By on February 1, 2008

80fogek1-e0511036255001030.jpgThanks to John Steinbeck and Nat King Cole, Route 66 is an American icon. But Highway 77 in South Texas gives "kicks" of the international kind. As this highway winds down Mexico way, we find neglected and discarded compact trucks in pairs, towing their belittled brothers to a new life south of the Border.  And while America's insatiable demand for new product continues apace, Highway 77 speaks to a silent majority who favors cheaper and smaller vehicles.  It's the spiritual home of the Ford Ranger.

The Ford Ranger is more WYSIWYG than Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. Unlike its mid-size competition, the Ranger is perfectly happy without top-drawer flares, flashy paint, extensions and bulges. While the Blue Oval Boyz updated the grille and side mirrors to mimic big brother F150, nobody's buying it.  (Literally.) But the Ranger's low beltline, expansive greenhouse and modest 15" steel wheels work as promised. The Ranger is a simple, respectable pickup truck.

fordtruck_rangerregularcab4×2_112inwbsportstyleside_2007_interior_rearseat_640×480.jpgThe ease of ingress offers another reason why this ancient platform feels more timeless than outdated. Its thickly textured flight bench seat is both reassuring and supportive. The solid rubber floor smells like a new pair of professionally-endorsed kicks. Fit and finish is class average. No surprise there; this is the same interior that Clinton-era Eddie Bauer fans snapped up for more than twice the price. Other than its complete lack of fashion sense, the Ranger has aged well.

Sliding out of the Ranger is just as easy as entering; if only all trucks knew that "small" is the new "big." But adding a CD/MP3 player and a sliding rear window to the Ranger provides an honest driving experience not normally associated with today's electronic overkill.

Since options cost money, there are only two that earn their keep: the mid-grade V6 and its automatic five-cog gear swapper. The cast iron "Vulcan" mill walks the fine line between four-banger affordability (a $300 option) and V6 power, getting the Ranger to work early with 180lb-ft of pushrod twist.  Even with the close ratio transmission keeping the meager 148 ponies at their peak, the Ranger moves with no sense of urgency. The zero to sixty "dash" take around 10 seconds.

fordtruck_rangerregularcab4×2_112inwbsportstyleside_2007_dashboard_dashboard_640×480.jpgBut what the numbers don't tell you is that the Ranger's engine offers smooth power delivery and a flat powerband. Unlike its thrashy four-banger competition, the 3100lb Ranger scoots like a big truck and tows a Ridgeline-beating 5860lbs behind its puny frame. Fuel economy penalty be damned, ye olde Vulcan is still a peach. 

Not to mention the fact that the torquey Ranger is fun to drive. Its not rocket science. Take a tiny rear wheel-drive truck, add a beefy powertrain, responsive steering, a modicum of roll control and voila! Cheap thrills. Sure the Continental tires have zero grip, and an unladen bed gives the solid axle plenty of wiggle room. But the Ranger gladly explores its limits at speeds safe enough for Ralph Nader's approval. Push any harder and the Ranger quickly points out it isn't a modern truck, much less a mild-mannered econobox.

But when the performance-anxiety reality sets in, the Ranger's parking lot skills and distraction-free visibility are a breath of fresh air. U-turns are effortless in this 69.3" wide platform. It's so nimble that a fleet of Rangers could perform in a down-home drifting team, touring the nation behind Toby Keith's tour bus.  

fordtruck_rangerregularcab4×2_112inwbsportstyleside_2007_other_trunk_640×480.jpgThat said, the blue-collar Ranger's inherent ugliness on bumpy roads reveals that this pickup's frame has all the torsional rigidity of half-cooked tortellini. Its underpinnings lose composure over every pothole, no matter how miniscule its proportions. Sadly, this neglected rig has none of the mighty engineering prowess of its F150 brother. And that's a damn shame.

With the departure of the compact Toyota Tacoma in 2004, the Ranger is the only safe haven for "right-sized" truckers. The Ranger's long bed carries a full 43.6 cubic feet of cargo, with a metal tailgate that easily closes with a single hand. And while the latest Ford F150 boasts class-leading stepladders to access its bountiful bed, Ranger-philes need not stretch a single vertebra to grasp a misplaced tool in their pickup's cargo hole.

fordtruck_rangerregularcab4×2_112inwbsportstyleside_2007_exterior_sideview_640×480.jpgAfter my time with a Ranger, the words "reasonable" and "honest" sprung to mind. As gas prices soar, the housing market tanks and sales of mid/full size pickups return from whence they came, the time for the Ranger to shine is now.  

But the staggering neglect and obligatory demise of another famous Blue Oval product is proof positive that Ford is lowering its overhead via unnecessary self-mutilation. As the threat of mini-rigs from once-foreign lands grows more credible, the low-brow Ranger is a potential profit center. Come 2009, Ford's decision to kill the Ranger will soon become another haunting melody from another, better time.

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93 Comments on “2008 Ford Ranger Review...”


  • avatar
    RobertSD

    There will be an announcement of a Ranger replacement strategy within the year, I think. We are scheduled to be getting the T6 (global compact truck) from Australia in 2010, and there have been persistent (but unconfirmed) rumors of a mid-size truck being worked on as well.

  • avatar

    The Ranger is Exhibit A in the case of Ford’s decline. This is a segment they used to OWN. Then they failed to substantially update the Ranger for 15 years, no doubt because it’s hard to make a business case fly in this entry-level segment.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Killing the Ranger? Brilliant. Just f’ing brilliant.

    I like the size of my Ranger. I don’t want another truck to replace it when the time comes, but if I did, a Ranger would probably be it.

  • avatar
    86er

    This article does a fine job at extracting the enormous promise that many of FoMoCo’s old products had, and could still have into the future. But here is another product that has withered on the vine for far too long.

    What I mean when I say promise for the future is just as the author alludes to: FoMoCo is again a day late and dollar short in stopping the wheels set in motion that will lead to this and the Panther platform’s demise in 2009, just when both platforms could’ve been revised and injected with new life.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I have an aversion to ford products but the Ranger is both affordable used and actually reliable compared to it’s big brother. Gas mileage with the six is surprisingly bad, the four is far better on gas.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    I was glad to read a respectful eulogy for the Ranger. It’s enormously refreshing, in today’s truck market, to find a pickup that just does what it says on the tin. No lifestyle-enhancing, yacht-towing, “off to run the Baja 1000” pretense.

    I also appreciate the mechanical honesty and (relative) directness to the Ranger’s controls; other (4,500+ lb) “compact” pickups just can’t duplicate it.

    I’d argue that the base model, with its Mazda 2.3L Four and smoothish five-speed stick, is an even better deal than the Six. One of my buddies recently picked one up, brand-new, for $12,000.

  • avatar

    Well, there is a Ranger with the “pretense,” the FX4 Level II. The husband of one of my wife’s college friends bought one. Even loaded up, he liked the price.

  • avatar
    RobertSD

    The new management has deliberately set about refreshing the line-up. Ford’s reputation and products among the car world were much more appalling than the Ranger’s when Fields started pushing on Ford’s product pipeline. While keeping the Ranger fresh may have gained an extra 50-75k in sales for Ford, the market has been in decline for while, and those trucks would not have turned in nearly as much profit as paying attention to growing markets such as crossovers and its own bread-and-butter the F-150. The Ranger had its niche, and while it would slowly wilt away, it wasn’t the most pressing of Ford’s many concerns.

    A similar statement can be made for the Crown Victoria.

    Now, Ford has completely overhauled its development program. Instead of relying on a small batch of North American engineers to develop everything, Ford of NA has been aligned with world development schedules. It just so happens that those development schedules couldn’t get a small pick-up replacement here sooner. Ditto RWD platforms.

    It’s not like Ford still doesn’t realize that the Ranger is out-of-date. We need to make a clean break here between old management of products and the new management. Mulally and co. realize it, but it is not worth investing anything into the Ranger for the moment because resources are scarce, tooling is expensive and anything they do would be a patch job and not really worth the effort at this point. It will be replaced in about 2 years with a worthy successor if the sources are correct. One method was just disregard for proper product planning while the other is prudent investment of limited capital and leveraging all resources effectively to bring appropriate products to the markets most in need of them – and sometimes, that looks to an outsider like they are still neglecting the segment today.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    Future historians analyzing the demise of the once mighty Ford Motor empire would do well to study the case of the Ranger. In the mid 90’s, Ford consistently held 5 spaces on the top 10 best-selling vehicles lists. The Ranger was one.
    How a manufacturer could let a cash cow wither and die is a question for the ages. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I am currently very happy with my 3rd Toyota Tacoma.)

  • avatar
    timoted

    Shame on Ford if/when they kill the Ranger. The fact that you see so many of these units on the road should be testament enough. I see people drive these things until they die which is usually a very long time.

  • avatar
    86er

    (In the spirit of full disclosure, I am currently very happy with my 3rd Toyota Tacoma.)

