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Expert Reviews 1 of 8
By Tom Strongman
June 19, 1998
Pickup truck door wars are underway in earnest. For $595 Ford now offers the option of four doors on its extended-cab Ranger SuperCab Splash and XLT models. This is one of the first compact pickups to be available with four doors. Mazda sells a
similar version badged as the B4000, and it, too, is available with four doors. Ford will soon be the first company to offer four doors on all three of its pickups. Side doors on extended-cab trucks are becoming as common as four-door minivans for
one simple reason: They make living with the truck easier because access to the space behind the seats can be gained from either side of the vehicle. That can be crucial when you are carrying a couple bags of groceries or want to coax Rover inside
for a trip to the vet. The back doors are hinged at the back and open out 90 degrees once the front doors have been opened. They have vertical beams for added strength, and actually contribute to the vehicle passing the government's 1999
side-impact standards. Even though the Ranger SuperCab's passenger compartment is 3 inches longer this year, the area behind the back seat is still small. Center-facing, fold-down jump seats, complete with seatbelts, will accommodate two small
children, but mostly the extra space will be used for dogs, luggage or any other cargo you don't want riding outside in the weather. The passenger-side airbag can be turned off with a key, which means you can carry children, or child safety seats,
in the front without fear of injury from the airbag. The Ranger Splash 4X4 I drove was loaded and as plush as a Ford Explorer, with which it shares many components. It was tight and solid, without any creaks, groans or rattles. For 1998, the hood
is lower, the rear window larger, the frame is fully boxed for more strength and the front suspension is now the same wishbone style found on the Explorer. As a consequence, the ride is smoother, more supple, and there is room for a V8 should that be
needed at some point in the future. Our test truck was equipped with what is my powertrain of choice: The 4.0-liter V6 and five-speed automatic transmission. The five-speed automatic is a jewel because its additional gear spreads the power out
evenly and that gives smooth acceleration. Shifts are as smooth as most passenger cars and cruising is relaxed. The 4.0 V6 has adequate power (158 hp) and torque for carrying moderate loads or pulling small trailers. New to the four-wheel-drive
system is what Ford calls Pulse Vacuum Hublock (PVH). PVH reduces noise and vibration and makes disconnecting four-wheel-drive simpler than before. Inside, our truck was equipped with the optional sport bucket seats, some of the best seats Ford
offers regardless of model. They are comfortable and supportive without being too firm or too soft. A large console with two large cupholders and a storage bin sits between them. The console lid doubles as an armrest, which is
handy. By giving the Ranger buyer the option of four doors, Ford has put it ahead of other compact trucks in terms of convenience and usefulness. Price The base price of the SuperCab Splash was $19,695. Options included the five-speed
automatic transmission, 4.0-liter engine, four doors, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, 3.73 axle ratio, power windows, power mirrors, remote keyless entry and sport bucket seats. Its sticker price was
$24,995. Warranty The basic warranty is for three years or 36,000 miles. Vehicles for The Star's week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers. Point: Adding four doors to the Ranger SuperCab expands its
usefulness and versatility. Even though the space behind the seats is still small, it can now be accessed from either side of the vehicle. Counterpoint: The only drawback to the fold-down seats is that are only large enough fo
very small children. SPECIFICATIONS: ENGINE: 4.0-liter, V6 TRANSMISSION: automatic WHEELBASE: 126 inches GVWR: 4,960 lbs. BASE PRICE: $19,695 PRICE AS DRIVEN: $24,995 MPG RATING: 16 city, 20 hwy.