What's New for 2003
Ford's popular compact pickup receives a number of minor changes for 2003. The 2002 Tremor package, with its ear-splitting 485-watt sound system, returns for 2003 as a trim level, joining XL, Edge and XLT in the lineup. A chrome appearance package for select XLT models is available, and last year's FX4 package for four-wheel-drive Rangers is offered in two guises: Off Road and Level II. New Sonic Blue paint is unique to FX4 Level II Rangers. Other changes to the 2003 Ford Ranger include covered visor vanity mirrors for XLT models, standard step bars on XLT 4WD SuperCab and Edge 4WD models and minor interior trim and fabric revisions on some models. Finally, crew cab rear seats get LATCH anchors, and some new colors are available.
Introduction: After years of serving as a trim designation on the F-Series pickup, Ranger became a separate model when Ford replaced the Mazda-supplied Courier pickup with an in-house design in 1983. The Ranger quickly became the best-selling small pickup and has dominated the segment for the past 15 years. Today's model still rides on the same basic platform and uses the same basic structure as that 1983 original, though substantial revisions for 1989, 1993 and 1998 have kept the Ranger competitive. Demographically, buyers range widely, with Rangers serving for work, play or both.
Body Styles/Trims/Options: The Ranger is available in regular or extended cab body styles, the latter of which is called a SuperCab. Regular cabs can be ordered with either a 6- or a 7-foot bed. SuperCabs come only with a 6-footer and can be equipped with reverse-opening rear doors to make access to the back of the cab easier. Two bed styles are available: Styleside or Flareside.
For 2003, Ford will offer XL, Edge, Tremor or XLT trims. XL and XLT are your basic models. XL is really basic; only by going with XLT can you get chrome exterior trim, chrome wheels, carpet with front floor mats, a CD player and air conditioning as standard equipment. When you order the Edge trim, the Ranger comes with air conditioning, color-keyed trim, foglights, an MP3 player and cloth upholstery instead of vinyl. Over the Edge, the Tremor includes a 485-watt Pioneer sound system, 16-inch alloy wheels and white-faced gauges. It's available only in three colors and on SuperCab 2WD models.
Major options include the Edge Plus package for Edge models, the FX4 package for Ranger 4WD XLT SuperCabs, the XLT Power Equipment Group (PEG) and the XLT Appearance Package. The Edge Plus package includes all-terrain tires, machine-finish alloy wheels and a six-disc in-dash CD changer. The FX4 comes in two versions: Off Road and Level II. Off Road packages include heavy-duty shocks, skid plates, tow hooks, all-terrain tires and a limited slip axle. Level II packages get a Torsen limited slip axle, 31-inch tires, Alcoa forged aluminum wheels, stainless steel tow hooks and special two-tone interior trim. The XLT Power Equipment Group provides power windows, power locks and power mirrors along with remote keyless entry. The XLT Appearance Package includes larger tires and special wheels. Other noteworthy options include a bedliner, a tilting steering wheel, cruise control, a trailer tow package and a sliding rear window.
Powertrains and Performance: Three engines are available. Standard on XL and XLT 2WD regular cabs is a 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine making 135 horsepower and 153 pound-feet of torque. Four-wheel-drive regular cabs, as well as Edge and Tremor, regular cab 4WD, and SuperCab 2WD models are powered by a 3.0-liter V6 that makes 154 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. At the top of the engine chart is a 4.0-liter overhead cam V6 making 207 horsepower and 238 pound-feet of torque. Properly equipped, a 4.0-liter Ranger can tow up to 5,750 pounds. It's available on all crew cab styles except for the Tremor, and only on the XL trim if you opt for the regular cab cabs. Four-cylinder and 3.0-liter V6 engines can be mated to either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission.
Safety: The Ranger comes standard with dual front airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes and a passenger airbag cutoff switch. Overall, the truck has earned good scores in government crash tests. Two-wheel-drive SuperCab models have received four stars in NHTSA front and side-impact crash tests. Regular cab models earn a five-star side-impact rating. In terms of rollover ratings, 2WD Rangers gave been given a three-star rating, while 4WD models get only two stars.
Interior Design/Special Features: Lifted straight from the previous-generation Explorer, the Ranger's dashboard is functional. Controls are easy to spot, understand and use. The seats lack adjustment and support, and can grow uncomfortable during long drives. SuperCabs have small jump seats in the rear, suitable only for children or small adults. Accessing those rear jump seats is made easier thanks to an available four-door configuration, though Ranger is not available as a conventional crew cab pickup like its competitors (check out the Explorer Sport Trac if this is what you'd like to drive).
Driving Impressions: The Ranger is a decent performer when equipped with the 4.0-liter V6. The five-speed automatic transmission works well to extract maximum performance and economy from the engines. 4WD Rangers are quite capable offroad, especially when equipped with FX4 package. On pavement, however, don't expect anything but a rough ride. Steering and braking are on par with other trucks in the class. Overall, the Ranger is a capable compact pickup, and is certainly worth considering during your buying decision process.