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I am driving a 2nd gen. Dakota because I found the Ranger a good value but cramped for my purposes.

    If the forthcoming T6 platform moves to a mid-size (which I doubt) I will give it serious consideration. I like half-tons but they’ve almost sized themselves beyond my consideration.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    http://www.autoblog.com/photos/ford-falcon-xr8-ute/607933/

    I’ll just wait for Mr. Farago to review this car/truck or Cross Over Vehicle

  • avatar
    rodster205

    Several commenters have said the the U.S. will get the next world Ranger. If that is the case, would someone please tell Autoblog? They just reported that the U.S. will NOT get the next Ranger.

    Ford to invest $209m in South Africa for new Ranger pickup

  • avatar
    fallout11

    I replaced my ’95 Ranger with, you guessed it, a ’02 Ranger. Now I am unsure what I will do when the time comes to swap it out.
    The USAF has owned (and still uses) thousands of these, great reliable small trucks, can take abuse and still give an honest day’s work.
    Nice article, Mr. Mehta.

  • avatar
    tdoyle

    I love my F150, but as a solid little work truck, the Ranger served me well as a torque converter delivery vehicle back in 2001-2002. I rented a different one every month from a local Budget dealer whose monthly rental worked out cheaper than a car payment and insurance and maintenance. It got good mileage, didn’t squeak and shutter, and the double clamshell bedtop that the factory offered in the early 2000-02 models kept the bed clean and dry.

    Too bad they won’t keep her around.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    I have a ’98 Ranger XLT…only options are A/T, A/C and some cheesey 15″ aluminum rims. The 4 banger is from the Pinto era, if I’m correct, but it does what I require it to do: Namely, haul small loads from Lowe’s and HD once a week. Since it’s only rarely driven, I thought about trading it in on my last new vehicle…but they only offered $2500 for what is still a fairly new looking vehicle. For that price, I’ll drive this thing forwever (well, 4-times a month forever)…or until my bare-minimum maintenance schedule fails it.

    That said, it’s amazing that the photos above look exactly like my truck, though it’s ten years later. With the exception of the headlights and grill, all is the same…inside and out. What does Ford do when it comes time to freshen this thing? Dedicate 1-hour of design engineering w/the interns and hash something out on a Subway napkin? Crazy in this day and age to neglect a vehicle for this long…sort of a modern day Model T.

  • avatar

    Why not bring over the Mazda BT-50?
    It’s a great looking little(ish) truck and diesel to boot.

    http://www.mazda.co.za/servlet/ContentServer?cid=1137386308717&pagename=Page&site=MSA&c=DFYPage

  • avatar
    nudave

    Not a problem. Mahindra will gladly supply the replacement.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I had two Rangers in the 1990s. A ’96 XLT with the Vulcan and a 5-speed leased for two years. I replaced it with a ’98 XLT with the 2.3L and a five-speed. I miss them both. They were inexpensive, honest trucks that served the commuting role and the weekend runs to Home Depot very well. I agree with the recommendation of the 2.3, it drove as well as the Vulcan.

    BTW, the Vulcan as gutless as it may be is one of the most reliable motors ever made. I had it in three high-mileage Taurus/Sable wagons and each of them never failed to start, never consumed oil, never ran rough and gave every sign of being able to go another 100K miles beyond the 145K showing on the clock of the highest-mileage example. Too bad the Tauri transmissions weren’t as long-lived…

    While I understand the rationale behind neglecting the Ranger (higher-profit F-150s), it is a fine example of Detroit did right and it will be missed. Sadly, there’s not a lot from Ford that attracts me these days. Too bad. Two Mustangs, two Rangers and three Tauri make Ford my most-owned brand in my driving career.

  • avatar
    tulsa_97sr5

    I keep hearing that the ranger is the last small pickup. For fun I went to edmunds and compared specs on the base 2wd reg cab ranger and tacoma. They are not that far apart. 1″ in length, 3″ in width, 150lbs diff. Similar price (before discounts) too.

  • avatar
    blautens

    Having driven older Rangers and very new Colorados from our fleet, I’d pick the Rangers if I had to own one. They’ve got 10 years on the Colorados but they still feel more solid.

  • avatar
    86er

    Having driven older Rangers and very new Colorados from our fleet, I’d pick the Rangers if I had to own one. They’ve got 10 years on the Colorados but they still feel more solid.

    I second this. When I was in the market for a replacement for my 86 Silverado I drove the Colorado and was thoroughly unimpressed, despite my point of reference being the aforementioned 86 Silverado.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    Me three. I found it especially surprising that the Ranger’s structure makes the Colorado’s feel like a loose noodle (the former being no Merc in that regard).

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    This is another example of Ford still reeling from the Nasser era of buying everything from Volvo to scrap yards rather than investing in product. I remember being told once that Ford was a “customer service company” rather than an auto manufacturer (I wonder what Toyota sees itself as?). That self-perception stayed around far too long as vehicles like Ranger (and Focus, and Taurus and Escape and Mustang and Crown Vic and all of Mercury and Lincoln) stayed static.

    The longevity or the Ranger is another example of proof that Ford has the engineering and manufacturing talent to make it the equal of anything Toyota (on paper anyway) or Honda can produce.

    All they need to remember is that they’re a frickin’ car maker!

  • avatar
    Zarba

    I think 3 stars is too low for the Ranger. Hear me out…

    It’s big enough to haul pretty much everything you need. It’s cheap to buy and cheap to own. It’s an honest truck in an age of King Ranch’s and Escalade EXT’s.

    You won’t care when the bed gets dented and scuffed. Hell, you won’t care when the body gets dented and scuffed. It won’t bother you when your Big Gulp spills on the floor.

    As Willbodine said, how Ford could have allowed this cash cow, no, cash Godzilla, to whither and die is a shame. This truck is perfectly positioned for today’s fuel costs, but Ford just sits there and lets it rot.

    I’ll even give you the ad:

    A bunch of fancy Tacomas, Ridgelines, and Frontiers parked outside the Home Depot, while their owners whine about getting thier trucks dirty.

    Up drives a dirty Ranger, full of gear, showering them all in mud. The requisite Truck Hombre steps out, and strides through the mud, past the apoplectic metrosexuals in their finery.

    tagline: Ranger – Buy a Real Truck!

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    It’s crazy sometimes with this site. For whatever reasons, cars I consider very good often get very, very mediocre scores, and the cars that are pretty bad get decent scores (like here).

    I think it has to do with the cars that I consider good have a lot to live up to, and sometimes the reviewers are disappointed with the car not being the second coming that it was envisioned to be, and give it a decidedly low score.

    On the other hand, cars that are generally considered outdated and bad get decent to high scores sometimes, because I think they end up exceeding by a bit the reviewer’s negative perception coming into the test. They still probably don’t deserve as high a rating as they receive, however.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Tulsa –

    You’re right, Ranger and Tacoma really are about the same size.

    Anyway, it’s only outdated in it’s styling. Mechanically it’s still on par with the competition, as far as I can see. (Unless you consider a 5 cyl. option a technical marvel) Freshen it up, offer a diesel option, and earn enough cash to fix the rest of the fleet.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Wow, impressive! Three stars is an average grade. If the Ranger were in high school and TTAC were the teacher, it would be a C student. And the Altima coupe got five stars, a perfect 4.0. It seems that TTAC is just way too compasionate for these sad, below-average vehicles… they’re being way too generous lately.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Funny coincidence about Rangers and Route 66. Our first, and so far last new vehicle purchase was a 93 Ford Ranger, similar to this truck with the Vulcan 6, Auto, long bed, and XLT trim. Our first act on taking delivery was to drive it to the Sonic drive-in on Route 66 in Joplin Missouri, where for some strange reason we were living at the time.
    We came to our senses and moved to Oregon, but we kept that truck until 2002, when a free car and a second child made a back seat more important than 7′ box. That truck was stone reliable, with only one minor mechanical issue in 9 years.
    That said, the Ranger is definitely outmoded and needs an update. Fortunately the logical replacement is the Mazda for sells as a Ranger everywhere else.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Good review. I think you captured the spririt of the Ranger very well. I think of the Ranger as an “honest” truck: No pretense. No silly body work or “in your face” “Extreem!” graphics. Sajeev, you shouldv’e gotten the combo I had on my ’99 which was the same 3.0l V-6 but with a 5 speed. The 5 speed makes up for the mushiness of the V6. I miss that flex-fuel V-6 every time I pass by an E85 station selling fuel for a dollar a gallon less than I pay for unleaded.

    The Ranger was also the first vehicle I ever bought with AC, and man, even on the hottest days the AC in that thing made the cab cold enough to store meat.

    I know it’s a matter of taste, but I’ve always thought the 98-up Ford Ranger was a particularly good looking truck. Nothing fancy, just “right sized” proportions of everything. Balanced and clean, unlike so many trucks today that try to out-macho each other with fender flares, aggressive grilles and assorted bizzarre trim pieces.

