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New Car Review


by Tom Hagin


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 14,945
Price As Tested                                    $ 19,085
Engine Type                OHV 2-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 182 cid/3000 cc
Horsepower                                   145 @ 5000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               178 @ 3750 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  111.6"/70.5"/188.7"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                              NA
Fuel Capacity                                    17 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P235/60R15
Brakes (F/R)                                Disc/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/two-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Three-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 80 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/22/20
0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
Max. payload capacity                           1240 pounds
Max. towing capacity                                     NA
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

The Ford Ranger continues its blistering sales pace and shows no sign of relinquishing its crown as America's best-selling compact pickup. It is available in base XL, Splash and upscale XLT trim, in either two-wheel-drive, or as a 4X4. Standard and SuperCab models are also available, as is a standard cab long bed. And those who would rather bypass the gas pump can buy an electric Ranger. This week we test a 2WD Splash regular cab.

OUTSIDE - Ford has restyled the Ranger, but not by much because most of its "newness" is located under the skin. Forward of the windshield is a new grille, bumper, lower valance and headlights. Ford designers have also lowered the hood line and increased the size of the rear window, which greatly improves outward visibility. Our Splash model is virtually free of bright pieces, except for the standard deep-dish chrome wheels. The hood is now made of aluminum and is 10 pounds lighter than before, and restyled fender bulges are located above all four wheels. All Splash models feature a flare-side bed that looks sporty, but reduces its cargo capacity, though it's main purpose is more slanted towards sharp looks rather than practicality. Revised mud flaps and body-color door and tailgate handles are new for 1998.

INSIDE - Ranger Regular Cab models now offer four more cubic feet of space inside. The cabin was stretched over three inches, which gives an extra inch of seat track travel and more room to recline. There is also more space behind the seat, with new concealed storage trays that house the fitted jack and tool set. All Ranger models have freshened upholstery patterns and more padding for extra lumbar support, along with height-adjustable shoulder belt anchors. Without the benefits of the SuperCab, things feel a bit tight inside, especially for large people, though the added room is noticeable from the '97 model. Standard 4X2 Splash items include a 60/40 split bench seat, intermittent wipers, power outside mirrors and a sliding rear window, along with an AM/FM stereo. Naturally, our test vehicle was heavily equipped with options.

ON THE ROAD - The standard power in the Splash regular-cab two-wheel-drive is a 2.5 liter inline four cylinder engine with 117 horsepower and 149 lb-ft of torque, both figures representing an increase over last year's 2.3 liter four. Optional power comes in the form of either a 3.0 liter V6 with 145 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, or a 4.0 liter V6 with 158 horsepower and 223 lb-ft of torque. Ours came with the 3.0 liter V6, which gives satisfactory power for most situations, but tends to make lots of noise at high rpms. Buyers can choose from the standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. New this year, and teamed with the 4.0 liter V6 is a five-speed automatic gearbox that is making its way across the Ford vehicle lineup.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Ford has done several things to improve Ranger's undercarriage, the most notable being the front suspension. The venerable Twin-I beam setup has been replaced by a new unequal-length control arm arrangement that debuted on the Explorer a while back. Also, the front portion of Ranger's frame rails have been boxed, or strengthened into closed channels, which are much more resistant to bending. The new setup is vastly improved, with much less bounce over potholes and speed bumps, and less body flex, twist and much better control. Also, Ranger's earlier steering system was replaced with a rack-and-pinion system that feels crisper and gives more on-center feel. The rear suspension continues to be a solid rear axle carried on leaf springs for the best possible load-carrying capabilities. Front disc and rear drum brakes with rear anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard.

SAFETY - Standard dual airbags are in the dashboard, and the passenger-side bag can be de-activated with the ignition key. Rear ABS is standard, while four-wheel ABS is optional.

OPTIONS - Preferred equipment group: $480; 3.0 V6: $450; four-speed automatic: $1,070; A/C: $805; power window/lock group: $395; anti-theft/ remote entry: $275; speed control/tilt steering: $395.