The Ford Ranger remains the overwhelming first choice among buyers of compact pickups. Nearly a third of all compact pickups sold are Rangers. More than 5 million Rangers have been built since the first one rolled out in 1982.
For 2003, Ford has improved and refined the Ranger with better brakes, new interior fabrics, and more extensive sound insulation. New options and special option packages are available for serious off-road slogging or boulevard cruising.
Some of us still remember when pickup trucks primarily hauled lumber, sand, and fertilizer. They do that better than ever. But to succeed today, a pickup also has to haul attitude. Fortunately, Ford's compact Ranger can haul just about anything with ease. Whether you want an economical truck for your business, a family vehicle with more personality than a car, or a too-hip platform to help you share your tunes with the neighborhood, Ford can build a Ranger just for you.
Prices for basic work trucks start at just over $13,000. A wide range of options, including a powerful 4.0-liter V6 engine, a five-speed automatic transmission, a four-wheel-drive system, and a variety of trim levels and body styles should extend Ranger's appeal over a wide audience.
Ford Ranger comes in a wide range of configurations: three trim levels, three cab configurations, three wheelbase lengths, three engine, a choice of transmissions, and is available with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Buyers can also choose six- or seven-foot beds, and flat Styleside or notched Flareside fender shapes. Ranger's base-level four-cylinder engine is supplemented by two optional V6s. Five-speed manual and five-speed automatic ($1000) transmissions are offered with all three engines.
The 2.3-liter inline-four breathes with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. For 2003, new valve timing and a new exhaust manifold have boosted its rated horsepower from 135 to 143. Torque is increased to 154 pounds-feet.
An optional 3.0-liter ohv V6 is rated 154 horsepower and 180 pounds-feet of torque. Ford offers this engine with flexible fuel capability, meaning it can operate on ethanol, gasoline or any combination of the two fuels in the same tank. This engine is standard on all 4x2 SuperCab models equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Topping the chart is a 4.0-liter V6 with single overhead-cams developing 207 horsepower and 238 foot-pounds of torque.
The price-leading Ranger is the XL Regular Cab Styleside ($13,010) with the 2.3-liter engine, manual transmission, and two-wheel-drive.
XLT trim adds chrome trim, interior amenities (including a CD player, tilt wheel, full carpeting), and useful truck accessories (rear step bumper, sliding rear window, mud flaps). XLT models with 4WD get step bars and fog lights, and upgrade from 15-inch steel wheels to 16-inch aluminum rims, wearing P245/75R16 outline-white letter (OWL) tires. A new Bright Appearance Package, offered only on XLT SuperCabs with the Styleside bed, adds chrome step bars, exhaust tips and bedrails with platinum-colored end caps.
Ranger's top trim level is called Edge, and sports monochromatic color schemes that include a vivid Chrome Yellow. Edge comes in 4x2 and 4x4 editions, but either way it rides at the 4x4 height. A raised power dome hood and mesh-pattern front grille contribute to its hip attitude. Four-door SuperCab buyers can choose Edge Plus, with aluminum wheels, keyless entry, and power windows, locks and mirrors. The Edge comes with either a 6-disc in-dash CD player or an MP3 player, depending on the model. Edge prices start at $15,190 with the 3.0-liter V6 as standard equipment.
XLT 4x2 SuperCab buyers will be able to get a little closer to the Edge with the Wheels and Tunes package, which adds machined 16-inch, 5-spoke aluminum wheels, Michelin Pilot XGT P235/60HR16 tires, and an AM/FM single CD/MP3 player or an optional AM/FM in-dash 6-disc CD changer.
Need more power? And not the kind that's under the hood? Ranger's appropriately named Tremor package for 4x2 SuperCabs boasts a premium Pioneer sound system producing 485 watts of eardrum-splitting volume, and a custom-designed subwoofer enclosure that fits in the rear floor area. A high-output alternator keeps the current flowing and white-faced gauges add interior style. Sixteen-inch wheels, P235/70R16 all-season tires, a 4x4 ride height, three monochromatic color schemes (Chrome Yellow, Black and Sonic Blue) and a Tremor decal on your tailgate announce your coolness to anyone who cares.