    If not for Ford’s choice to go to a push-button transfer case (sadly followed by just about every other manufacturer now) I’d have probably looked at another Ranger when it was time for me to get a new 4wd truck. Instead I got the last of the manual-transfer-case (and reasonable sized) Tacomas, a 2004.

  • avatar

    It is quite sad that the 148! hp 3L V6 Ranger is rated at the same 17mpg as the 1,000# heavier 260hp Nissan.

    At least GM had the foresight to move the tooling for old lumps(Vulcan) like that to China.

  • avatar
    BobJava

    According to the MSN Autos section, the difference in width between the Ranger and the Tacoma is over four inches: 70.30 to 74.60. In the car world, that’s big. Maybe the differences of length of the axles is three inches, but the Tacoma has those childish, useless flares too.

    I don’t know if I can laud the Ranger for not changing, but it certainly is a sentimental pick, as all of the other small trucks are no longer small. These other small trucks, Tacoma and Frontier included, always make me think of the following:

    1. Why is it so hard to fit a new “small” truck in a garage?
    2. Why is it so hard to see out of this damn thing?
    3. Why would I pay that much when the half-tons are in the same neighborhood?

    I guess the third complaint is the most subjective, but you probably won’t find money on the hood of a Tacoma.

    I’d never buy one new, but the Ranger’s lack of pretense and appropriate utility, if only by manufacturer’s neglect, is a strong suit in a world of bloated, air-filled Tacomas and Titan-based Frontiers.

  • avatar
    red dawg

    This is the same tired Ranger Ford has been selling for 25+ years now. Where the compitition has made improvements and updates or come out with totally new compact/midside trucks (Toyata Tacoma, Dodge Dakota, Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, Mitsubishi Raider w/ DNA clone help form Dodge’s Dakota, Nissan Frontier), Ford kept selling this unimproved truck. All Ford did was slighty update the interior and the front and rear of the truck every few years with a new grille/headlights/fenders/tail lights. Why not?? It was a cash cow that kept producing. As was said in an earlier post, Ford used to own this segment and lost it. Why? As i said the compitition has advanced and Ford didn’t. Looks like Ford got caught with it’s corporate pants down !!!!! I would bet that if one could remove the body from a 2008 Ranger and one from a truck from the early 80’s, you’ll find little to no change. I can hear it now: If it ain’t broke!!! Well, that mentality has cost Ford a segment leading title and who knows how many customers ????? It is survival of the fittest and Ford clearly isn’t that fit anymore when it comes to small trucks!!!!!!! They have given up on the mini-van market and this review leads one to believe the ranger will go too. Makes one wonder what market segment Ford will abandon next that it can’t successfully compete in???

  • avatar
    tulsa_97sr5

    bobjava, you must have been looking at different trim levels than i did. I chose the most basic version of each, just checked again on MSN autos says 69.4 vs 72.2 so just under 3″ width difference. Either way we’re splitting hairs I think. I understand you not liking the new styling on the tacoma, and you are right a couple inches in a car can mean a lot. At the same time I wouldn’t say that this makes the tacoma a midsized pickup and the ranger the last compact pickup.

    I will admit I’m biased towards the 2.7l 4cyl in the tacoma, I know for a fact that it’s a great 4 banger.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Like the Taurus / Crown Vic / Windstar / Escort and other Fords of yore, the Ranger offers extremely strong bang for the buck in the used car market.

    We just had a whole fleet of 06′ Taurus go through the sales for 7k to 8500. In fact, Ford sells a ton of them at their factory sales. ‘Buy here pay here’ dealers and fleet companies tend to scoop up a very big portion of them.

    Crown Vic’s are about the cheapest per pound vehicle out there. I just sold an 03′ police interceptor for just under 4k… to a taxicab company.

    Windstars can’t sell to save their asses from first base. I have a 2002 model that’s been on a holding pattern for three months now at $3500. The Windstar is probably an even cheaper vehicle than the Crown Vic on a per pound basis. Too bad that not even J.D. Power’s durability studies can help that van’s cellar dwelling position in the used car market.

    Rangers have always sold because everyone needs a cheap truck. I sold a 99′ model recently for $2800 that had about 159k and was a complete stripper model. It did have a/c and a radio… but that’s it.

    Escorts are actually pretty well thought of in the remarketing industry. They’re cheap to run, cheap to buy, and… well… cheap overall. They tend to be far less rattle prone and troublesome than the Neons, Cavalier/Sunfire, and Saturns… and better ‘commuting’ values than the Proteges, Civics, and Corollas. I’ve sold a lot of those over the years and even bought one for members of my own family. As a 5-speed with the right options, I would put them among the best economical cars for the money.

    Any of these cars on a strictly ‘per mile’ basis can be an exceptional value. If you don’t really care about what you drive, an old Ford will do just fine.

  • avatar
    skaro

    Excellent post. I greatly appreciate when this site reviews average-joe vehicles and trim levels. All sites like Edmunds and Motortrend seem to ever do are the Super Megatron 9000x cars I will never even be able to afford the tax on..

    I had a 2000 ranger I regret trading into Carmax for $2800 in 2005. It was a longbed 4cyl with cruise and AC. It got 27 mpg heading west through Kansas and Colorado, and 30 mpg coming back. It tracked so stable on the highway. Since then, I’ve had a Forester and then an 06 Tacoma. Both cars are super squirrely on the highway, much more expensive to own, and made me regret letting Carmax screw me. Sigh. Live and learn..

  • avatar
    jjdaddyo

    My marketing theory: a small diesel in one of these with some judicious interior and frame updates and you would be looking at the Fleet King.
    What delivery service/small contractor/government wouldn’t want one of these that is dead reliable and gets 30/40 mpg? Low TCO is what they’re looking for, not 0-60 times.
    And best of all NO COMPETITION in that niche. Every other truck in the US market is 5000 pounds and 14 mpg. (aside from the gas powered Ranger)

  • avatar
    westhighgoalie

    I LOVE THE RANGER! It’s what all American trucks should try to be. Reliable – I saw a 1992 Ranger on the road with 313,000 miles on it!!! and it was still on the original transmission, and the owner tows his snowmobiles and dirt bikes regularly. It’s also as complicated as dirt. It’s simple, and that makes anything that breaks, damn easy to fix! More trucks should try to be like the ranger and his cousin the Mazda B series. And it’s true, they are the ultimate vehicle to completely tool around in! I’ve never had more fun in an old jalopy!

  • avatar
    factotum

    Price one of these on cars direct dot com and you may be surprised (or shocked). A base regular cab, 2wd, with the I-4, and 5-spd man is on “sale” at $15,901 (MSRP is $16,605). Ford’s rebates total $4000–24% of MSRP–for a final price of $11,901 + TTL.

    Then you go on over to Kelley Blue Book and for an 07 Ranger, short bed, same specs as above and 12,000 miles (this all assumes zip code 95826), the Suggested Retail Value comes out to $13,550!

    What a deal!

  • avatar
    carguy1964

    They should hurry up and change that ugly design and not just wait another 2 years, C’mon Ford, what are you waiting for?? a “retro ranger” I am supprised that they didn’t make a “retro Mavrick” or Comet…as for durablity, they got to be okay once after the fuel leak was fixed, because they were found off the sides of the fwy’s on fire….I just hope the next ten years or sooner that the big 2.8 get there sorry dead butt’s in gear and start making American cars and trucks to be reckoned with, The new benchmark of all vehicles!!

  • avatar
    BKW

    Ford Ranger introduced midyear 1982 as a 1983 model. Supercab added for model year 1986. While the truck has been restyled over the years, the basic cab structure has remained the same since 1982.

    Local Ford dealer ad from 2/1/2008 edition of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune: New 2008 Ranger Super Cab V6. Auto, Air, CD, Rear Seat, Tow Package. Sale price: $16,985.00. Less $3000.00 rebate, less $1000.00 “Bonus Cash.” Net cost: $12,985.00

    Spend a coupla bucks extra.

    The same paper has several Dodge dealer ads for new 2008 Ram 1500 Quad Cabs: Sales price: $14,777.00 (ad sez: a savings of over $12,003.00 from MSRP). Dodge ads similar to this have run for over two years in local newspapers.

  • avatar
    otsegony

    I’ve owned three Rangers (84, 92 and still– an 00) and have generally liked them. They are all what the other posters have said, simple, reliable T-R-U-C-K-S. I would still be driving the ’92 if it hadn’t fallen apart from the scourge of the North, rust to the frame and body.
    You can really see the problems with Ford when you go shopping for a new Ranger. When I bought my ’92 I had a choice of about 20 -30 Rangers on the dealer’s lot. There was every configuration of bed and cab size, powertrain options in several colors. This Fall when I went to visit the dealers in my area they only had a 3 or 4 trucks on the lot and they were all 4wd spacecabs loaded with option which pushed the prices up around $25k. I went to four dealers and only found one with a couple of the low-ball 4 cylinder, short bed models. Try and buy a conventional cab, long-bed Ranger either with or without 4wd. For my money, this is the most functional version of the truck and absolutely unavailable in my region. One salesman told me he hadn’t seen one in at least two years in his dealership.
    I agree with the poster who said that Ford should offer a simplified, diesel version of the truck to appeal to those who actually want a truck. I think they would pretty quickly attract a “cult” following of real truck users who would bring other segments of the market along to buy their SUV wanna-be vehicles with mini, plastic clad beds.

