Fords compact Ranger pickup earned a freshened front end last year and comes with several new option groups this year. The most notable new offering is the FX-4 offroad package for the four-door SuperCab chassis, which combines off-the-pavement functionality with an appealing Styleside-box appearance. Powered by a 4.0-liter V-6 engine, the FX-4 group includes Bilstein shocks, heavy-duty springs, three skid plates, tow hooks and forged-aluminum wheels.
The sporty Edge option group conveys the assertive look of a four-wheel-drive Ranger, but with a lower price; this option remains available. Aimed at young buyers, Edge pickups have a monochromatic exterior, a raised power dome hood, bed-rail covers and a mesh grille. Even in two-wheel-drive versions, the Edge has the ride height of a 4x4.
A new 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine became available during 2001. For 2002, the 3.0-liter V-6 has been enhanced. Five-spoke, 16-inch aluminum wheels are new, and sport bucket seats for the front are newly optional. A new MP3/CD audio system is also available.
Fords Ranger has been the top-selling compact pickup in the United States, and SuperCab models account for 65 percent of Ranger sales. Ford holds a controlling interest in Mazda, which markets a line of B-Series pickups that are closely related to the Ranger but have only minor styling and equipment differences. Buyers in California can get an electric-powered Ranger.
Rangers come in three sizes, with a choice of two cabs and bed lengths. Regular-cab pickups are available with a 6- or 7-foot cargo bed, while the SuperCab (extended-cab) version is fitted with a 6-foot bed only. Short-bed pickups are available with a smooth-sided cargo bed or with flared rear fenders in the Flareside versions.
Two rear-hinged rear doors are optional on SuperCab models. They can be opened only after the front doors are open. Even though Chevrolet, GMC, Nissan and Toyota offer crew-cab compact pickups with four conventional front-hinged doors, Ford has announced no intention of adopting that body style. Fords Explorer Sport Trac, a sport utility vehicle with four doors and an open cargo bed, aims to fill that role.
Regular-cab models ride either a 112- or 118-inch wheelbase and measure about 188 inches long; however, the long-wheelbase 4x4 version stretches to 199.5 inches in overall length. SuperCab Rangers have a 126-inch wheel span and are about 202 inches long overall.
A tubular cargo-bed extension is available, which adds 2 feet of length to the 6-foot bed. A hard, two-piece tonneau cover is also available.
Regular-cab Rangers seat two occupants on a split bench seat or optional buckets. SuperCab pickups add a pair of rear jump seats. Ordering the optional rear doors does not eliminate either jump seat, which is the case with GMs compact pickups. But like all jump seats in compact pickups, the Rangers rear seats are too small to hold adults comfortably.
Under the Hood
The base engine on 2WD Rangers is a 135-horsepower, 2.3-liter four-cylinder. A 154-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 is standard on 4WD models and optional on 2WD Rangers. Topping the list is a 207-hp, 4.0-liter, single-overhead-cam V-6. A five-speed-manual shift is standard with all engines, and a five-speed-automatic transmission is optional. The Rangers 4WD system can be engaged with a dashboard switch while the vehicle is moving. Four-wheel antilock brakes and front, second-generation airbags are standard.
This compact pickup is pleasant to drive, friendly in personality and capable in every significant respect. The Ranger rides and handles on par with its domestic competitors from GM and Dodge. It is attractive, well-designed, solidly built and reasonably comfortable inside.
The 4.0-liter V-6 engine is the sensible choice for performance, but a smaller V-6 will suffice for many owners. Four-cylinder Rangers are more limited but appeal to shoppers on a tight budget.
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