Full 2009 Ford Ranger Review
What's New for 2009
Other than the deletion of the 3.0-liter V6 engine, the Ford Ranger line soldiers into 2009 essentially unchanged.
Like the leftovers in most bachelors' refrigerators, the 2009 Ford Ranger is past its expiration date. While other compact pickups have grown bigger, more refined and more powerful, the Ranger is still acting like it's 1995. As such, in this age where folks also use pickups as daily drivers and even family vehicles, the hard-working Ranger comes up short in the areas of driving dynamics and passenger room and comfort.
But if you're among the relative few looking for either a stout, economical work truck or a nimble and capable off-roader for weekend adventures, the Ford Ranger certainly has its charms. An available segment-exclusive 7-foot bed allows a lot of stuff to be hauled to work sites, while the Ranger's relatively small size and rugged underpinnings make it ideal for trail-bashing.
As an everyday driver, though, the Ranger doesn't make much of a case for itself. Its more modern rivals offer more powerful engines and larger crew-cab body styles. The latter is key for those who regularly carry backseat passengers, as a crew cab provides a conventional bench seat back there with nearly sedanlike comfort. The Ranger only offers the option of an extended cab with inward-facing jump seats -- cute but they're not safe and not ideal for seating anyone except children for short trips. And sadly, the Ranger also falls behind in terms of safety features and interior design. Stability control and side curtain airbags are not available, while the cabin, though functional, is dated.
So unless you're a hard-core off-roader or a business owner in need of a basic workhorse, there's little reason to consider the 2009 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 convenience and safety features.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 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 also be had in the 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 (such as a color-keyed grille surround and bumpers), a Class III trailer hitch, satellite radio and different wheels. The FX4 Off-Road adds two-tone paint, 16-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, heavy-duty shocks, a limited-slip rear axle, skid plates, full power accessories, keyless entry, bucket seats with a center console, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel and cruise control.
Options on the XLT and Sport levels include bucket seats, leather upholstery, inward-facing fold-down jump seats (SuperCab only), full power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, a tilt steering wheel and upgraded stereos.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Ranger lineup offers a choice of inline-4 or V6 power. The base engine is a 2.3-liter inline-4 with 143 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque. The available 4.0-liter V6 is 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. Properly equipped, Rangers with the 4.0-liter V6 can pull a maximum of 6,000 pounds.
Fuel economy estimates range from 21 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined for a 2WD Ranger with the 2.3-liter and five-speed manual drivetrain to 14/18/15 mpg for a 4WD Ranger with the 4.0-liter and five-speed automatic drivetrain.
The 2009 Ford Ranger comes standard with four-wheel antilock brakes, but features such as stability control and side curtain airbags are not available. 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 front-passenger 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). It received the second-worst rating of "Marginal" for front side protection, and although rear passenger side protection wasn't rated, the IIHS noted that the inward-facing jump seats were "not recommended for safe transport."
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-truck market.
When equipped with the 4.0-liter V6, the 2009 Ford Ranger offers solid acceleration, but it feels underpowered with 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 the Ford is driven back to back with newer offerings from Dodge, GM, Nissan and Toyota, the Ranger's age and lack of refinement show.