  • avatar
    NickR

    You ask me…this is exactly what a pick-up truck should be. Not to dispute our esteemed reviewer but this piece of lost truck-making art would get 5/5 from me.

  • avatar
    powerpeecee

    No love for the Mad Vulcan Powah (google it) ?

    Gotta love the vulcan for it’s unbreakable-ness. Glamorous it is not, but it’ll always get you there.

    The only thing I’ve ever done to the one in my Taurus is put a water pump and a Cam synchronizer shaft, each of these cost me about $40, this is in 183,000 miles of use.

    It wasn’t overheating when I changed the W/P, the bearings were just getting noisy so I pre-emptively changed it out.

    The cam sensor synchronizer shaft was making a most unpleasant noise on startup, and chirping until it got warm, $40 for one from rockauto.com and I was back in bidness again.

    You can’t kill a Vulcan. (insert spock image here)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Vulcan_engine

    “This engine has become very well-known for its durability, and is common to find engines running strong at 300,000 miles (480,000 km) and beyond”

    I’ll forego the ridiculous horsepower numbers to have something that will just work (and work, and work), thanks.

  • avatar

    Thank you all for reading. I hope everyone enjoyed the review as much as I did writing it.

    I really wanted to write this because of all the attention the latest designs get in the popular automotive media. That’s especially a load of BS when it comes to trucks, so its time the Ranger got what it deserves.
    —————–
    RobertSD : There will be an announcement of a Ranger replacement strategy within the year, I think.

    Let’s hope its not tall/boxy and has an impossible to reach bed like every other modern truck on the market.
    ——————-
    RobertSD: It’s not like Ford still doesn’t realize that the Ranger is out-of-date. We need to make a clean break here between old management of products and the new management. Mulally and co. realize it, but it is not worth investing anything into the Ranger for the moment because resources are scarce, tooling is expensive and anything they do would be a patch job and not really worth the effort at this point.

    Agreed: old management was a joke, they pushed back Ranger redesigns for years. Maybe Mulally has something “honest” to replace the Ranger, but that won’t stop many of us who like the Ranger (and Taurus, and Crown Vic, and whatever else) from publicaly showing their disdain for the company who crammed outmoded product down our throats for years.

    —————–
    willbodine : How a manufacturer could let a cash cow wither and die is a question for the ages. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I am currently very happy with my 3rd Toyota Tacoma.)

    Corporate stupidity. Its nice to hear some hope from RobertSD’s comments, but until we hear something more tangible (no offense) the demise of another good, but old, product in the Ford lineup is a tragedy.

    —————–
    rodster205 : I replaced my ‘95 Ranger with, you guessed it, a ‘02 Ranger. …The USAF has owned (and still uses) thousands of these, great reliable small trucks, can take abuse and still give an honest day’s work.

    And that’s what Fords used to be: honest.

    I guess we have some consolation that the Ranger name (unlike the Explorer) won’t be re-used for a Volvo-based crossover. (cringe)

    —————–
    tdoyle : I rented a different one every month from a local Budget dealer whose monthly rental worked out cheaper than a car payment and insurance and maintenance. It got good mileage, didn’t squeak and shutter, and the double clamshell bedtop that the factory offered in the early 2000-02 models kept the bed clean and dry.

    Now that’s a pretty smart move for a small business! I love hearing our reader’s comments on “special” vehicles like the Ranger. You don’t hear the truth like this very often.

    —————–
    nudave : Not a problem. Mahindra will gladly supply the replacement.

    If they make them here and avoid that huge tax placed on imported trucks by the Feds.

    —————–
    bunkie : Sadly, there’s not a lot from Ford that attracts me these days. Too bad. Two Mustangs, two Rangers and three Tauri make Ford my most-owned brand in my driving career.

    And people say TTAC readers are anti-Detroit. Maybe if Ford plowed back profits into those famous brands…

    —————–
    tulsa_97sr5 : I keep hearing that the ranger is the last small pickup. For fun I went to edmunds and compared specs on the base 2wd reg cab ranger and tacoma. They are not that far apart. 1″ in length, 3″ in width, 150lbs diff.

    3” in width is rather significant, no? Not to mention the new Taco’s overwrought styling, massive frontal area, and taller bed height, 2/3 sheetmetal to 1/3 glass proportions, bulky tailgate, etc. compared to the little old Ranger.

    That, and the Vulcan V6 gives you 2400lbs more towing for about the same price as a four-banger Taco (before discounts).

    —————–
    P.J. McCombs: Me three. I found it especially surprising that the Ranger’s structure makes the Colorado’s feel like a loose noodle

    Add a fourth to the list: I thought it was just me. That Colorado is a terribly weak offering in everything from engines, pricing and chassis design.

    Wow, I gotta say it again: I thought it was just me who thought the Colorado was a poor effort compared to ye olde Ranger.

    —————–
    Zarba : I think 3 stars is too low for the Ranger. Hear me out…It’s big enough to haul pretty much everything you need. It’s cheap to buy and cheap to own.

    I thought about a 4th star, but the styling and chassis is too dated. Maybe if Ford didn’t raise the bar in the suspension/chassis departments back in 2004 with the F150.

    —————–
    LamborghiniZ : On the other hand, cars that are generally considered outdated and bad get decent to high scores sometimes, because I think they end up exceeding by a bit the reviewer’s negative perception coming into the test. They still probably don’t deserve as high a rating as they receive, however.

    But the Ranger isn’t bad. Its proven itself to so many people in so many places, and nobody can deny that. So it gets three stars.

    Now if I tested a loaded out model for $22k or more, the stars would drop. Nobody likes a concrete cowboy.

    —————–
    blue adidas : Wow, impressive! Three stars is an average grade. If the Ranger were in high school and TTAC were the teacher, it would be a C student. And the Altima coupe got five stars, a perfect 4.0. It seems that TTAC is just way too compasionate for these sad, below-average vehicles… they’re being way too generous lately.

    No, the writers assign stars. While I love Megan’s work and respect her tremendously, and I would never give the Altima coupe 5 stars. The styling alone is an insult to the G35/37 coupes.

    Maybe I’ll drive an Altima myself, but it seems like a solid 3-star vehicle, but for different reasons than the Ranger.

    —————–
    Martin Albright : Sajeev, you shouldv’e gotten the combo I had on my ‘99 which was the same 3.0l V-6 but with a 5 speed. The 5 speed makes up for the mushiness of the V6. I miss that flex-fuel V-6 every time I pass by an E85 station selling fuel for a dollar a gallon less than I pay for unleaded.

    Wow Martin, you are totally reading my mind. I wanted to test the Vulcan/manual combo. More control, more power, more efficiency and $800 cheaper.

    But finding one these days is even harder than getting a Ranger with power windows/locks/mirrors.

    —————–
    Martin Albright: If not for Ford’s choice to go to a push-button transfer case (sadly followed by just about every other manufacturer now) I’d have probably looked at another Ranger when it was time for me to get a new 4wd truck. Instead I got the last of the manual-transfer-case (and reasonable sized) Tacomas, a 2004.

    Since you mentioned it, TTAC needs to do a eulogy for the death of manual transfer cases. And the 2004 Taco.

    —————–
    Praxis : It is quite sad that the 148! hp 3L V6 Ranger is rated at the same 17mpg as the 1,000# heavier 260hp Nissan.

    That is, if you want to pay thousands more for a V6 that (last time I read a Pathfinder’s owners manual) guzzles premium while making that 260hp.

    —————–
    BobJava : I’d never buy one new, but the Ranger’s lack of pretense and appropriate utility, if only by manufacturer’s neglect, is a strong suit in a world of bloated, air-filled Tacomas and Titan-based Frontiers.

    Pretty much why it got 3 stars. And I could close the tailgate with one hand. After reviewing so many new trucks, that was a fresh breath of stagnant air.

    I really, really hope the truck RobertSD spoke up will buck the trend of bigger trucks.

    —————–
    red dawg : I would bet that if one could remove the body from a 2008 Ranger and one from a truck from the early 80’s, you’ll find little to no change.

    Except for the independent front suspension borrowed from the 1995 Explorer (me not fan of I-Beams for sure) and the revised rear suspension with different mounting points for a lot of parts. (the bed’s mounting points were redesigned circa 2002 for the latter reason)

    —————–
    skaro : Excellent post. I greatly appreciate when this site reviews average-joe vehicles and trim levels. All sites like Edmunds and Motortrend seem to ever do are the Super Megatron 9000x cars I will never even be able to afford the tax on..

