In one of his most famous speeches, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said; “Longevity has its purpose.” Assuming that statement to be true, the Ford Ranger must be one of the most purposeful vehicles on the market. In addition to having been around since 1983 — back during the days of the Thompson Twins and Duran Duran, the Ranger’s basic design has only been updated once since its introduction.
Said differently, Ranger ran basically unchanged from 1983 to 1998. And while on the face of it, a statement like that would imply archaic architecture as well as an uncompetitive platform, the truth is the Ford Ranger was then (and through much of its life) the best-selling small pickup truck in America.
For 1998, Ford’s engineers designed a completely new frame and a new front suspension system for the small pickup, which was the last significant mechanical change to the Ranger’s platform — ever. In addition, the Ranger has only been mildly updated cosmetically, inside or out, in the years since.
Over the years, other contenders came along with more powerful engines, more spacious interiors and a broader array of configurations. But still, Ford’s Ranger soldiered on. Ford has announced the truck will cease production in late December of 2011. No word yet on what will replace it, although we know there will most assuredly be one. Still, if, like Duran Duran, you’re “Hungry Like The Wolf” for a super reliable pre-owned small pickup truck, Ford’s Ranger will have you humming the Thompson Twins’ hit “Hold Me Now”. After all, limited changes also means proven hardware.
While much of what you’re about to read here holds true for Ford Rangers built since 1998 in general, this article will specifically cover models built between 2001 and 2011.
Used Ford Ranger: 2001
The 2001 Ford Ranger was the first in the vehicle’s history to crack the 200 horsepower barrier. Thanks to its inheritance of the 207-horsepower/ 238 ft-lb, 4.0-liter V6 from the Ford Explorer, the Ranger suddenly found itself endowed with a 6,000 pound towing capacity and a maximum payload of 1,640 pounds.
The other engine choices for 2001 were a 135-horsepower/153 ft-lb, 2.3-liter four-cylinder and a 150-horsepower/185 ft-lb, 3.0-liter V6. Five-speed manual transmissions were available with all three engines; five-speed automatics could be had with either of the V6 engines. Four-wheel drive was available only with the 4.0-liter.
Two cab configurations and two bed lengths were offered. The cabs were regular and Super, the bed lengths were six feet and seven feet. The seven-foot bed was available only with the regular cab. Trim levels were XL, XLT, and Edge. A special appearance package was offered for Edge models with a monochrome paint job encompassing the bumpers and wheel lip mouldings.
Appearance updates for 2001 introduced a revised grille, new bumpers, and updated headlamps. The XLT 4x4 and Edge got a new hood and wheel lip mouldings as well. An in-dash, six-disc CD changer was offered as an option. ABS was included for all four wheels across the Ranger lineup as standard equipment for the first time.
Used Ford Ranger: 2002
The Ranger FX4, an adjunct to the Ranger XLT Super Cab model and geared specifically to offroad intenders offered; a limited-slip differential, 31-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, special 15-inch alloy wheels, tow hooks, skid plates, Bilstein shocks, special exterior trim, and sport seats. It was also the only way to get a five-speed manual transmission with the 4.0-liter V6 in 2002.
In other news for 2002, Ranger got a new anti-theft system that was called SecuriLock by the brilliant marketing minds at Ford. For those who loved to rock, Ford offered a salute in the form of a 485-watt audio system called Tremor. An MP3 player found its way into a Ranger for the first time in 2002 as well.
Used Ford Ranger: 2003
For 2003, the Tremor audio system spawned its own trim line. You’ll know the Ranger Tremor model when you hear it of course; but you’ll also recognize it via its 16-inch alloy wheels and white-faced gauges on rear-drive SuperCab models.
To sum up the 2003 Ranger trim lines in general; Ford offered XL, Edge, Tremor, and XLT trims. XL was really basic. To demonstrate just how basic, one need only consider these offerings of the XLT package NOT available on XL models: carpet with front floor mats, a CD player, and air conditioning. Moving up to the Edge trim, things started to get a bit more civilized; color-keyed trim, foglights, an MP3 player, and cloth upholstery instead of vinyl. By comparison, the Tremor seemed absolutely luxurious with all of the above, plus its 485-watt Pioneer sound system, 16-inch alloy wheels, and white-faced gauges.
