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2019 Ford Ranger brings back a classic with dramatic improvements

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Ford Ranger fans finally got their wish. After years of non-existence, Ford reentered the midsize truck segment with the all new 2019 Ford Ranger. Did they get it right? Is it a worthy entry into the growing midsize segment? Let’s take a look.

The first thing fans of the old Ranger will notice is that it’s considerably bigger than its predecessor. Midsize is the new compact, and with four others vying for dominance in the segment, Ford has banked on two of its strengths to propel the Ranger over the top.

First, we get to take advantage of of 305 lb-ft of torque which enables the Ranger to tow more than its prime competitors, the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado. Rated for 7,500 lb towing, its 10-speed automatic transmission compensates for its lower 270 horsepower.

Second, the Ranger’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder makes it the most fuel economical midsize truck available, offering up to 26 mpg on the highway. As a “lifestyle” truck, this will come in handy in fending off the competitors.

2019 Ford Ranger Front End

Perhaps the most compelling element of the new Ranger is its exterior aesthetic. It’s a great looking truck, arguably more attractive than its big brother, the F-150. While not having the same ground-clearance as its competitors, the overall look and feel of the exterior makes it seem more roadworthy while not betraying the potential for some off-road fun.

Unfortunately, the interior is where things seem to go downhill for the Ranger. Fans of plain and simple will not be disappointed, but those who are looking for more curves, better gadgets, and the type of comfort they’ll find a comparable SUV won’t find it in the Ranger.

Essentially, it’s a basic modern-day truck with just the minimum interior benefits.

2019 Ford Ranger Interior

As Dan Edmunds (or is it Dan from Edmunds?) points out in his first-drive video, things don’t get much better in the backseat. While the driver’s seat fits nicely for the 6’2″ reviewer, the backseat of the crew cab didn’t make it easy for him to go on long trips. The rear seat is not split, making for nearly worthless folding. But not all was bad. They have a standard SYNC 3 infotainment system that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and there are plenty of outlets in both the front and back. Minimalist design isn’t common in today’s vehicles, but it works.

Overall, it should fair nicely against its main competitors, plus the novelty of the returning legend is nice, but there’s one competitor that could give the Ranger unexpected trouble. The new Jeep Gladiator is a pretty epic entry into the segment which will steal some of the Ranger’s thunder.

The midsize truck field is getting pretty crowded. We’ve gone from not very many options to suddenly too many, but that’s what consumers want. How they all pan out in the sales department at dealerships will determine if they’re here to stay.

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Automotive

Best-selling 2020 Ford Explorer keeps distancing itself from the competition

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Best-selling 2020 Ford Explorer keeps distancing itself from the competition

When a vehicle has dominated its class for years, it’s standard operating procedure to keep doing what works while making incremental changes to keep fans coming back for more. Ford’s intentions of eliminating most of their passenger cars from their lineup changes the calculus. This is why the all-new 2020 Ford Explorer made big changes as well as added two new styles to the family.

The Limiting Hybrid and ST versions of the Explorer will give it the flagship options that it’s star SUV needs in order to attract the masses flocking to the midsize SUV segment. But the 2020 model didn’t just add versions. They redesigned the entire vehicle, including switching it from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive, a platform shift that will also improve the popular 4×4 variation.

“Changing the Explorer to rear-wheel drive was a really big deal,” said Ford Motor Company’s Executive Vice President Jim Farley. “It allows our designers to deliver those beautiful proportions, give that athletic stance for Explorer, and helped our engineers to do so much more. The best towing capacity we’ve ever had. Off-road ability you hear about. On top of all that, it gave the customer more room.”

With 5,600 lb for towing, it’s more than older Explorers. More importantly, it’s more than their competitors in the segment.

But Ford will need more than a couple of new versions of the Explorer and more towing power if they intend to make a strong move in the segment. Despite the segment growing 11% last year, Explorer’s sales numbers declined 3.5%. It’s still on top, but the contradicting directions on sales numbers was a clear indicator they needed to make big changes.

The hybrid model will obviously attract a completely different type of buyer, but it’s with the new ST that Ford hopes to impress those who are moving from performance sedans or even sports cars to the midsize SUV market. The new 2020 Ford Explorer ST trim is basically a performance package. It’s the most powerful Explorer Ford has ever built with a 3.0L, twin-turbocharged V6 with 400 hp and 415 ft-lb of torque. We’ll confirm our expectations when we’re able to actually drive it, but based on the numbers we’ve seen, this is going to be an extremely fun SUV to take on the road.

The biggest changes over the previous generation are on the inside. Technology has been an unavoidable push by every automaker as they attempt to keep up with the rapidly improving available options. Today’s cars are smart cars. We’re seeing the transition in a way that’s extremely similar to what happened between smartphones and feature phones. If your vehicle doesn’t have a touchscreen infotainment system and safety assistance features, it’s old.