    That’s why I’m here. Promote vehicles that kinda deserve some attention. Not much, just a little.

    —————–
    westhighgoalie : And it’s true, they are the ultimate vehicle to completely tool around in! I’ve never had more fun in an old jalopy!

    I was a little surprised how much fun the Ranger was for $17,000…but like you said, its true!

    —————–
    otsegony : You can really see the problems with Ford when you go shopping for a new Ranger. When I bought my ‘92 I had a choice of about 20 -30 Rangers on the dealer’s lot. There was every configuration of bed and cab size, powertrain options in several colors. This Fall when I went to visit the dealers in my area they only had a 3 or 4 trucks on the lot and they were all 4wd spacecabs loaded with option which pushed the prices up around $25k.

    I found a handful of XLs, but you’re right, dealers were lucky to stock more than 5 at a time. The one I went to said they had 25 more at some Ford storage lot, whatever that meant.

    —————–
    otsegony : I agree with the poster who said that Ford should offer a simplified, diesel version of the truck to appeal to those who actually want a truck. I think they would pretty quickly attract a “cult” following of real truck users who would bring other segments of the market along to buy their SUV wanna-be vehicles with mini, plastic clad beds.

    100% agree. An honest little truck with a diesel mill will hit the sweet spot.

  • avatar

    powerpeecee: Mad Vulcan Powah? I was tempted to use it in the review. I don’t know what it is about that motor, but it sure works well in the Ranger.

    Sure its thirsty but there’s something about the smoothness, durability and cheapness of a pushrod V6, cast iron and 60-degree design that works well for a truck. It just effortlessly wafts the truck to speed and smoothy revs through its (meager) powerband.

    Much like the Dodge slant-6, GM Stovebolt and 300cid Ford I-6, the Vulcan has something about it that makes it better than the numbers could ever tell. But maybe that’s why that mill is ready for its curtain call.

  • avatar

    Nick R: You ask me…this is exactly what a pick-up truck should be. Not to dispute our esteemed reviewer but this piece of lost truck-making art would get 5/5 from me.

    Nick, I was tempted…I really was. But it would need to be a baby F150 (chassis wise, not bulk and boxiness wise) earn that score.

  • avatar
    powerpeecee

    But maybe that’s why that mill is ready for its curtain call.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t follow, it’s better than the numbers can say, but that’s why it should be discontinued? Does not compute.

    If you were saying that it shares qualities with the other listed mills that have been all discontinued, then I counter by saying none of those should have been discontinued.

    I have nothing but respect for machinery that just works, outmoded design or no.

    FedEx uses the Stewart and Stevenson “Tug” which uses the Ford 300 I6, towing some obscene amount of weight and they just take it gladly all day and all night. Tens of thousands of lbs, and never a complaint from the 300s under the hood of the tugs.

    like so:
    http://www.explorerforum.com/photopost/data/503/Tow_Tractor-Tug_MA50_1999_a.jpg

  • avatar

    powerpeecee: in this age of hard numbers (who tows more, who has the most HP, best fuel economy, etc) I just don’t see the Vulcan ever making a comeback in truck. Not to mention its weight, be it in a Ranger or a Taurus.

    Then again, if GM can tweak the small block V8 and make the fantastic LS1…an LS1-inspired Vulcan might be the best compact truck motor ever made.

  • avatar
    tulsa_97sr5

    Sajeev, 3″ in a vehicle is not insignificant, but I don’t think it’s enough to call the smallest tacoma a mid-size. My point is that I don’t see the ranger as the last compact pickup, as is commonly stated. Oh, and when I said the prices for base model rangers and tacomas are basically the same before discounts I was looking at 4cyl models in each. The toyota 2.7 has more power than the ford 2.3 and tows quite a bit more. I undrestand you not being crazy about the styling, again my point is just that the ranger isn’t really the last compact. I’m guessing that the base frontier is similar in size and spacs as well.

  • avatar
    Avinash Machado

    Why don’t they sell the European and Thai Ford Ranger in the US once production of the US version ends? They will have virtually no competition in the compact truck segment.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The thing that really turned me off on the latest Ranger is the huge gap between the front edge of the hood and the top of the grille. The first time I saw one, I honestly thought the factory had screwed-up until I noticed they were all like that. Then I thought maybe the gap was actually designed as an air-flow entrance for additional engine cooling until I saw a huge rubber seal. Sheesh.

    OTOH, the Ranger is the only compact pickup that offers a folding center armrest as standard equipment on even the cheapest, base model. Although it’s a prehistoric design, the Ranger does offer some nice features for the price.

    Heck, even Hank Hill drives an extended cab Ranger, gosh darn it.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Back when Ford used to know about platform leverage they built the Ranger, Aerostar and Explorer all of the same basic platform. The Ford went FWD for their minivan with the Windstar/Freestar flop, got so excited about the Explorer that they put it on it’s own custom platform and let the Ranger wither on the vine.

    The great SUV explosion of the late 1990s led Ford to ignore everything else and just rake in the easy money. Now that the SUV hangover is here we see that everything else in the product line is either stale or a me-to. Twenty years ago Ford had a highly competitive product line in small, medium and large cars as well as in small (Ranger), medium (F150) and large (Super Duty) trucks. Now their best selling car is an also ran (Fusion) while 20 years ago their best selling car happened to also be the best selling car in the country. The F150 and Super Duty are still competitive, but in a declining market segment.

    It is a complete disaster. Time will tell if Alan & Co. are able to right the ship.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    I own a telephone service company. The old Ford Escort wagon was the best service vehicles with the lowest TCO of anything I ever purchased.

    The idiots at Ford dropped it.

    Now I purchase Rangers for the same reason.

    The idiots at Ford are going to drop it.

    Now what? Ford has nothing even remotely on the horizon I’ve seen to replace either. I don’t care how cheap base level Rams, Silverados or F-150’s are, you have to be 8′ tall to access the bed from the side. Would somebody please bring a small wagon, van or pickup back for light service vehicle use.

    PS: I also “had” purchased a large number of earlier Tacos and Frontiers. I don’t care what the specs say, they are larger vehicles which are not as well suited for everyday running all over the metro doing service. The little Ranger is easier to park.

  • avatar

    Bill,

    Ford is bringing the Transit Connect to the US next year: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120164387492426355.html

    In Europe this vehicle is priced between the Fiesta and the Focus.

  • avatar

    About a year and a half ago, I bought a new 2006 Ford Ranger (4wd, 4.0L, xlt extended, in the rare “screaming yellow”). Between rebates and about 5 minutes of haggling, I paid $4000 under sticker for it.

    I was always a Mopar loyalist before I bought the Ranger, but I wanted a truck-based 4wd vehicle, and the Ranger was the cheapest thing to fit my needs, plus I know several people who have put stupidly high amounts of miles on Rangers and b-series trucks.

    It’s a good fit for my needs. I use it mostly for driving to and from work and running errands, so I don’t need anything bigger – I’m only hauling one person. I also work in the city and usually park on the street, so it’s nice to have something easy to park. It does great in the snow, can haul stuff when needed, and handles pretty well.

    It’s hard to believe that Ford couldn’t sell some more of these if they actually dumped some money into redesigning and marketing them.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    Ford is bringing this, GM is bringing that. Could we rename ford as Ford Bringing Company and GM as General Resourcing Motors, and Chrysler Emblem-Slappers United. God be merciful to those little trucks with botulline injections and face-lifts to save their wrinkled bodies and stale underpinnings. Evn Jeanne Calment was polite enough to die at 1oo soemthing. Guess, not the ranger.Chuck Norris approved, I guess.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I absolutely love my 2003 Ranger XLT. 4-cylinder, 5-speed manual. 2-wheel drive. Standard cab, standard bed. The word “honest” keeps coming back in this string and I agree. No pretense. Just a reliable, economical, hard-working truck that’s surprisingly fun to drive. A one-vehicle demonstration of the old adage “less is more.”

    I also back up those who point out that the four-banger with a stick is just as good as – if not better – than the mid-grade Vulcan V6 with automatic. This powerplant, introduced only a few years ago, is light years better than the old Pinto-based four cylinder. Economy? How about 30-33 mpg (no jive) on the highway? With a 700-pound motorcycle in the bed (aerodynamics of a billboard), I still got 27 mpg driving from the DC area to New Jersey. If I drive only in town and really flog it – during the winter, with oxygenated fuel and a cold engine – I can get it to go as low as 23 mpg. But no lower. And that’s with a set of heavy Bridgestone AT tires that no doubt penalize mileage a bit.

