Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Value in a rugged compact pickup.
The Ford Ranger has built a solid reputation as a rugged workhorse of a compact pickup. While many of the entry-level pickups from other manufacturers have moved up in size, roominess, features and refinement, the Ranger maintains its position as a true compact pickup that offers solid value for the money. Though quite dated now, the Ranger remains a good, reliable, proven truck with worthwhile features and attractive pricing.
Two engines are available, a 2.3-liter four-cylinder and a 4.0-liter V6. Each engine is available with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder engine with manual transmission and two-wheel drive has EPA fuel economy ratings of 21/26 mpg City/Highway, making it most fuel-efficient pickup on the market. In addition to its excellent fuel economy, it also has a 7,500-mile service interval for routine maintenance, such as oil changes. The 2.3-liter dohc four-cylinder makes 143 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque. The 4.0-liter V6 makes 207 horsepower and 238 pound-feet of torque. Four-wheel drive is available, but only with the V6 engine.
For 2010, there are only a few changes, but they are significant from a safety standpoint. AdvanceTrac electronic stability control with Roll Stability Control (RSC) becomes standard equipment; this system can help prevent skidding and roll-over conditions. And, also as standard equipment, there are new combination side airbags, designed to offer head and torso protection.
The 2010 Ford Ranger comes in three body styles: Regular Cab, SuperCab, SuperCab with four doors. Most versions have a 6-foot cargo bed, but a 7-foot bed is available on the Regular Cab with two-wheel drive. There are three trim levels: XL, up-level XLT, and the sportier-appearing Sport version.
The Ranger XL Regular Cab with two-wheel drive, the four-cylinder engine and manual transmission ($17,740) includes 15-inch steel wheels and a Class III trailer hitch.
Options for the XL level include the 4.0-liter V6 engine ($1,600), automatic transmission ($1,000), AM/FM stereo with clock ($355), bed liner ($275), 60/40 split-bench seat ($220), tilt steering wheel ($385, a full-size spare tire ($110), daytime running lights ($45), and an engine block heater ($90). With the four-wheel-drive XL SuperCab, which includes the V6 engine as standard ($23,395), options include a 4.10:1 axle ratio ($50), and skid plates ($175).
The XLT Regular Cab with two-wheel drive ($18,580) adds an AM/FM/MP3 sound system with an auxiliary jack, interior amenities, body-color bumpers, chrome trim, rear step bumper and other features. Options for the XLT level include an AM/FM with a 6CD changer ($240), privacy glass ($110), rear sliding window ($125), back step bar ($300), 15-inch alloy wheels ($315), remote start ($435), and keyless keypad ($95). Options for the XLT SuperCab with four doors and four-wheel drive ($24,730) include Satellite Radio ($195) and 16-inch alloy wheels ($250).
The Sport SuperCab is well equipped inside and out; with four doors and four-wheel drive ($25,570) the standard equipment includes all the standard features of the previous versions and many of the items that were optional.
The Ranger has a straightforward look that doesn’t pretend to be anything except a truck. It’s not necessarily distinctive and it’s certainly not on the cutting edge of style, but it’s an honest look that’s clean, not un-handsome, and timeless in a way. There is a family resemblance to the bigger Ford trucks, particularly at the front, and the dome in the hood gives it a rugged sort of presence.
We find the door handles a bit hard to hang onto; they occasionally snapped away from our fingers when we were in a hurry. Otherwise, everything about the Ranger is perfectly normal and delivers no surprises. There are big windows for good outward vision, which certainly help in parking and tight quarters.
Some potential buyers may find the XLT and Sport models more attractive, due to their higher level of trim and decoration. And we think the available alloy wheels, particularly the 16-inch versions, help give the Ranger a solid stance on the road.
The Ford Ranger offers spacious, comfortable accommodations and convenient features. The seats have sculpted bolsters and high seatbacks, and deliver more than adequate comfort.
Regular Cab models get a cloth bench seat that can accommodate three persons. Also available, depending upon trim level, is a 60/40-split front seat and cloth sport bucket seats.
SuperCabs offer a larger interior storage bay behind the front seat, with a six-foot bed behind that. There are two small side-facing jump seats, that fold down, in the SuperCab's rear bay; we have found one problem with side-facing seats is that, if children are sitting in them, as the vehicle accelerates and slows down their heads are sometimes tossed sideways (as they are sitting), which they may find to be uncomfortable. Two available rear-hinged doors (depending upon trim level) allow easy access to the SuperCab's rear quarters.
The center pod for climate and audio systems has easy-to-use controls. There are choices in the sound systems, with available features including a six-CD in-dash changer, MP3 compatibility, auxiliary input jack, and Satellite Radio.
The Ford Ranger is a thoroughly developed product with no surprises and it does exactly what you would expect of it. The Ranger has benefitted over the years from numerous detail improvements and upgrades to various portions of the running gear.
When equipped with the overhead-cam 4.0-liter V6 engine the Ranger has more than adequate performance around town or on the highway. 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, in effect, 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, the available skid plates shield the undersides 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 control 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.
As a work truck, the Ford Ranger offers serious truck capability at affordable prices. Watch for cash rebates and other incentives. The high-level models deliver strong performance on and off road. We like the XLT. The four-wheel-drive system with vacuum-activated hubs works very well and you can't beat the 4.0-liter V6 for performance.
Don Fuller filed this report to New Car Test Drive from Corona, California; with NCTD.com staff reports.
Ford Ranger XL Regular Cab 2WD ($17,740); XLT Regular Car 2WD ($18,580); XLT SuperCab 4WD ($23,310); Sport SuperCab 4WD 4-door ($25,570).
Twin Cities, Minnesota; Edison New Jersey; Norfolk, Virginia; Ontario, Canada.
Options As Tested
5-speed automatic transmission ($1,000).
Ford Ranger XLT SuperCab 4x4 4-door ($24,730).
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