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By Jim Flammang
February 28, 2004
Vehicle Overview Ford gives compact-pickup buyers plenty of choices. Last year, Ford made some new option groups available for Rangers, including an FX4/Level II option group that was dubbed the “true offroad enthusiast package.” Early in 2003, a Wheels and Tunes package built around a CD/MP3 player emerged for the XLT 4x4 SuperCab. A Tremor SuperCab audio package also was offered.
For 2004, all Rangers get a raised, powered dome hood. The new nostril grille has horizontal bars on 4x2 models and a honeycomb pattern on 4x4s. A rally gauge cluster is new, and a Pioneer Sound Package includes an in-dash six-CD MP3 player. Later in the model year, leather seating surfaces become optional and the Tremor audio system gets a boost to 510 watts and adds MP3 capability.
Aimed at young buyers, the sporty Edge edition conveys the assertive look and ride height of a four-wheel-drive Ranger — but with a lower price. Ford holds a controlling interest in Mazda, which markets the closely related B-Series Trucks.
Exterior Rangers come in three sizes and 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 exclusively with a 6-foot bed. Short-bed pickups are available with a Styleside (smooth-sided) cargo bed or with flared rear fenders in Flareside form.
The powered dome hood leads into a painted platinum honeycomb grille on most models; the XL version has platinum-colored grille bars, while the XLT displays chrome bars and the Edge features black mesh. Two rear-hinged rear doors, which are optional on SuperCab models, can be opened only after the front doors are open.
Regular-cab models ride a 111.6- or 117.6-inch wheelbase and measure approximately 188 inches long overall; however, the long-wheelbase Styleside version stretches to 199.5 inches long overall. SuperCab Rangers have a 126-inch wheel span and are about 202 inches long overall. An optional tubular cargo-bed extension adds 2 feet to the 6-foot bed’s length. A hard, two-piece tonneau cover is optional.
Interior Regular-cab Rangers seat two or three occupants on optional bucket seats or a split bench, respectively. SuperCab models add a pair of rear jump seats. Like all jump seats in compact pickups, the Ranger’s rear seats are too small to hold adults comfortably.
Under the Hood Two-wheel-drive Rangers are equipped with a 143-horsepower, 2.3-liter inline-four-cylinder engine. A 148-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 is standard in four-wheel-drive, Edge and SuperCab models and optional for other two-wheel-drive Rangers. Topping the list is a 207-hp, 4.0-liter single-overhead-cam V-6. A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard, and a five-speed-automatic transmission is optional. A dashboard switch can engage four-wheel drive while the vehicle is moving.
Safety Four-wheel antilock brakes are standard. Child-safety seat anchors and tethers are standard.
Driving Impressions The Ranger is pleasant to drive, friendly in personality and capable in every significant respect. It rides and handles on par with its domestic competitors from General Motors and Dodge. Each model is attractive, well designed, solidly built and reasonably comfortable inside.