    Traction in the snow and on ice? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve never had a problem in anything up to 8 inches of the white stuff – even with an empty bed and the OEM Contis. I’m not kidding. The benefit of a balanced vehicle and drivetrain. Those who believe that four-wheel drive is an absolute necessity with a pick-up if it snows at all where they live are simply wrong. Or are driving skill-impared. Of course, I’m not talking about the upper Midwest here.

    Mechanical problems after 60K? None. One poster mentioned that the gap between the top of the grille and the hood turned him off. He’s certainly entitled to his opinion. But isn’t that kind of issue “beside the point” with a vehicle like this? We not talking entry-level luxury car here. We’re talking about a tough workhorse. For 12-14K. But in XLT trim, the cab of a Ranger is a surprisingly comfortable and pleasant place to be. Even the base stereo sounds pretty darn good in that box. And with the sliding rear window open and the dash fan on, air conditioning is needed only on the hottest of days.

    I’m sure the eventual replacement for the Ranger will be a fine piece. But you know it’ll be considerably more expensive and include a lot of features many of us will find less than necessary. If you’ve been thinking at all that a Ranger might be nice to have in your driveway, grab one now while you can.

  • avatar

    tulsa_97sr5 : Sajeev, 3″ in a vehicle is not insignificant, but I don’t think it’s enough to call the smallest tacoma a mid-size…I’m guessing that the base frontier is similar in size and spacs as well.

    Well if you think 3″ is not a big deal, that’s fine. But the Ranger is still the smallest, and the Taco and Frontier are closer to Dakota territory these days.

    And more to the point, the Taco’s bed is taller and has a bulkier tailgate. Intangible size measurements, but they still point to the Taco’s growth…and why many prefer the 2004 model.

    The toyota 2.7 has more power than the ford 2.3 and tows quite a bit more.

    But it gets worse fuel economy (which is why you buy a four banger) but still tows 2300lbs less than the Vulcan-equipped Ranger.

    The way I see it: if you want cheap, the 2.3L Ranger is the winner. If cheap must blend with towing skills, the 3.0L works well. If you are sick of these old Rangers that never get redesigned, do the right thing and get a Taco. :)

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Quote of the day belongs to Steven Lang:

    “If you don’t really care about what you drive, an old Ford will do just fine.”

  • avatar
    MPLS

    17 K for that truck? Me thinks I would only have to fork over 13 K or so after the rebate, etc.

  • avatar

    17k is MSRP…invoice price and discounts make it closer to 15k. It’ll be close to 13k with a four-banger and a 5-speed stick.

    Your experience may vary. :)

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    ” I also back up those who point out that the four-banger with a stick is just as good as – if not better – than the mid-grade Vulcan V6 with automatic. This powerplant, introduced only a few years ago, is light years better than the old Pinto-based four cylinder. Economy? How about 30-33 mpg (no jive) on the highway? With a 700-pound motorcycle in the bed (aerodynamics of a billboard), I still got 27 mpg driving from the DC area to New Jersey. If I drive only in town and really flog it – during the winter, with oxygenated fuel and a cold engine – I can get it to go as low as 23 mpg. But no lower. And that’s with a set of heavy Bridgestone AT tires that no doubt penalize mileage a bit.”

    Wow, I wish my ’98 Ranger had that engine. I must have the Pinto based engine. I can’t get better than 20mpg in town, and it’s usually more like 17. Pretty bad for a small vehicle. And I drive gently all the time.

    “Traction in the snow and on ice? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve never had a problem in anything up to 8 inches of the white stuff – even with an empty bed and the OEM Contis. I’m not kidding. The benefit of a balanced vehicle and drivetrain. Those who believe that four-wheel drive is an absolute necessity with a pick-up if it snows at all where they live are simply wrong. Or are driving skill-impared. Of course, I’m not talking about the upper Midwest here.”

    I’ve found that the tires are key. A cheap set of tires and the Ranger will slip on a snowflake. Good tires with an aggressive tread and sand bags in the back end, give you the ability to go through snow about as well as the average RWD sedan.

    “Mechanical problems after 60K? None.”

    Mechanical problems during 130K, a few. Fuel pump burned out (90K) – not expensive. Adjuster knob came off the passenger seat (40K) -irritating. Mixer door in the heater/AC system broke (80K) – Ford is famous for this. A very expensive fix, over $500. Ford knew of the problem for years (and not just on the Ranger, on several models) but it teneded to break after warranty so they decided to screw the customer. Last week the dome light quit going out when the doors were shut. I think it’s a simple fix, something I can do myself, but it’s just been way too cold here in Mich. to be working on a truck in the driveway. Can’t make a set of brakes last more than a year w/o problems. I’ve had them fixed at different shops (though not at a Ford dealer) and they are always squeeking within a year. I’m talking about the rear drums. I’m gentle on brakes. I’m not ready to blame Ford for this – could be low quality replacement parts.

  • avatar

    I had a 4×4 as a company truck, and drove lots of miles in it. Overall I was pretty impressed with it for what it was, the the extra cab with the rear doors tends to be rattly. My biggest gripe, though, is with what this truck is made out of: paper thin metal. The bed is useless if you hope to keep it dent-free. Just climbing over the side rails will dent the tops of them. The tailgate is horribly flimsy. Maybe all trucks are made this way these days, but it just doesn’t feel sturdy at all. I had to whack several dents out of the fenderwells before giving the thing back at the end of the lease, and all I ever hauled in it were a few pieces of furniture and some bicycles. My Dad’s 1986 Mazda B2000 was built of stouter stuff than this, and that ain’t saying much. I guess real trucks are something from the 1970s.

  • avatar
    otsegony

    I was thinking again about the Ranger as I read a local Ford dealer’s big Saturday advert. They had a ration of 15 F-150s for the single Ranger that was listed in the ad. It seems to me that Ford is using the model for two purposes, one to have something to sell to fleets that is actually relatively cheap to own and run and the other as an opportunity to “upsell” into an F-150. Buyers go to the dealership thinking that they want a Ranger and then are convinced to go to a base F-150, because it’s only a couple of thousand more. From there they are again “upsold” into more expensive (profitable) versions of the F series.
    Instead of letting this truck go the usual way of Ford and to slowly disappear, why don’t they get creative? It seems to me that all of the tooling for this model must have been paid for ages ago. The Minnesota plant that builds them is just sitting there waiting to be closed. At this point the styling of the truck is so old that it could be pitched as a “classic.” My idea would be to hold a competition amongst at top design schools to build more functionality into the truck. Make it the Swiss Army knife of vehicles.
    For examples, instead of the Eddie Bauer edition being some extra velour upholstery and a nicer stereo, why not make the bed really functional for outdoor purposes. Have a racking system built in that can easily accommodate Mountain Bikes, Kayaks and the rest. For tradesmen, who, from my observation, travel to job sites in huge pick up trucks with empty beds and then have to pull their tools out of a tangled mess in the cab or in one of those chrome bed boxes, why not create a system that allows them to organize their tools and keep them safe. You could also add a racking device that would allow them to handle the occasional 4×8′ sheet of plywood or sheet rock.
    Finally, how about a model designed after the functionality of old school pick-ups. As previously, mentioned it could have a diesel or high efficiency four cylinder engine, manual transmission, transfer case, and locking hubs. For my purposes it would also have the tall, skinny tires that help in the quasi-off-roading that are the dirt roads around here in mud season. For styling purposes, why not make it build in some styling cues to recall the pick-ups of the 60s and 70s. These could be simple things like the Ford embossed on the tailgate and heavy steel rear bumpers like they used to have in Texas that actually could be used for towing and wouldn’t crumple in the first parking lot encounter with a light post.
    Just my two cents…

  • avatar
    socarboy99

    It’s funny that you mentioned Stephen Colbert
    in your artilcle; Mr Colbert’s brother, whom
    lives accross the street from me, drives an
    Arizona Beige Ranger regular cab exactly like
    the on pictured!

  • avatar
    Toscha

    I love my 2000 XLT Ranger. She pulls hard, never complains, and runs great. I fear as she ages what I will replace her with. FoMoCo needs to smarten up.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Steve Biro:

    I absolutely love my 2003 Ranger XLT. 4-cylinder, 5-speed manual. 2-wheel drive. Standard cab, standard bed. The word “honest” keeps coming back in this string and I agree. No pretense. Just a reliable, economical, hard-working truck that’s surprisingly fun to drive. A one-vehicle demonstration of the old adage “less is more.”

    I can say the same thing about my ’98 Frontier: 4-cyl, 5-sp manual, 2wd, standard cab and bed. And I can raise the tailgate with one hand and reach over the side to retrieve items in the bed.

    My gas mileage for commuting is consistently around 26 mpg year round, and I can get up to about 30 on long trips. Virtually no problems, and I plan to keep it as long as it remains economical to do so.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    I own a Ford Ranger, a 2002. Yes, they had better sales back then, but only because they were giving them away. I got mine new for $9250 out the door, and that’s with Air Conditioning. Yes, it would be nice to have a bit more refinement but the truck is still a pretty nice piece for what it is. Hell, I figure for what I paid if it blew up at 100K miles I got my $$ out of it and right now it has over 105K and runs like new. I have the 2.3 DOHC “Duratec 4” with a 5 speed manual and it’s been an outstanding truck.

