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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.
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.
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2011 FORD RANGER$11,985 | 69,177 mi
2011 Ford Ranger$12,777 | 95,017 mi
2011 Ford Ranger$12,800 | 75,677 mi
2011 Ford Ranger$12,887 | 65,281 mi
2011 Ford Ranger$13,257 | 47,446 mi
2011 Ford Ranger$14,700 | 67,204 mi
2011 FORD RANGER$15,989 | 72,495 mi
2011 FORD RANGER$19,995 | 24,314 mi
2011 FORD RANGER$21,763 | 4,279 mi
2011 FORD RANGER$22,595 | 40,467 mi
2011 Ford Ranger$22,796 | 42,897 mi
2011 FORD RANGER$23,300 | 14,859 mi
2011 FORD RANGER$24,900 | 18,580 mi
2010 Ford Ranger$6,995 | 245,699 mi
2010 Ford Ranger$9,991 | 93,826 mi
2010 Ford Ranger$11,654 | 70,566 mi
2010 Ford Ranger$13,984 | 28,221 mi
2010 Ford Ranger$16,000 | 91,695 mi
2009 Ford Ranger$8,995 | 82,755 mi
2009 FORD RANGER$14,595 | 38,122 mi
2009 FORD RANGER$17,595 | 52,582 mi
2009 FORD RANGER$20,595 | 35,761 mi
2007 Ford Ranger$13,990 | 26,634 mi
2006 Ford Ranger$10,995 | 131,391 mi
2004 Ford Ranger$4,995 | 137,542 mi
2001 Ford Ranger$3,333 | 196,628 mi
2001 Ford Ranger$4,995 | 154,647 mi
2001 Ford Ranger$4,999 | 148,216 mi