New sheet metal in front of the windshield gives the Ranger compact pickup a fresh face for 2001 similar to the Explorer Sports appearance. A sporty two-wheel-drive Edge model adds a bulging hood, a monochromatic exterior and 16-inch tires to impart the aggressive look of a four-wheel-drive model while keeping the cost down.
Under the hood, two new engines are on the roster for 2001: a 2.3-liter four-cylinder as the base engine and a 4.0-liter V-6 with overhead camshafts as the top choice.
Other new wrinkles for the Ranger, the best-selling compact pickup, include a tubular cargo-bed extension that adds 2 feet of length and standard antilock brakes for all models, and not just the top-shelf versions. A two-piece hard tonneau cover with a lockable front compartment is another new option. Ford owns a controlling interest in Mazda, which sells versions of the Ranger as the B-Series pickups with minor styling and equipment differences.
The Ranger comes in three sizes. A regular cab is available with 6- or 7-foot cargo beds, and the Super Cab extended-cab version comes with the 6-foot bed. Short-bed models are available with optional flared rear fenders that Ford calls Flareside. The new cargo-bed extender is available only on the 6-foot bed.
Two rear-hinged rear doors are optional on Super Cab models and require the front doors to be opened first. Chevrolet, GMC, Nissan and Toyota offer crew-cab compact pickups with four conventional front-hinged doors. Ford says it has no plans for a crew-cab Ranger. Instead, Ford says the Explorer Sport Trac, a sport utility vehicle with four doors and an open cargo bed, fills that role.
A three-place split front bench seat is standard on all Rangers, and front buckets are optional. Super Cabs add a pair of rear jump seats. Unlike with General Motors compact pickups, ordering the rear doors does not eliminate either jump seat. But like the rear seats in all compact pickups, the ones in the Ranger are too small for adults to fit comfortably.
Under the Hood
Replacing the 119-horsepower 2.5-liter engine is a new 140-hp 2.3-liter four-cylinder that comes standard on two-wheel-drive models.
A 150-hp 3.0-liter V-6 is standard on 4WD models and optional on 2WDs. The most powerful engine is still a 4.0-liter V-6, but this year, it is one with overhead camshafts instead of overhead valves and 207 hp instead of 160. All three engines are available with manual or automatic transmissions, but the 4.0-liter engine comes with a five-speed automatic instead of a four-speed.
The Rangers 4WD system can be engaged on the fly through a dashboard switch. Four-wheel antilock brakes are now standard on all models.
The Ranger doesnt blow away the competition in looks, performance or features, but it offers a well-designed, attractively priced lineup that lures more buyers than any other compact pickup. The lack of a crew-cab body style puts the Ranger at a disadvantage in the competitive marketplace, though Ford dealers will be happy to steer you toward an Explorer Sport Trac as an alternative.
This years 4.0-liter V-6 is smoother and quieter than the previous one and gives the Ranger stronger acceleration from low speeds.