What's New for 2002
A new FX4 model debuts, designed to appeal to Ranger XLT Extended Cab buyers who need to do some serious off-roading. Among the hardware goodies are 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. All Rangers get a SecuriLock antitheft system, while XLT and Edge 4WD models have a new 16-inch wheel design. An MP3 player is newly optional, and models equipped with a 3.0-liter V6 get improved fuel economy.
Whether it's image or utility that attracts you to a compact truck, Ford stands ready to seduce you into its strong-selling Ranger, which is sold in XL, Edge or XLT trim in a variety of cabs, bed styles and drivetrains. Pick a regular cab or SuperCab with either two- or four-wheel drive. Need a longbed? You're stuck with a regular-cab two-wheeler, chum.
The standard engine on 2WD models is a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. It makes 135 horsepower and 153 pound-feet of torque. A 3.0-liter V6 is standard on 4WD models and gets better fuel economy for 2002. It produces 150 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of twist. The Explorer's 4.0-liter V6 is also available packing 207 horsepower and 238 lb-ft of grunt.
With the largest V6, acceleration is sprightly, both from a standstill or when merging and passing. This year, the big engine can be matched to a five-speed manual transmission, but only in the new FX4 off-road truck.
Designed to appeal to the Ranger buyer who needs a serious off-roading rig, the new FX4 includes a limited-slip differential, 31-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, special 15-inch alloy wheels, tow hooks, skid plates and Bilstein shocks. Special exterior trim dresses the outside, while sport seats, A-pillar grab handles and rubber "slush" floor mats are added to the cabin. The FX4 package is only available on XLT 4WD SuperCab models.
Other changes for 2002 include the addition of a SecuriLock anti-theft system on all Rangers. A new MP3 player is optional, a first in the compact pickup segment, according to Ford. Edge and XLT models configured as 4WD SuperCabs get a revised 16-inch alloy wheel design, and color-keyed floor mats are standard on all XLTs. Three new paint colors round out the changes.
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. This is not surprising, as mileage isn't the greatest with the powerful four-liter engine and five-speed automatic.
The four-door SuperCab makes it easy to access the storage compartment from either side of the truck, a big assist when loading cargo and gear. The standard rear doors on SuperCab models hinge off the corner pillars of the cab and swing out 90 degrees from the vehicle. There are no B-pillars to obstruct loading. If you're looking for a true crew cab truck, you'll have to shop for an Explorer Sport Trac.
Ford has had the best-selling small trucks in the U.S. for years. Fun to drive, sharp-looking and well-built, the Ranger delivers a solid compact-pickup experience. Its most serious competition comes from the Dodge Dakota and Toyota Tacoma. The Dakota is slightly larger and offers V8 power while the Toyota has a reputation for stout build quality and infallible reliability. Still, Ford's entry is worth a look, if the Dodge and Toyota don't meet your needs.