To up the content quotient, Ford employed special packages for the various trim sets. These included; Edge Plus, FX4 — for four-wheel drive XLT SuperCabs, the XLT Power Equipment Group , and the XLT Appearance Package.
Rangers with the Edge Plus package ran all-terrain tires, machine-finished alloy wheels and a six-disc, in-dash CD changer. The offroad-ready FX4 was kitted up two ways: Off Road and Level II. The Off Road used heavy-duty shocks, skid plates, tow hooks, all-terrain tires and a limited slip axle. Going all hard core with the Level II Off Road gear added a Torsen limited slip axle, 31-inch tires, Alcoa forged aluminum wheels, and stainless steel tow hooks.
If you wanted a more civilized Ranger, you could opt for the XLT Power Equipment Group’s power windows, power locks and power mirrors along with remote keyless entry. To make the look match the gear, adding the XLT Appearance Package fitted larger tires and special wheels to XLT Rangers.
To add utility to the model, Ford’s product planners also specified a bedliner, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, a trailer tow package, and a sliding rear window to the Ranger’s options list.
The engines were distributed as follows; XL and XLT rear-drive regular cabs got the 135 horsepower, 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 153 ft-lbs of torque. Four-wheel-drive regular cabs, Edge and Tremor, regular cab four-wheel drive, and SuperCab rear-wheel drive models got the 154 horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 with 180 ft-lbs of torque. The 207 horsepower, 4.0-liter overhead cam V6’s 238 ft-lbs of torque went with all Ranger crew cab styles except Tremor. To get the 4.0-liter engine with the regular cab, you were limited to the XL trim. As before, the 4.0-liter was available only with a five-speed automatic transmission. But the 2.3 and 3.0 could be had with either a five-speed automatic, or a five-speed manual transmission.
On the safety front, in addition to the aforementioned SecuriLock anti-theft system, all Ford Rangers featured; dual front airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, and a passenger airbag cutoff switch.
Ford Ranger: 2004
A styling update for 2004 gave the Ford Ranger a bit more aggressive countenance. New seats graced the interior, along with a new four-spoke steering wheel. A floor console was added as an option and the Tremor audio system was bumped up to 510 watts. The Tremor trim line got four-wheel drive. The FX4, just to up the ante now that the rockers could have four-wheel drive, got a shift on the fly transfer case.
If the Tremor’s 510 watts of audio brilliance struck you as overkill but you still wanted a better than standard audio system, you could get a 290-watt audio system, also by Pioneer. Leather upholstery found its way into Ranger for the first time, for both the seats and the steering wheel. The white gauges, formerly reserved for the Tremor, proliferated through most of the Ranger lineup, with the exception being (of course) the lowly XL.
Ford Ranger: 2005
The racy Ranger STX package was added to the lineup as a limited production model. Body-colored upper and lower grille surrounds distinguished its look with integrated fog lamps, a choice of black or chrome running boards, and a flared pickup box — contoured above the rear wheels.
Inside, bucket seats framed a center console and were available with either cloth or leather upholstery. Ranger STX could be had with both the regular cab and the SuperCab. Its instrumentation (speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, and temperature gauge) was trimmed in silver against a black background.
The rear-drive only STX could be equipped with either the 3.0- or 4.0-liter V6 engines. Buyers could choose between the five-speed automatic and the five-speed manual transmissions. For those who wanted more “go” to accompany the show, the Ford Ranger Whipple Supercharger Kit was available through Ford Racing Performance Parts for the 3.0-liter V6. With it in place, the 3.0-liter engine was capable of 230 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque. A lowering kit, comprised of two shorter front coil springs, two rear mono leaf springs, U-bolts and four stiffer shock absorbers, was also available through Ford Racing Performance Parts.
Ford Ranger: 2006
The Ranger Edge name was dropped, presaging the arrival of Ford’s new crossover utility vehicle by the same name (the Ford Edge) two years later. Ranger’s Edge was renamed Ranger Sport.
