlet, and black running boards. 

And of course, there are accessories, including a black aluminum crossbed toolbox by Weather Guard, tray style floor liner, keyless-entry keypad, splash guards, a spray-in bedliner, pickup box extender, and a tonneau bed cover. 

Fleet buyers can opt for LED warning strobes, 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, exterior backup alarm, cruise control, and the Sync upgrade package with a 4.2-inch LCD display, Sync, a USB port, and 911 Assist.

They can also add the XL Power Equipment Group to get a perimeter alarm, power sideview mirrors, remote key fob, and a remote tailgate lock. Or they can skip the bed entirely by ordering the Ranger with a bed delete option.

Most buyers will find the XLT to be the ideal Ranger. It's a bit nicer than its less-expensive sibling, adding some of the XL's options as standard equipment. So, you'll also get standard 17-inch wheels, body-colored bumpers, cruise control, an overhead console, dual-zone electronic climate control, LED taillamps, anti-theft alarm, a reverse sensing system, remote keyless-entry with remote tailgate lock, power mirrors, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a six-month prepaid subscription, and Sync 3 with an eight-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen, premium cloth seats, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto that can also have an optional voice-activated touchscreen navigation system. Ford Co-Pilot360, which is optional on the XL, is standard.

If that's not enough stuff for you, try adding optional Equipment Package 301A, which throws in an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 110-volt outlet, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, power-folding side mirrors and the Sport Appearance Package - if you don't also order the Chrome Appearance Package or the Black Appearance Package. Equipment Package 302A adds all of that plus eight-way power driver and passenger heated seats, manual-sliding rear-window and remote start. And of course you can add the Tremor Off-Road Package. There's also a Technology Package that adds adaptive cruise control, a forward sensing system, and navigation.

Freestanding XLT options mimic those on the XL, but also includes 18-inch chrome or machined-aluminum wheels. 

Choose the Lariat, and you'll lasso one refined Ranger, with such indulgent touches as 18-inch machined aluminum wheels, chrome grille, power-folding heated side mirrors, leather-covered gearshift knob and steering wheel, leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats with power lumbar, LED headlamps, a reverse sensing system, and a universal garage door opener.

Option packages and free-standing options are much the same as the XLT, but you can also add Equipment Group 501A, with a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system with HD Radio, the Technology Package, rain-sensing wipers, remote start and a windshield wiper de-icer.

Engines & transmissions

Power comes from Ford's ubiquitous EcoBoost 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but don't be concerned. It generates a healthy 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard; part-time four-wheel drive is optional. The EPA rates the Ranger at 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway with rear-wheel drive, 20 mpg city, 24 mpg highway with four-wheel drive, and 19 mpg city, 18 mpg highway with the bed delete option. All Rangers run on 87 octane gasoline.

Even base trucks get a decent helping of driver assistance technology, something you don't typically find in this class on lower trim models, including pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and forward collision warning. This is in addition to anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control.

Driving the Ranger

As you'd expect, the Ranger is built using rugged body-on-frame construction, and has an independent front suspension and leaf spring rear. It feels like an honest, hardworking pickup truck with silky smooth power and fairly dynamic acceleration. That said, you'll find that given its lighter weight, the Ranger XL feels the most energetic over its more optioned-up siblings. The Terrain Management System with Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand selectable drive modes, make easy work of off-road terrain.

The Ranger's cabin isn't flashy, but the controls are clear and easy to use. The seats are soft and comfortable, and there's plenty of room in both rows. The Terrain Management System with Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand selectable drive modes, make easy work of off-road. Step in height is high, so shorter drivers will want to opt for the optional running boards to easy entry and exit.

Utility

When it comes to utility, the Ford Ranger has you covered. All beds are 61.4 inches inside the bed, 44.8 inches wide between the wheelhouses. SuperCrews have a 61-inch long bed and 43.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity, SuperCabs have a 72.8-inches long bed 51.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

Payload for SuperCrews is rated at 1,770 pounds on 4x2 models, 1,560 on 4x4 models. For SuperCabs, it's 1,860 for 4x2 models, 1,650 for 4x4 models. Towing is rated at 7,500 pounds. Rear-wheel-drive models have 8.4 inches of ground clearance, four-wheel-drive models get 8.9 inches.

If you're tackling trails, you'll be happy to know that rear-wheel-drive models have 27.9-degree approach angle, four-wheel-drive models have a 28.7-degree approach angle, while rear-wheel-drive models have 25.2-degree departure angle, and four-wheel-drive models have a 25.4-degree approach angle.

Final thoughts

Climbing into the new Ranger is like welcoming back an old friend. While it's larger than its forbearer, its honest, unpretentious nature remains. This is an affordable rugged pickup, one that should serve you well for years to come.