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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.
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.