Ford clearly took this to heart with their most connected and functional technology suite ever in the new Explorer. It has two option touchscreens with similar capabilities to a smartphone. With connection options to Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, there is no shortage of ways the drive and passengers can interact with the outside world.

Safety features are dramatically improved with braking assist moving forward or backwards, lane assist that knows when the vehicle is towing, and cameras on all sides to keep full awareness.

“In the insider, there are thousands of thoughtful touches,” Farley said. “A second row seat that a child can activate and move forward with one hand, cup-holders that double as juice box holders. It’s an SUV for families that is so smart in a way that we couldn’t even imagine years ago. Speaking to Alexa to unlock your car, start the ignition. The vehicle can even read speed limiting signs and actually react to them to save you a ticket.”

With all of this, the price tag is only expected to go up $400 from the previous generation.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett said, “If there’s a heart and soul of Ford Motor Company, it’s this vehicle.” We’ll see if midsize SUV buyers agree when the 2020 Ford Explorer goes on sale this spring.

As a side note, Micah Muzio, managing editor for video at KBB, is the most entertaining car review guy on YouTube.

 

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2020 Hyundai Palisade is the large SUV buyers were promised

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2020 Hyundai Palisade is the large SUV buyers were promised

There was a time not too long ago when the Hyundai brand was associated with cheap cars and even cheaper quality. Those days are behind us as the Korean company has emerged as a symbol of quality and even… dare we say… luxury. It would have been hard to imagine that word being used to describe a Hyundai when the brand first emerged in America, but we’re on the verge of seeing the culmination of their climb in the new 2020 Hyundai Palisade.

At first glance, the question that many would ask is, “That’s a Hyundai?” It will be one of the most distinctive crossover vehicles on the road when it hits dealerships this summer. The 8-seat beast is a far cry from what the company offered when it launched and will be a direct competitor to the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, and Chevrolet Traverse.

Compared to those competitors, it’s exterior appeal is comparable at worst. Many will find it to be the most attractive of the bunch with its cascading grill, stimulating curves, and appropriately nimble stance despite the size.

But the thing that’s going to get buyers excited about this vehicle is the interior. Offering the next generation lifestyle and safety technology, the Palisade is every bit of a comfort vehicle that luxury brands are now offering. It exceeds the tech offerings of its direct competitors and makes a strong case to be a considering for those looking at higher end SUVs.

Available options that will tickle the luxury buyer’s fancy include a fully-digital instrument cluster not very unlike the Mercedes offering, 16 cup holders (for families of 8 that need two drinks each), sueded headliner, and all the leather and texture amenities people want in a ritzy ride. It even offers an ultrasonic rear occupant alert that will send you a text message if you leave your kid in the back seat. Seriously.

This video by Cars.com goes over some of the features and interior amenities:

Under the hood, the Palisade will be sporting a 3.8L V-6. The Atkinson-cycle engine produces 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, making it fully capable of moving through traffic with a jet ski in tow. Their HTRAC AWD system offers the driving modes available in most modern SUVs, including a locking differential for truly bad driving conditions. It’s not an off-road vehicle, but it will do its best to not get stuck if forced into the situation.

While no pricing data is out, we expect it to be in line with its competitors, starting in the low- to mid-$30k range and moving up from there based upon build.

It’s clear Hyundai has been listening to drivers. They knew when to get fancy and when to be economical, allowing for an affordable yet luxurious option for big crossover buyers. They hope the Palisade will make it the Summer of Hyundai in 2019.


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2020 Chevrolet Tracker isn’t the Trax and won’t be sold in the United States

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2020 Chevrolet Tracker isnt the Trax and wont be sold in the United States

An image released last week of a new crossover vehicle from Chevrolet resulted in speculation that it was the next generation Chevrolet Trax. Chevy didn’t deny it as reports started coming out, but they also didn’t confirm. They simply dropped it and went about their business.

Here’s the image:

2020 Chevrolet Tracker Tease

As it turns out, this isn’t the Trax at all. A new leak from China shows the full image of the vehicle in question, and it’s being called the 2020 Chevrolet Tracker. The Trax is called the Tracker in Brazil, but this is a different Tracker that will be made available in China, Mexico, and South America.

2020 Chevy Tracker

While some are saddened that the small CUV will not be offered in the United States, the already-crowded market likely couldn’t handle a new variation without getting rid of an old one. With the Trax a bit smaller than the Tracker, it would be the likely victim. But sales have been strong for the Trax, jumping over 16% in the fourth quarter of 2018.

To keep sales strong, Chevrolet just released an incentive on the Trax.

Chevrolet Trax Incentive

With a 1.0L 3-cylinder engine, the Tracker likely wouldn’t perform well on American streets. We’ll never know, though, as its destiny lies anywhere else but here.


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