    I do understand that having a Ranger with 4L isn’t worth the effort. But if you can figure my Ranger with a decent running 4cyl getting somewhere north of 27MPG, well, it’s worth it. I can’t imagine having a Ranger with it’s limitations getting under 20MPG. As some say, “It is what it is.”

  • avatar

    socarboy99: That made my day. Do me a favor and ask Mr. Colbert how he likes his Ranger, and maybe print up a copy of this review too?

    Hopefully his brother doesn’t mind being compared to a $17,000 Ford Ranger. Since he’s proud of his South Carolina roots, he might even appreciate it.

  • avatar
    kericf

    Dynamic88 :

    Depends on when you bought your 98. I had a 98 and it had the newer 4 cylinder, but that was a 2.5L motor with 8 spark plugs (really quick for a 4 cylinder). A friend of mine had an early 98 model that had a 2.3L. After 2001 I think it went to the 2.3L motor that is still in them that gets a little better gas mileage. That being said, I got low to mid twenties even with the bigger 2.5L version. I miss driving the truck, it had a very sporty feel to it. 4 cylinder, 5spd, flare side, it looked good and drove good.
    Traction on ice was scary to say the least though.
    Sold it to my cousin who still has it, over 200,000 miles and no major problems. He races bikes and he uses it to carry motorcycles all the time with no problem. I used to tow a 21ft ski boat with it too. Overall you can’t beat the price. I got mine for $10,500 in 98 with very minor hail damage and 17 miles on it.

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    First off, I wanna say great article, nice to see the last compact pickup on the market get a little love, I particularly appreciated this part:

    “With the departure of the compact Toyota Tacoma in 2004, the Ranger is the only safe haven for “right-sized” truckers. The Ranger’s long bed carries a full 43.6 cubic feet of cargo, with a metal tailgate that easily closes with a single hand. And while the latest Ford F150 boasts class-leading stepladders to access its bountiful bed, Ranger-philes need not stretch a single vertebra to grasp a misplaced tool in their pickup’s cargo hole.

    After my time with a Ranger, the words “reasonable” and “honest” sprung to mind. As gas prices soar, the housing market tanks and sales of mid/full size pickups return from whence they came, the time for the Ranger to shine is now.

    But the staggering neglect and obligatory demise of another famous Blue Oval product is proof positive that Ford is lowering its overhead via unnecessary self-mutilation. As the threat of mini-rigs from once-foreign lands grows more credible, the low-brow Ranger is a potential profit center. Come 2009, Ford’s decision to kill the Ranger will soon become another haunting melody from another, better time.”

    It doesn’t get much more honest and right on the money as that.

    “otsegony :
    February 3rd, 2008 at 9:25 am
    I was thinking again about the Ranger as I read a local Ford dealer’s big Saturday advert. They had a ration of 15 F-150s for the single Ranger that was listed in the ad. It seems to me that Ford is using the model for two purposes, one to have something to sell to fleets that is actually relatively cheap to own and run and the other as an opportunity to “upsell” into an F-150. Buyers go to the dealership thinking that they want a Ranger and then are convinced to go to a base F-150, because it’s only a couple of thousand more. From there they are again “upsold” into more expensive (profitable) versions of the F series.”

    Bingo, otsegony, I think you hit it right on the head. I have noticed two constants in Ranger pricing, the uber cheap, fleet white, regular cab Ranger, and the F-150-priced extended cab Ranger for everyone else, in which case most usually opt for the jumbo sized, F-150.

    I had a 1997 Toyota T-100 years back, remember Toyota’s first “fullsized” truck for the NA market? And the new Tacoma makes my old T-100 look SMALL. As do most of the other new “midsize” truck offerings. Ford has an opportunity here with the Ranger, high gas prices, and looming new CAFE, that I have a feeling they won’t have to good business sense to pick up on.

    It continues to amaze me that Ford thinks the “way forward” is continuing neglecting their tried and true platforms (Ranger/Panther) while rolling the dice and introducing all new offerings with a hope & a prayer instead. How is that good business sense again?

  • avatar
    threeer

    Ya know, I’ve been sitting here thinking that I’ll be needing an inexpensive utility vehicle in the near future and had forgotten about how much I actually like the little ol’ Ranger. Rented one a few years back and dug the simplicity of the bugger. I camp (alot) and really don’t want anything ueber-fancy (read F-150 or bigger). A straight-shift, 4 cyl. with the extra cab would do nicely. No pretense, nothing fancy. Too bad Ford has abandoned the truck that once led the market…but better for us that are considering a purchase of a new one, as the deals should still be pretty good (assuming you can find one). Is there still really a market in the USA for honest, simple transportation anymore??

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    Sajeev: Thing is…the Tacoma and Frontier can do everything that the Ranger has “proven itself with”, and more…far, far more. In comparison to what the competition if capable of, the Ranger falls so far behind that 3 stars seems like too much.

    It just seems like the car APPEARS better than it is because it’s assumed to be so bad. The fact that it isn’t quite so bad as its reputation claims it is doesn’t make the truck good, or even average. It’s irresponsible of Ford to be selling a 1994 product in 2008. It’s not smart, profitable, or attractive. Regardless if the truck seems “honest” or not, the fact is it’s from a different era, and has no place in this generation of modern, fully optimized vehicles that eclipse it in performance, construction, modernity…everything.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    My favorite Ranger isn’t even sold in the US. Take a look at the South American spec crew-cab Ranger they sell in Argentina, with a 2.9l turbo diesel, no less.

    http://www.ford.com.ar/ford2007/

    (go to the above web site and click “camionetas” – i.e. , mini trucks.)

    It’s just frustrating. Ford doesn’t need to do much to bring a vehicle like this to the US market. They already make the damn thing!

    Much better looking than the hideous Explorer Sport Trac, and with an actual steel bed, much more useful.

  • avatar
    NetGenHoon

    LamborghiniZ : The needs in a bare bones truck have not changed. We have established the cheapness, towing capacity, usablity of the bed, reparability, and economy of the Ranger. If you are a practical buy that needs a truck, just a basic beater, which of those would you give up for styling, additional accessories, an automatic transmission, or even, a cutting edge engine. By keeping everything the same the repair price of this truck is low, maintenance can be done in your driveway.

    That is what makes the Ranger honest. That said, Ford could, should keep the evolution going, as long as the Ranger brand remains intact. (reference GM for the Corvette).

  • avatar

    NetGenHoon : LamborghiniZ, the needs in a bare bones truck have not changed

    My point exactly. Not to mention many truck guys like having a lot of cheap, interchangable parts if they dent a fender, break a grille, get hit by a deer, etc. Ask my friends and relatives who live in BFE aout how nice it is to have abundant replacement parts.

    That said, the Ranger has rotted on the vine. But the sheetmetal is no biggie, I’m more interested in the suspension, powertrain and chassis improvements that are sorely lacking in the Ranger.

    But there’s an inherent beauty to the whole “honest” truck thing. Which is why its easy to think 3 stars isn’t enough…or too much, depending on your affinity for cheap trucky goodness.

    And I’m glad the “honest” factor has resonated with many of the readers. Its a word Farago used to describe the Panthers a loooong time ago, but is even more true for the Rangers and Ranger-based Exploders.

  • avatar
    pbwe

    I have an 07 Mazda B2300 with manual. I paid less than 12K$ for new with the full option package. I I think the 2.3 engine is great in this truck with good smoothness, performance, quiet, torque, and mileage. Over all, I am very pleased with the vehicle. I do appreciate the understated styling, and am happy to have an alternative to the otherwise typical adolescent steroid fantasy look of the others.

    Regarding the ride quality, Immediately after purchase, I found the ride quality to be poor. There was constant “jiggling” and bucking of the vehicle over uneven residential and commercial roads, unsettling wheel bounce on the highway over uneven pavement (eg: construction zones), and too much sway when turning. I shortly replaced the shocks with Bilsteins and that cured all the ride quezyness. Tested by hand, the OEM shocks with a couple hundred miles were weak with uneven travel. I also replaced the tires with quality and got another significant improvement in handling, control, and stability. It seems the OEM “consumable” parts are just too low in quality to keep and use.

  • avatar
    Theodore

    I’m not in the truck market right now, but that may change in the near future. If it does, the Ranger is at the top of my list. I certainly won’t have any need for a full-size truck, and I don’t want to drive something that big on a daily basis. When I drove a Ram not that long ago, I couldn’t believe how huge and unwieldy that thing was. Something like the Ford Falcon Ute sold in Australia would be ideal, but in America, the Ranger is the next best thing.

