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SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

By Bren/Mikele Hagin


      Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,165
      Price As Tested                                    $ 28,101
      Engine Type              SOHC 12-valve 4.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
      Engine Size                                 184 cid/2970 cc
      Horsepower                                   207 @ 5250 RPM
      Torque (lb-ft)                               238 @ 3500 RPM
      Wheelbase/Width/Length                  125.9"/70.3"/201.7"
      Transmission                              Five-speed manual
      Curb Weight                                     3728 pounds
      Fuel Capacity                                  19.5 gallons
      Tires  (F/R)                    P245/75R16SL OWL all season
      Brakes (F/R)               Disc (Front-ABS)/drum (Rear-ABS)
      Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
      Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
      Domestic Content                                 96 percent
      Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.42


      EPA Economy, miles per gallon
         city/highway/average                            16/19/17
      Cargo volume                                       1260 lbs
      Towing capacity                                    5620 lbs
                  * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

          BRENDAN - Ford trucks. Those two words are tied together as 
closely as America and baseball. These vehicles seem to last forever 
and have outsold the competition for years. A friend had a mid-'80s 
Ranger that was always on its last legs, but it still ran even after he 
purposely tried to kill it. The paint was destroyed and the shocks made 
it ride like a trampoline, but he made it to band practice every time. 
This week we write about the 2002 Ranger XLT 4X4, a big step up from my 
friend's old warhorse. XLT is mainly an appearance package, but with 
other options added, it comes out as an attractive package. The 
entry-level powerplant is a 2.3-liter dual-overhead-cam inline four 
cylinder, but depending on body style, a buyer can get a 3.0-liter 
pushrod overhead valve V6 with 154 ponies or our tester's burly 
4.0-liter single-overhead -cam V6 engine that produces 207 horsepower.

     MIKELE - My Dad said he would never drive a Ford for any reason, 
because he's a life-long member of the Bowtie Brigade, but he would 
like the Ranger if we stripped off the Blue Oval logos. Each engine 
option can be had with a manual five-speed or a five-speed automatic. 
Dad's getting older, so I imagine he would like the automatic, although 
he wouldn't admit to it. I prefer the five-speed manuals myself. They 
provide more torque to burn a little rubber here and there. The press 
kit says a limited slip rear differential can be had, but not with the 
2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. Ranger's front suspension is an 
independent short-and-long-arm system, with front torsion bars that are 
matched to the intended job rating. The rear suspension is a rigid axle 
with two-stage multi-leaf springs. Like most trucks made today, it has 
a power rack-and-pinion steering system and we found it gave car-like 
response and parking ability. All that stuff makes it a good handling 
vehicle - better than you would expect from a truck.

     BRENDAN - You've done your homework. Keep reading those press 
packs and you'll become a full-fledged auto expert like your Dad and 
mine. Inside, our Ranger has all the trimmings, like a leather-wrapped 
tilt steering wheel and Ford's optional Power Equipment Group which 
includes power mirrors, power windows with a one-touch-down feature on 
the driver's side window, power door locks and remote keyless entry. A 
sliding rear window is standard on some models. It gives easy access to 
the bed, just in case you need to reassure your leashed pups or toss 
stuff in the back. The standard stereos offered in the Rangers are OK 
but if it came with the AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system that's offered as an 
option, you'll be the envy of all your buddies that spend a fortune of 
their tunes.

     MIKELE - I haven't had those kinds of "buddies" since high school, 
Brendan. Unfortunately, I'm still playing cassettes and records at home 
and I'm sure I still have a few of those '70s eight-track tapes lying 
around somewhere if I could only find my player. The exterior of the 
XLT series is really cool, with smooth lines and a few different cab 
designs, but I would have preferred the four-door SuperCab over our 
two-door because I like more cabin space. The new five-spoke 16-inch 
aluminum wheels are slick, and the optional front sport bucket seats 
are going to be the seating of choice for this fancy machine. Safety is 
always an issue with me, and the Ranger XLT has plenty of it. Its 
standard four-wheel anti-lock brake system helps provide good stops and 
excellent steering control under bad driving conditions. The Ranger is 
also equipped with second-generation airbags for the driver and right 
front passenger. There's also a manual switch to deactivate the system 
on the right side when the driver is using a rear-facing child-safety 
seat in that seating position. That's some very good stuff, especially 
for a young family.

     BRENDAN - The new Ranger would be an excellent band-gear hauler. 
If only I had one back in the old days, when the bed would get 
overstuffed with my drums and amps, I could have dropped down the 
tailgate and strapped them down. And with a matching camper shell, all 
that gear would have been safe and sound.

     MIKELE - Your drums are staying at home, Brendan. The only 
drumming I want you to do anymore is in our basement. Fortunately, your 
"Rock Star" days are over.