What's New for 1999
This year's changes to the 1999 Ford Ranger include standard 15-inch silver styled wheels, a class III frame-mounted hitch receiver for V6 applications, and a spare tire access lock. All models get dual front cupholders and Dark Graphite has been added to the interior colors options list while Willow Green and Denim Blue have been removed as interior choices. The "Splash" model has been discontinued. A 3.0-liter V6 flexible fuel engine is available that is designed specifically for ethanol/gasoline fuel blends.
Whether it's image or utility that attracts you to a compact truck, Ford stands ready to seduce you into its strong-selling Ranger. Trim levels range from the practical XL through the well-trimmed XLT which now has a color-keyed grille, bumpers, wheel lip moldings, and door handles.
With the optional 4.0-liter V6 engine, in particular, acceleration is impressively brisk, whether from a standstill or when merging and passing. Automatic-transmission upshifts are crisp and barely noticed, with just a slight jolt under hard throttle, and downshifts deliver only slightly more harshness. Push-button four-wheel-drive, if installed, is a snap to use.
Well-controlled overall, with good steering feedback, Rangers handle easily, corner capably, maneuver neatly, and stay reasonably stable on curves. Occupants aren't likely to complain about the ride, either, though it can grow bouncy around town. Gas mileage isn't the greatest with the big engine and automatic, as expected.
Ranger sports a worldwide industry first for safety protection. An optional passenger side airbag is available, and it can be disabled with the flick of a switch in the event that a child safety seat is installed in the truck. The Ranger is also the only small truck to be available with a five-speed automatic transmission. Ford claims that the five-speed automatic allows better acceleration, trailering, and hill climbing by their capable Ranger.
Ford lost its deathgrip on the small truck segment when Dodge introduced the outstanding Dakota in 1997. In a retaliatory effort, Ford gave the 1998 Ranger an unneeded facelift that we think renders the truck less attractive than before. With that facelift came an increase in wheelbase, a larger base engine, a new suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and a four-door model. Also new for 1998 was the presence of an electric model. Marketed primarily to fleets, the electric Ranger boasts a top speed of 75 mph and a 700-lb. payload.
Ford has had the best-selling small trucks in the country for years. We think it's because Rangers are all truck, with few pretensions toward any other identity yet capable of being loaded with gadgets like a luxury auto. Fun to drive, sharp looking, and well built, they deliver a solid compact-pickup experience. Even though we're not crazy about the new styling, we're certain that they will continue to be a big hit.