Page 2, First Drive: 2001 Ford Ranger

The existing four-wheel drive system which is electronically operated by an instrument-panel mounted selection knob will be augmented later this fall by a manually operated, true "shift-on-the-fly" transfer case as part of a Premium Off-road package (yet to be named -- also yet to be priced) that will also provide enhanced suspension tuning, 16-inch wheels and tires, and uniquely specific interior appointments.

Standard Ranger XL features include: the 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine; driver/passenger air bags; Solar glass; rear-step bumper; power steering with auxiliary cooler for automatic transmission models; automatic transmission coolers on 3.0 and 4.0 V-6 powered models; floor consolette; lighter and separate 12-volt power outlet; four bed tie-down hooks; mud flaps; speed sensitive wipers; 15-inch wheels and tires (4x2 models) mounted on Argent steel wheels; vinyl 60/40 split seat and stereo system with clock.

The Edge model adds as standard: the 3.0 liter V-6 mill; a monochromatic color scheme (except for the matte black door and tailgate handles); a matte black finish honeycomb grille; OWL tires (15-inch) on chrome steel wheels; a power dome hood with center sculpted chevron; AM/FM single CD stereo system with four speakers; air conditioning; cloth/vinyl 60/40 split bench seat; vinyl rear jump seats (SuperCab 2-door models); special cargo bed rail protectors; integrated fog lamps; spare tire lock; textured rubber floor; and front tow hooks.

XLT standard goodies consist of: the 2.5 L I-4 with 5-speed manual overdrive gearbox; 15-inch B/W tires on chrome steel wheels (2WD) or 15-inch OWL rubber with silver aluminum wheels (4WD); 4WD tow hooks; air; vinyl jump seats (S/C 2-door); AM/FM stereo with 4 speakers; and spare tire lock.

The major option list offers: the 4.0 liter SOHC V-6 engine; Flareside cargo box (Edge & XLT); step bars (Edge & XLT); in-dash 6-disc CD player; leather-wrapped steering wheel (XLT); speed control; tilt steering wheel; power windows and locks (Edge & XLT); 4.10 rear axle ratio; limited slip rear axle; bed extender (which adds two feet to the load length); Class iii towing hitch; and hard tonneau on 6-foot Styleside. A special Off-road package is also an available option and includes: Bulge body shocks; 5-spoke, 16-inch aluminum wheels with P245/75R-16 OWL all-terrain tires; skid plates (which 4x4s without this package do not offer) and 4x4 Off-Road graphics.

Ranger pricing will range from $11,840 for an XL Regular cab 4x2 with a 6-foot Styleside box, powered by the 2.5L four-banger to $29,930 for a loaded Edge 4x4 Flareside with the 4.0L V-6 and automatic transmission. Add $560 to each for destination and delivery charges. Come next spring, one can actually part with more expendable income when equipping an Edge model Ranger with the optional $1,195 high-powered Tremor 560-watt, audiophile pleasing, sound system by Pioneer. The Tremor system requires the SuperCab configuration eliminating the jump seats to accommodate speakers.

We were afforded the opportunity to experience 2001 pre-volume production Ranger models in various levels of trim and equipment offerings, under real-world, on-road and off-road scenarios. City and highway testing was accomplished in and around Reno, Nevada, while the off-road venue consisted initially of non-paved roads that stretched over hill and dale, through an arid and barren desert landscape (Moonscape actually seems more appropriate) amidst curious herds of cattle and little else. The Rangers were put through more grueling paces over a specially prepared and challenging practice course set up for members of the "Best in the Desert Racing Association" which annually conducts a demanding 2000 mile race, all within the Nevada state boundaries.

SUMMARY:
The Ranger lineup from Ford offers the ideal vehicle for virtually every compact pickup buyer, regardless of age, sex, ethnic background or religion. You may literally order your Ranger the way you want it, to suit your personal taste and requirements. We've already outlined the myriad of equipment choices and configuration available.

Of the models that we tested, the 4.0 liter V-6 is the way to go if performance is on your shopping list. The 3.0 liter seemed somewhat anemic on steep grades when an extra boost was needed for passing. The clutch take up was a little touchy at first with the manual 5-speed floor shifter, but familiarity rendered its operation more comfortable. The 5-speed adaptive automatic transmission is exceptionally smooth with transparent gear changes.

