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Ford's Ranger offers excellent handling, a smooth ride and a comfortable cab. Regardless of trim level, power plant, or drive train, the Ranger offers good value. It's well built and dependable. Interior spaces are consistently ergo friendly. Four-wheel-drive models feature a slick hub-locking system that permits shifting out of four-wheel drive at any speed. It's not hard to figure out why the Ford Ranger is such an evergreen best seller.
For 2000, a new pre-runner package has been added.
A four-hour drive from Los Angeles to Bishop, California, in our 4X4 SuperCab XLT Sport was pure joy. At times, it was hard to believe that we were driving a 4WD truck with torsion-bar suspension and 16-inch all-terrain tires. The ride is that smooth.
There was a fair amount of wind noise in the cab-more than one would expect from such a well-built truck. Fortunately, the superb AM/FM/CD sound system that comes standard in XLT models did a good job of canceling out the noise.
On-road handling is precise and responsive. The Ranger tracks well and holds firmly onto the blacktop, even in sharp curves. The back end will lose traction and start to swing around if you are forced into a radical maneuver, but the same can be said for any empty pickup. In an emergency stop, the ABS holds the truck straight and true.
Where this truck showed its real character, though, was on a trek into the Coyote Mountains, which lay at the eastern base of the Sierra Nevadas. While the Sierra's Mount Tom dwarfs everything in sight with its 13,652-foot elevation, the 11,200-foot Coyote Ridge we reached in the Ranger is no walk in the park. The track leading into the Coyotes is narrow, twisting, rocky, and occasionally has holes big enough to swallow a lesser truck. We purposely held off putting the truck in 4WD as long as we could. With its big tires and limited-slip rear axle, the Ranger did quite well. It wasn't until we came on one particularly steep, rough section that we felt it prudent to flip the 4WD selector switch to 4WD-high. The Ranger climbed the hill like a mountain goat. We left it in 4WD the rest of the trek. The only time we shifted to 4WD-low was to gear down on a steep descent. The Ranger didn't falter once on our 50-mile round-trip adventure into the wilderness. In fact, it had better traction and handling than the full-sized SUV that accompanied us. A passenger swap part way up confirmed that the Ranger was a better ride over the rougher spots, too.
The powerful engine, smooth transmission, stable ride, and responsive handling of our test truck inspired driver confidence on and off the road.
With its many variations, there are Rangers suited for taking off-road adventures, running small businesses, or hauling materials for weekend projects.