For serious off-roading, Ranger offers the FX4 package, based on a four-door SuperCab XLT. FX4 packs heavy-duty shocks, skid plates, all-terrain tires, limited-slip axle and nine exterior colors, including the new Arizona Beige.
For 2003, mud-daubers who are even more determined may order the new FX4/Level II, with Bilstein shocks, a Torsen limited-slip axle, eight-hole Alcoa forged aluminum wheels and 31x10.5-inch B.F. Goodrich All-Terrain T/A tires. Completing the exterior of the FX4/Level II package are stainless steel front tow hooks, black wheel lip moldings, and skid plates that cover the front suspension and differential, transfer case and fuel tank. Inside, two-tone ebony/blue or ebony/red extra-thick bolstered bucket seats with FX4 badging, and ebony interior trim lend a distinctive look, while deep-groove floor mats help protect the carpeting from slush, mud or whatever else you track in.
The Ford Ranger was last redesigned for 2001, when it received its bulging hood and aggressive fender flares. The designers borrowed elements from Ford's bigger F-150 trucks and used them to both strengthen and streamline the Ranger's visual stance. Ranger's exterior appearance has changed little since then and it sounds like it will be awhile before it changes again.
We find the door handles a bit hard to hang onto; they snapped away from our fingers when we were in a hurry.
Full-width Styleside beds sweep a continuous line from tip to tail, while sporty Flaresides carve a recessed step into each side panel immediately behind the cab. The notch accentuates a rounded rear fender. Indentations in the bed support partitions to segment cargo.
The Edge focuses on a monochromatic treatment, with a power-dome hood that hints at a powerhouse beneath. The Edge also features protective bed rails and four tie-down hooks. We didn't care for the Edge trim, and the running boards/stump guards looked tacked on.
An optional bed extender ($195) flips out and rests on the tailgate, like a U-shaped cage of tubular stainless steel. It won't keep dirt in, but it will sure stop your kayak from sliding out. An optional hard tonneau lid ($895) unfolds in separate front and rear sections, divided by a central vertical partition, with a lock added on the forward bin for security.
Ford Ranger has consistently set the standard among compact trucks for spacious, comfortable accommodations and convenient features. The 2003 model is even more quiet, thanks to thicker glass, new door and B-pillar seals and a new drive shaft tunnel insulator shield.
Seat fabrics for selected models have been upgraded for 2003. XLT now features a soft, contrasting headliner and trim, revised interior door panels, new instrumentation and a new center panel bezel. As before, a tachometer is supplied at all trim levels, and the center pod for climate and audio systems uses large, easy-to-use rotary dials.
The Regular Cab carries a cloth bench seat that can squeeze three aboard. The seat splits 60/40 for access to the space behind it. The SuperCab offers a larger interior storage bay behind the front seat, with a 6-foot (71.8 inch) bed behind that. Two small side-facing jump seats may be added to the SuperCab's rear bay; each folds down from the back wall. Two optional rear-hinged doors (standard on Edge 4x4's) allow easy access to the SuperCab's rear quarters.
The Edge adds a textured rubber floor cover for wash-and-wear convenience. A car-wash jockey put Armor-All on ours, which was a bad idea, making it slippery. A 60/40 split bench is still standard, but new bucket seats with black twill bolters are optional. The fabric in the Edge seemed tough. Our SuperCab Edge test truck also featured the optional Power Equipment Group ($405), with electric assists for windows, locks and mirrors, plus remote keyless entry.
Topping Ranger's power chart is a 4.0-liter single-cam V6 built by Ford in Germany. With this engine, the Ranger leaps off the line and runs quickly to speed. More important, it provides strong low-rpm torque for off-road work in four-wheel-drive, or for pulling heavy loads or trailers.
The V6 teams with either a heavy-duty five-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic with adaptive shift logic. Rather than adding a taller overdrive, the five-speed automatic adds a gear between what would be first and second in a four-speed automatic. This provides closer ratios for better throttle response when accelerating, towing a trailer or driving off-road. A high-gear lockout switch on the tip of the shift lever enables the driver to kick down a gear with the tap of a finger.
Our Ranger SuperCab 4x4 with the 4.0-liter V6 and five-speed automatic delivered good performance for passing, even at altitude. It could scamper up mountain grades or effortlessly pass a line of heavy freight haulers.