As for 4x4 operation, the electronic function, on-dash knob selector for drive mode is easier to use when going 'over the river and through the woods' gets a little on the hairy side -- while the soon-to-come, Premium Off-Road Package provides a better ride with a more confident level of control during the rough stuff. The "Best of the Desert" practice course (though toned down some for our use) threw down the gauntlet with powdery, silted, tight banking turns, dips and bumps, mudholes and greasy, steep grades. Both the regular Off-road and Premium Off-road versions came through with flying colors (mostly muddy brown tones).

Kudos go to the standard four-wheel ABS braking, seat belt minder warning, on-board vapor recovery system with a missing gas-cap alarm, second generation air bags, the air bag on/off key switch and the extensive improvement in insulation and noise reduction. The optional hard tonneau cover for 6-foot Styleside beds gets a gold star as well -- it is hinged in the middle, providing two equal storage compartments in the bed. Both sides are spring loaded with gas assists for ease of operation. The front compartment is lockable with the ignition key for security (a lockable rear would be a nice touch too), and the center divider folds up for longer loads. The rear half of the cover folds forward to accommodate hauling taller items. The Tonneau cover comes with a full bed liner for a reasonable $895.

Things we would like to see for an even better Ranger are: a locking tailgate for extra security; a memory return for the seats on two-door models for added convenience; a hand-operated parking brake instead of the foot operated type for easy hill holding capability with manual transmissions; and an elevated console cup holder for reduced reach (deeper for small water bottles).

Bottom line, the 2001 Ford Ranger stable is a more refined vehicle, is quieter, provides more power with greater fuel efficiency and a longer range and it promises to extend its sales leadership title as a result. It is also more environmentally friendly -- Mark Bill, Ranger Chief Program Engineer, points out that "The 2001 Ranger will meet low emission vehicle standards and achieve approximately 20-29 miles per gallon, allowing customers to use their vehicles for work and play while still being an environmentally responsible citizen." If that's not friendly enough for you, the electric version -- the Ranger EV, will return for 2001.


Specifications:
2001 Ford Ranger Compact Pickup

Base Price: $11,840 - $23,940 (Add $560 for Destination & Delivery)

Price as Tested: $12,400 - $29,930 (From base with D&D - Top of the line with all options - well, almost -- some yet to come)

Engine Types and Sizes:
2.5 liter inline 4-Cyl.
3.0 liter V-6
4.0 liter SOHC V-6

Horsepower (bhp):
119 (2.5L 4)
150 (3.0L V-6)
207 (4.0L V-6)

Torque (ft./ lbs.):
146 (2.5L 4)
185 (3.0L V-6)
238 (4.0L V-6)

Transmission:
5-speed manual with overdrive or 5-speed adaptive automatic.

Drive Train:
Longitudinally mounted front engine / Rear-wheel or part time 4WD

Suspension:
Front - Short, Long Arm (SLA) with gas-pressurized shocks and stabilizer bar. Edge & 4x4s use torsion bars and heavier gas shock. Rear - Four-leaf spring with stabilizer bar standard on 4x4s.

Brakes:
Power-assisted front disc / rear drum with 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD).

Tires:
P225/70R-15 All-Season black sidewall (2WD)
P235/75R-15 OutlineWhiteLetter (4WD)
P245/75R-16 OWL All-Terrain (Optional Off-road package)

Wheelbase / inches:
111.6 Reg cab,4x2 (SWB)
125.9 SuperCab 4x4 Length

Overall / inches:
187.5 Reg cab,4x2 (SWB) / 201.7 SuperCab 4x4 Width / inches: 68.5 " / 67.9 "

Curb Weight / lbs.:
3,085 2WD 2.5L Manual Reg. Cab Styleside
3,658 4WD 4.0L Manual SuperCab Styleside

Fuel Capacity / gallons:
16.5 (2.5L Reg Cb Man)
19.5 (3.0LSupCb Aut)
20.0 (4.0L LWB Reg Cb).

EPA Mileage Estimates/ mpg: city 17.7 / hwy 25.0, 4.0L auto
city 18.9 / hwy 27.8, 3.0L auto
city 25.5 / hwy 34.0, 2.5L man

0 - 60 mph:
Test results not yet available.

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