Which midsize truck is better for towing? Is it the best-selling Toyota Tacoma? Or is it the new 2019 Ford Ranger that goes on sale any week now? These two trucks have very different philosophies, but for this comparison review they must tow a 5,000 lbs trailer up and down the Ike Gauntlet – world’s toughest towing test.
The Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road is a crew cab with a couple of options that bring the total price to over $41,000. The Tacoma is equipped with a 3.5L V6 and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The rear differential ratio is a 3.91.
The Ford Ranger Lariat FX4 is a crew cab with almost every available option that bring the total price to $46,000. The only two options that could raise the price further are the optional white or red paint, and a tonneau cover. Under the hood is a 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder that is mated to a 10-speed automatic. The rear differential ratio is a 3.73.
The Ike Gauntlet is an 8-mile stretch of the steepest interstate highway (7% grade) with a maximum elevation of 11,158 ft above sea level. It’s a grueling test of trailering capability because of the steep incline and reduced air density that robs engine of power.
We test the transmission and engine calibration of the trucks on the downhill by counting brake applications. We specifically do not manually shift gears. We let the truck and its grade shifting/engine braking features do the work.
On the way up, we test each truck’s power, ride, control, and refinement. We aim to maintain the 60 MPH speed limit on the way up and the way down. On the way up, the benchmark time is 8 minutes even. We monitor what MPG the truck is reporting on the way up, and we measure the sound levels inside the cab at full throttle.
|Ford Ranger||Toyota Tacoma|
|Engine||2.3L I4 Turbo||3.5L V6|
|Power||270 hp / 310 lb-ft||278 hp / 265 lb-ft|
|Rear Diff Ratio||3.73||3.91|
|Max Payload (as tested)||1,347 lbs||1,000 lbs|
|Max Towing||7,500 lbs||6,400 lbs|
|GVWR||6,050 lbs||5,600 lbs|
|Trip Economy||5.2 mpg||5.0 mpg|
|Cabin Noise||67.7 dB||69.9 dB|
|Time||8 min 2 sec||8 min 8 sec|
This was a very close contest. The Ranger had a better ride while loaded, was a little quieter at full throttle, and it was just a little quicker up the mountain. However, the Ranger had seven brake events on the way down the mountain, versus six in the Tacoma.
In the end, the Ford Ranger is just a better towing machine out of these two. It’s not the perfect midsize towing truck, as it does not come with an integrated trailer brake controller and the digital tachometer screens in the Lariat model are a bit hard to read.
Join the Ike Gauntlet towing fun in the video below.