  • avatar
    WildBill

    I have a ’94 Super Cab XLT 4WD with the 4.0 V6 and automatic. Boought it from a the Ford dealer as a lease return in ’96. Still only has just 80,000 miles on it. Really love this truck. So much that we thought about selling it when we got an Expedition to pull a livestock trailer to replace our full size van. We didn’t really need 4 vehicles and it would save on insurance costs but we just can’t bear to part with it. It is just so darn useful around our small farm. It just goes, anywhere you point it… mud, snow, ice, wet or dry. I once pulled an 8,000 lb. forklift out of the mud with no effort, drug my full size van and a load of 150 bales of hay on a wagon up a hill on a gravel road. The times we’ve bashed through snow drifts and across snowy roads and the loads of hay and straw it’s hauled are too numerous to count. If you really need to get there, take the Ranger.

    It has had its share of issues… four starters, three alternators, leaking gaskets, rotten brake lines… but it always starts and give a good effort. Not an ounce of body rust however, but the frame is starting to make up for that.

    Sad that Ford hasn’t kept this little gem updated over the years and may let it die.

  • avatar
    sumitomotype65

    This is my experience with a 2000 Toyota Tacoma 4 cyl. 5-sp.4X4: Absolutley no mechanical problems in 8 yrs. 65k. mi. Exterior paint & interior fit & finish are like new. 150 hp/177 ft.lbs and 24 mpg’s.

  • avatar
    CupcakeF

    A friend of mine has one of these, albeit a few years older. The second best truck I’ve ever been in, and best truck I’ve ever driven (it takes a second place to my grandfathers 1988 Ford F-150, V6 manual trans…has lasted for at least 300k miles now). I love the fact that it isn’t a “modern truck” as they are getting blockier and blockier and even the new 2009 Dodge Ram looks better than its F-150 competitor. The interior is nice and curvy, comfortable seats (for a bench) and a feel that tells you your driving a truck, not a air cushion feel of newer trucks.

    In my experience with my friend’s Ranger, I had one gripe, the controls. The pedals, shift column, light, blinker, and wiper switches felt tiny in my comparatively gargantuan paws.

  • avatar
    revjasper

    Ford is giving these things away right now. In Portland, Oregon the rebate is $2500. Down in the Bay Area, it’s $3000 + $1000 bonus cash. That means that it’s actually cheaper to buy in California and pay the sales tax. Now does anyone know the rules about buying in one state and registering in another?

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Ford is giving these things away right now. In Portland, Oregon the rebate is $2500. Down in the Bay Area, it’s $3000 + $1000 bonus cash. That means that it’s actually cheaper to buy in California and pay the sales tax. Now does anyone know the rules about buying in one state and registering in another?”The way it normally works is the selling state does not charge sales tax for that state. They’ll either compute the residence state’s sales tax and charge it, or the the residence state will charge the sales tax upon registration in that state.

    It’s all based on the address that’s provided to the dealer where the registration documents are to be sent after the deal is finalized.

  • avatar
    docp

    I just unloaded my 2006 F-150, which followed a 2002 F-150. Too big and basically really annoying, on several counts. I bought a new 4×4 Ranger instead – hands down the best truck I’ve had. It’s a hoot to drive, it does the job – pulls a 5,000lb travel trailer without any problem – it’s a great size, decent looking and not pretentious (read – doesn’t try to make a lifestyle statement); feels solid, is solid and personally I find it comfortable even on longer hauls (longest so far 11 hours).

    And Ford is going to stop making them, instead of building and improving on such a good platform? No wonder these folks are having so many problems.

  • avatar
    zambony

    Although I’ve never owned a Ranger (75 Toyota Landcruiser, 87 4Runner and 97 Tacoma), reading everyone’s comments about its reliability, durability and usefullness saddens me now more than ever. I live in St Paul MN where Ford built the Rangers. Seems everyone has known someone who worked at one time or another ‘at the plant’. This fiasco is more than numbers and dollars and a mis-placed business opportunity. Ford has abandoned more than sheet metal and iron. It’s left more than 1,900 honest, hardworking employees and their families with no similar job prospects, who’s only mistake was to believe “Quality is Job 1”.

    Ford-thanks for nothing!

  • avatar
    DoctorNine

    All they need to make it successful again, is go back to the 1990 model and redo it with a better engine. The sheet metal has gotten progressively worse and worse over the years. Cheaper and cheaper looking. They wanted it that way, so people moved up to the F150. Dumbassess. They need more fuel efficient vehicles now, so they have rediscovered ‘small’.

  • avatar
    paulxinfinity

    First truck I bought: A 1983 Ranger.
    Next truck I bought: A 2008 Ranger.

    Wonder what I’ll get in 2033

    Hopefully not a casket…

  • avatar
    Chaser892

    During college in the mid 90s I worked at a small auto parts warehouse with a fleet of basically 1 of each: 85 Ranger, 86 Chev S10, small Dodge Ram, midsize Dakota, and a couple big GMC’s. The S10 was falling apart, the Ram felt like it had a gerbil running in a wheel for its motor, the Dakota was always broken down (didn’t drive the GMCs much, they were reserved for heavy duty). My favorite was by far the Ranger and I spent a couple years of my life in that little truck. Perfect size, great runner, fun to throw the stick shifter around. A co-worker even got rear ended pretty hard in it, but after a week in the shop it was good as new. It’s always held a fond place in my vehicle history heart. A few years later when I was shopping for my first very own new car, the Ranger was on my test drive list but I needed a backseat for the younger siblings and got a Rav4. The family considered picking up a used Ranger for those same siblings who are now driving. Considered the Ranger again last year but I couldn’t resist getting a Jeep and going topless.

    I’ve never understood Ford decision to abandon the Ranger. The same week they anounced next year’s closing of the Ranger factory here in MN, they started airing tv commercials hyping the Ranger’s fuel economy (wtf?!). It was such a huge seller in its day. Although I don’t understand other posters complaint that it was never updated. It’s a basic small truck. What is there to update? Ridgeline/Avalanche/Escalade-like plastic crap behind the cab? No thanks.

  • avatar
    Bryes

    I’m thinking of buying a 2008 Ranger, and Ford is currently offering a $2500 rebate which ends March 31.

    I’ve read here there’s other incentives being offered in California but I don’t live in California. Is it possible to get other cash bonuses outside of California? Maybe these bonuses are only offered in certain parts of the country.

    Ford must be offering their dealers special incentives and rebates to move these trucks off the lots.

    Car sales are down in this sluggish economy and truck sales are way down. Guys in construction, who build new homes, can’t afford to buy a truck when new home sales have fallen off a cliff.

    Oil prices are now over $100 a barrel, and I read an article yesterday and it said gas this spring should max out at around $3.40 a gallon nationally. For a truck, Rangers get decent gas mileage.

    I’ve owned Ford Rangers before and I like them a lot. I don’t know about the future resale value, but one guy here said someone is always willing to buy a used pickup.

    I’ve always had Rangers that had quite a few options–XLT, power windows, locks, cruise, and tilt wheel. If I did buy a 2008, I think I better go for a cheaper one. If you take a hit on the resale value ( the last Ranger rolls off the assembly line in 2009 ), it won’t be as big as compared to a more expensive Ranger.

    I’ve never had many mechanical problems with my Rangers. I see where the 2008 has less scheduled maintenance–just every 7,500 miles.

  • avatar
    UnitG2

    I owned a 1988 2.0litre Ranger from new, and it never gave me a problem. Someone told me about it being the last year for Rangers and some crazy deals here in Canada so I went to have a look. Things seemed pretty good, but I thought I would hold out to the end of the model year. On my drive back home that night, my first dashboard light in 20 years came on. I took it as a sign from Lord Kinbote and signed up for base 2.3. Turned out it was just low brake fluid in the old Ranger. Anyway…

    Its like driving a completely new vehicle- as in, if its actually horribly dated it sure is fantastic. 2 reasons to get a new car in my books were air bags and ABS and I have those… all for 15k canuck out the door. Plus, its now a 4 star collision rating. Wait! No more twin-Ibeam- the handling is WAY tighter. More power, better mileage. Much better comfort, the space behind the seat is now useful and it has the same great pickup box- my old canopy just fit on!

    Given the extremely limited vehicle categories in north america (big, fat, fatbig and bigfat), the Ranger is the bang for buck king here. Thanks Ford- I’m good til 2028.

  • avatar
    nohara

    I’ve worn out two Rangers starting with a 1988 model. Then had to move to larger pickups as I began to put in more road time (about 50K miles a year now). But the Rangers did exactly what I bought them to do … transport me and my tools and materials back and forth across Texas in all weather.

    Yesterday I went to the Dallas Auto Show. There were a couple of 2008 Rangers in the Ford exhibit and one of them called to me to open its door and climb in.

    What an odd feeling … It was exactly like getting into my “brand new” 1988 Ranger twenty years ago. Yeah, time and technology have advanced and the Ranger hasn’t. But the little trucks did a straighforward, economical and uncomplaining job for millions of people.

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