What's New for 2008
The Ford Ranger soldiers into 2008 with only minor changes. A new, more aerodynamic front bumper design improves fuel economy slightly, while trim levels have been reduced.
The Ford Ranger went past its expiration date around the same time "Walker, Texas Ranger" went off the air. Like the Chuck Norris cheese fest of martial arts meets modern West meets cop drama, the Ford Ranger enjoyed its greatest popularity in the 1990s when it was still fairly fresh -- especially compared to GM's compact trucks. But unlike Walker, the Ford didn't have the good sense to bow out at the dawn of this decade. And also unlike Walker, the truck Ranger doesn't have the ability to drop-kick its competition, lagging behind in most areas, from driving dynamics to available passenger space.
Although we think most buyers would be better off with one of the newer pickups in the compact truck segment, the 2008 Ford Ranger is not a bad way to go if you're looking for a dedicated off-roader for weekend hi-jinks. In off-highway settings, the Ranger's shorter wheelbase and smaller overall size become advantages. As a work truck, the available 7-foot bed is certainly an asset.
As an everyday driver, though, the Ranger lags behind significantly. Today's compact trucks offer more powerful engines and larger crew cab body styles, the latter more comfortably accommodating rear seat passengers. The Ranger's inward facing jump seats are a quaint reminder of days gone by, but are terrible as a seating option. Safety features and interior design are also deficient.
If you're not a hard-core off-roader and don't routinely carry 7-foot-long 2-by-4s, there's little reason to consider the 2008 Ford Ranger. Trucks like the Dodge Dakota, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma are easier and more comfortable to drive on pavement, and all offer roomier cabs with more conveniences and safety features. In total, we'd much rather spend time watching Chuck's Ranger on TV than driving Ford's outdated pickup.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Ford Ranger is a compact pickup truck available in regular-cab and extended-cab (called SuperCab) body styles. Both are available in XL, XLT and Sport trim levels, while the SuperCab can be had in FX4 Off-Road trim. A 6-foot bed is standard on all cab styles and trims, but a 7-foot bed is optional on the regular-cab XL and XLT.
The XL is sparsely equipped with 15-inch steel wheels, a 60/40 front bench seat (vinyl with regular cab, cloth with SuperCab) and an AM/FM stereo. The XLT adds chrome exterior trim, air-conditioning, a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary audio jack. These items are optional on the XL. The Sport is similarly equipped but adds unique styling elements, a class III trailer hitch and different wheels. The FX4 Off-Road adds two-tone paint, 16-inch alloy wheels and all-terrain tires, heavy-duty shocks, a limited-slip rear axle, skid plates, full power accessories, keyless entry, bucket seats with center console, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel and cruise control.
Options on the XLT and Sport levels include bucket seats, leather upholstery, rear-folding jump seats (SuperCab only), full power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, tilt steering wheel and upgraded stereos. Satellite radio is optional on all Rangers.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Ranger lineup includes three engines. The base engine is a 2.3-liter inline-4 with 143 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque. Next up is a 3.0-liter V6 rated for 148 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. At the top of the engine chart is a 4.0-liter overhead-cam V6 rated for 207 hp and 238 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices include a standard five-speed manual and an optional five-speed automatic, and most models offer a choice of two- or four-wheel drive. Equipped with the Class III towing package, Rangers with the 4.0-liter V6 can pull a maximum of 6,000 pounds.
The 2008 Ford Ranger comes standard with four-wheel antilock brakes. In government crash testing, the Ranger earned four out of five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts. SuperCabs received four stars for side-impact protection, while regular cabs earned a full five stars. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal offset crash testing, the Ranger earned an "Acceptable" rating (the second highest on a scale of four).
Interior Design and Special Features
The Ranger's interior was last overhauled during the Clinton administration -- and the first term at that. At least the Ranger's ergonomics are quite straightforward, with easy-to-use controls. Front seat comfort is acceptable unless you're of tall stature. SuperCabs can be equipped with an extra pair of access doors and small, inward-facing rear jump seats. As you'd expect, these seats are suitable only for children on short trips (or for people you don't like). For work purposes, the optional 7-foot bed is the longest available in the compact market.
When equipped with the 4.0-liter V6, the 2008 Ford Ranger offers solid acceleration, but it feels underpowered with either the 3.0-liter V6 or the base four-cylinder. Rangers are quite capable off-road, especially when equipped with the FX4 package. Ride and handling characteristics on pavement are tolerable, but when driven back to back with newer offerings from Dodge, GM, Nissan and Toyota, the Ranger's age shows.