Smallish Trucking

November 1st, 2019

By Don Armstrong

The names are from the past, but the 2019 Ford Ranger and 2020 Jeep Gladiator are completely new trucks that can be found in the mid-size category. We recently had a chance to drive both and found them nothing like their old namesakes, thank goodness.

Jeep Gladiator
Based on a lengthened Jeep Wrangler chassis, this mid-size truck combines all the off-road capability of the Wrangler with the added convenience of a pickup bed. Yes, the doors and top come off and the windshield folds down, just like the Wrangler. We like to think of it as the “Swiss Army Knife” of trucking since it is capable of off-roading like no others with its standard 4-wheel drive system.

Under the hood is a 3.6-liter V-6 that produces 285-horsepower and 260 lb.-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard while the 8-speed automatic is optional. This smooth and reliable power combo can tow up to 7,650 pounds, when equipped with the Max Tow Package, and haul up to 1,600 pounds.

Jeep’s Uconnect infotainment system is simply the best and, as you can imagine, options abound. The base Sport model starts at $33,545. The all-out Rubicon model adds an extra $10-grand.

The “look at me” factor is huge with the Gladiator so get your “thumbs-up” ready when you meet another Jeeper coming down the road.

FORD RANGER
Compared to the old Ranger, the all-new version is considerably larger, and to most, a notable improvement. Adding to its likability is a modern, albeit smaller, design interpretation of its big brother, the F-150.

Although the 2019 Ranger is “new” to the U.S. market, its bones originate in the 2015 Australian version, modernized and legalized for America. It has all the latest tech including Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system.

Two different cabs and a 5 or 6-foot bed are offered, along with 3 trim levels – XL, XLT and Lariat. We tested the SuperCrew Lariat with the FX4 off-road package, and a dealer installed tonneau cover. This is a great combination, but the $45,750 sticker can be a bit of a shock.

Powering this “mini 150” is a peppy, no-lag, 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine that delivers 270-HP and 310 lb-ft of torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Towing is rated at 7,500 pounds, payload maximum is 1,860 lbs.

Pricing for the entry-level Ranger starts at $24,300.

Size Matters

January 2nd, 2019

2019 Jeep® Renegade Limited

By Don Armstrong

Full-size, body-on-frame SUV’s were once all the rage. Even today, they sell well. But for many in the Bay Area, the frameless, car-like, unibody construction of a crossover, or CUV, offers what most are looking for, including better fuel mileage.

Jeep Renegade
When we think of Jeep, most tend to see themselves off-roading in the Hill Country, or at least the sandy dunes down the coast. If you fall into that category, then the Renegade Trailhawk may be a perfect fit.

There’s no mistaking its boxy shape and seven-slot grille for anything other than a Jeep.

The Trailhawk edition is equipped with the larger 2.4-liter engine, that we prefer, delivering its 180-horsepower through a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The interior is just plain fun, and the optional, larger 8.4-inch infotainment screen connects you to the world of Jeeping with ease. Seating is rugged yet comfortable. Second-row legroom may be a little tight for those over six feet but expect plenty of space in the cargo area. Removable MySky sunroof panels are a must option.

With the Renegade’s off-road suspension and bigger tires, the ride is a bit stiffer than the entry-level model. But isn’t this why you joined the posse?

Starting price for the Jeep Renegade is $18,445. The Trailhawk trim level, with a few options, is around $30,000.

2019 Buick Encore

Buick Encore
Playing on the near-luxury field puts the Buick Encore in a different class than the Renegade but is similar in size.

This GM brand is known for a quiet cabin and Encore delivers, thanks to Buick’s QuietTuning technology. Specially laminated glass along with sound deadening materials are among many items acoustical engineers employ to keep outside noise, outside.

The interior in our top-of-the-line trim, Essence, is very nice and comfortable, not over-the-top, but true quality throughout the cabin. Its infotainment system is well thought out and easy to use.

Powering our Encore is an optional 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that boasts a wee bit more horses than the base motor, 153 to be exact. We would like to see something closer to the Renegade’s output.

The ride quality is reassuring without being jittery at highway speeds. And that says a lot, considering Encore’s short wheelbase.

Pricing begins at $23,200.

No one manufacturer has an edge over another these days, so select the price range and type of sport ute that fits your needs and start exploring.