Ford Trucks and Cars For 1997
By Carey Russ
Ford is the industry's light truck sales leader. It didn't get there by sitting on its laurels. The 1997 model year is well under way with the early introduction of the Expedition full-sized sport-utility vehicle, following in the footsteps of the newest F150 upon which it is based. A 5-speed automatic transmission is featured with V6 engines in the Ranger pickup, Explorer sport-utility, and Aerostar van. Full-sized vans have a new V10 engine.
Since the 1997 model year started with the January 1996 introduction of the F150, look for an early start to the 1998 model year as well. The 1998 Windstar minivan and an electric-powered Ranger pickup get the '98 model year rolling.
The venerable 2-door Bronco has been retired, replaced by the 4-door Expedition. With the ease of access with the 4 doors, and seating for up to 9 people, as well as a 2000-lb. payload and 8000-lb. towing capacity, the Expedition should be as successful in the full-size sport-ute class as the Explorer is among the compacts.
The Expedition looks like and is a close relative to the F150, sharing the pickup's platform and about half of its components. It is available with 2-wheel drive or sophisticated computer-controlled 4- wheel drive in XLT or Eddie Bauer trim. 4.6-liter and 5.4-liter versions of the overhead cam Triton V8 provide the power through a 4-speed automatic transmission. Interior design and appointments are very carlike.
A very high level of standard safety and convenience equipment includes 4-wheel antilock brakes, dual air bags, a passive antitheft system, and remote keyless entry.
The Windstar minivan received a tip-and-slide driver's seat to make the second row of seats accessible from the driver's side in the middle of 1996. This feature continues for 1997, but the 1997 model run will be very small. The 1998 Windstar will debut early in the 1997 calendar year. It will feature freshened styling, interior upgrades, and the "Family Entry System", a longer driver's side door that, combined with the existing tip-and-slide seat, improves access from the left side of the van.
The F150 has been the best-selling vehicle in this country since slightly after the last ice age. The latest version made its debut as an early-release 1997 model early in 1996, and is joined by a heavier-duty F250. Both are designed to appeal to both personal-use customers who desire all the comforts of a car and commercial users who need a rugged workhorse. They share styling, and are offered in regular and extended cab styles with a choice of regular "Styleside" or retro-style "Flareside" beds. Two- or 4-wheel drive systems are available, as are options to tailor a truck to any need.
Extended-cab versions have the first standard third door. It aids access to the rear area for both passengers or cargo.
Standard engine in the F150 is a 4.2-liter V6. Standard in the F250 and optional in the F150 is a 4.6-liter overhead cam V8, with a 5.4-liter version of that engine optional in both.
Safety equipment in the F150 and F250 includes standard dual air bags with a passenger-side deactivation system for use with child safety seats, door anti-intrusion beams, and a locking tailgate.
The Ranger compact pickup gets a 5-speed automatic transmission with its 4.0-liter V6 engine this year. An expanded, more affordable range of options and minor interior and exterior enhancements are also featured.
Selected 1998 Ranger models will begin to be released early in 1997. First to debut will be an electric-powered version aimed at utilities and other fleet buyers. The Ranger EV features advanced electronic management systems and is the newest addition to Ford's extensive alternative fuel-powered offerings.
The popular Explorer SUV has a new optional 4.0-liter overhead cam V6 with a 5-speed automatic transmission and enhancements to the Control Trac 4-wheel drive system for 1997.
Econoline Van and Club Wagon
The Econoline freighters and Club Wagon passenger haulers have something new in their engine compartments this year. The Ford overhead-cam "modular" engine has found its way into these full-sized workhorses. V8s of 4.6 and 5.4-liter size and a 6.8-liter V10 should move them down the road better with improved fuel economy as well. A 4.2-liter V6 and 7.3-liter turbo-diesel are other engine choices.
The front styling of both Econolines and Club Wagons has been freshened, and the interior of the Club Wagon has been upgraded.
The mid-sized Aerostar gets the new 5-speed automatic transmission with its optional 4.0-liter V6 engine. It also has minor interior and exterior revisions.