Ford Ranger: 2007
For 2007, Ford’s product planners, struggling to keep the Ranger competitive against the onslaught of compact pickups from seemingly all directions, pumped up the standard equipment list to make the Ranger a more compelling offering. Dual-stage front airbags with a front-passenger sensor, a tire-pressure monitoring system and an anti-theft system were specified as standard equipment on every Ranger model.
CD players were made MP3-compatible, and all the stereo system head units — except the base AM/FM receiver — gained an auxiliary audio input jack. Sirius satellite radio was an option on all Ranger models except the XL. Strangely, the previously performance-oriented STX model was fitted with the 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine — making it pretty much all show and next to no go.
Ford Ranger: 2008
A more aerodynamic front bumper, and a simplification of trim levels defined 2008 for the Ford Ranger. However, the lineup still consisted of regular-cab and SuperCab body styles; available in XL, XLT and Sport trim levels. The SuperCab could be had in FX4 Off-Road trim. As before, a six-foot bed was standard on all cab styles and trims, with a seven-foot bed optional for regular-cab XL and XLT.
The 2008 XL featured 15-inch steel wheels, a 60/40 front bench seat (vinyl with regular cab, cloth with SuperCab) and an AM/FM stereo head end unit. The XLT added chrome exterior trim, air-conditioning, and a head end unit for the audio system featuring a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary audio input jack.
Ranger Sport shared Ranger XLT’s gear and adding a distinctive look to the mix, along with a class III trailer hitch and Sport-specific wheels. Two-tone paint, 16-inch alloy wheels with all-terrain tires, heavy-duty shocks, a limited-slip rear axle, skid plates, full power accessories, keyless entry, bucket seats, a center console, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, and cruise control distinguished the Ranger FX4 Off-Road.
A’ la carte options for the 2008 Ranger XLT and Ranger Sport included bucket seats, leather upholstery, rear-folding jump seats for the SuperCab, full power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, a tilt steering wheel, and upgraded stereos. Sirius satellite radio was optional for all 2008 Ford Rangers, including the XL.
Oh, and the Ranger STX was laid to rest.
Ford Ranger: 2009
The 3.0-liter V6 was killed, leaving only the 2.3-liter four and the 4.0-liter V6.
Ford Ranger: 2010
The seven-foot bed was denied to individual buyers as of 2010, when it became a fleet option only. The formerly optional Class III trailer hitch was incorporated into the Ranger’s standard portfolio of kit. A/C was made a standard offering as well. Remote engine start, and Ford’s keypad entry system were added to Ranger along with tinted rear glass and sliding rear window for the XLT and Sport option lists. Heavy-duty shocks and a stiffer rear spring set comprised the Payload Package #2, which was configured specifically for SuperCab Rangers running the V6.
Ford Ranger: 2011
With the Ranger slated for discontinuation at the end of 2011, there were no changes for the 2011 model year. After all, why start now — right?
Ford Ranger: Summary
One notable German manufacturer has proven it is possible to continue to build the same design for decades — as long as you keep it on a program of continuous improvement. This is why the term “venerable” applies to Porsche’s 911, but the term “venerated” generally gets applied to the Ford Ranger. Essentially left to wither and die, with but few improvements and upgrades over its life cycle, the Ford Ranger is today thoroughly outclassed by its competition.
But hey, within this cloud there IS a silver lining.
Having been equipped with basically the same hardware throughout its lifetime, Ford’s Ranger is one of the most reliable automotive devices known to humankind. All of its major components have been proven over literally decades and during that time, recalls for the tough little truck have been surprisingly few.
Of course, few, does not equal none. It’s still a good idea to research the recall notices issued for Ford’s compact pickup to make sure any prescribed updates for your particular model have been carried out. Also, it’s similarly a good idea to run a vehicle history report on the VIN of any used auto you’re seriously considering, just to make sure it wasn’t a Hurricane Katrina flood special, or something similar.
While you’re at it, get a trusted professional mechanic, one thoroughly skilled in the ways of the vehicle of your choice, to conduct a painstaking pre-purchase inspection before you make an offer to buy. You know, just to make sure your seller isn’t trying to abscond to Duran Duran’s “Rio” with your hard earned money after filling your head with the Thompson Twins’ “Lies” about the condition of your prospective Ford Ranger.
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