Used 1997 Ford Ranger Regular Cab Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

Ford introduces its brand-new five-speed automatic transmission to the 1997 Ford Ranger lineup. Available with the V6 engines, the five-speed automatic is designed to improve the Ranger's acceleration, towing and hill-climbing ability.

Vehicle overview

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 and STX--all the way to the beguiling little Ranger Splash with its fiberglass Flareside bed, chrome wheels, and lowered suspension.

With the optional 4.0-liter V6 engine, in particular, acceleration is impressively brisk, whether from a standstill or when merging and passing. The base four-cylinder engine can overtax the Ranger when carrying a heavy load. 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 (within limits), 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 car seat is installed in the truck. New for 1997 is a five-speed automatic transmission; a first for vehicles in this segment. Ford claims that the new five-speed automatic allows better acceleration, trailering, and hill climbing by their capable Ranger. Ford also shuffles option packages this year in an attempt to make the 70+ options easier, and cheaper, to order.

Seats are firm and supportive, urging you to lean back and enjoy a long haul. Rangers are all truck, with few pretensions toward any other identity, but can be loaded with gadgets like a luxury auto. Fun to drive, sharp looking and well-built, they deliver a solid compact-pickup experience.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.