The Ranger handles bumps and curves with confident dexterity. Its rigid ladder-like chassis, fully boxed in the front section, combines with an independent wishbone front suspension to pamper passengers with smooth ride sensations.
At the same time, the Ranger offers aggressive performance off the pavement, as we saw on a primitive track laced with lumps and rocks and tire-sucking mud pits. A high ground clearance enables the Ranger 4x4 to clear ruts and bumps easily. And when it doesn't, skid plates shield the transfer case and fuel tank from damage.
A pulse-vacuum hub-lock device engages the front hubs quickly, for push-button shifting into four-wheel-drive while rolling as fast as 80 mph. A rotary dial on the dashboard provides seamless switching from rear-wheel-drive to four-wheel-drive high, or further down to four-wheel low for serious off-road maneuvers.
For a growing number of individuals, even young families, a compact pickup is a sensible choice. Base prices compare favorably with those of entry-level sedans, and many folks feel that a truck has more personality. Virtually any power or luxury item you might order for a compact sedan is offered on a truck as well. A truck can be a versatile weekend workhorse and, especially when equipped with an extended cab and auxiliary rear doors, a competent family car the other five days out of the week.
We love the four-wheel-drive system with the vacuum-activated hubs and you can't beat the 4.0-liter V6 for performance. Several high-zoot trim packages are available, but we prefer a relatively tame Styleside SuperCab body. Get out of here with the Edge.
|Model Line Overview |
|Model lineup: ||XL ($13,010); XLT ($14,670); Edge ($15,190) |
|Engines: ||143-hp 2.3-liter dohc 16-valve inline 4; 154-hp 3.0-liter ohv 12-valve V6; 207-hp 4.0-liter sohc 12-valve V6 |
|Transmissions: ||5-speed manual; 5-speed automatic |
|Safety equipment (standard): ||dual front airbags, three-point seatbelts with force-limiting pre-tensioners, child restraint seat anchor brackets, anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) |
|Safety equipment (optional): ||N/A |
|Basic warranty: ||3 years/36,000 miles |
|Assembled in: ||Twin Cities, Minnesota; Edison, New Jersey; Norfolk, Virginia; Ontario, Canada |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): ||Edge SuperCab 4x4 ($21,645) |
|Standard equipment: ||Power dome hood design, monochromatic color scheme, power disc/drum brakes with EBD and ABS, power steering, dual front airbags, 4.0-liter V6 engine, 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM/6-disc in-dash CD, cloth and vinyl 60/40 split bench seat with fold-down armrest/console, auxiliary rear doors, textured rubber floor, analog instruments with tachometer, two 12-volt power points, sliding rear window, Styleside 6-ft. box, cargo bed rails, four cargo tie-down hooks, mud flaps, step bars, rear step bumper, front tow hooks, fog lamps, 16-inch aluminum wheels, P245/75/R16 tires |
|Options as tested (MSRP): ||5-speed automatic transmission ($1000); limited-slip rear axle ($295); Power Equipment Group ($405) includes power windows, locks, mirrors, remote keyless entry |
|Destination charge: ||($610) |
|Gas guzzler tax: ||N/A |
|Price as tested (MSRP): ||$23,955 |
|Layout: ||four-wheel drive |
|Engine: ||4.0-liter sohc 12-valve V6 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): ||207 @ 5250 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): ||238 @ 3000 |
|Transmission: ||5-speed automatic |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: ||15/19 mpg |
|Wheelbase: ||125.9 in. |
|Length/width/height: ||201.7/70.4/67.5 in. |
|Track, f/r: ||58.8/58.5 in. |
|Turning circle: ||43.0 ft. |
|Seating capacity: ||5 |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: ||39.3/52.7/42.4 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: ||N/A |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: ||33.3/19.6/40.4 in. |
|Trunk volume: ||N/A |
|Payload: ||1260 Lbs. |
|Towing capacity: ||5580 Lbs. |
|Suspension, f: ||Independent |
|Suspension, r: ||live axle |
|Ground clearance: ||7.4 in. |
|Curb weight: ||3707 lbs. |
|Tires: ||245/75R16 |
|Brakes, f/r: ||disc/drum with ABS and EBD |
|Fuel capacity: ||19.5 gal. |
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of May 13, 2002.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges.
N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-392-3673 - www.ford.com
Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive, Inc.