1990 Ford Ranger

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1990 Ford Ranger 4.3 7
$ 150-3,802
April 19, 1990

With the battle for truck customers being nothing short of red hot these days, you can bet any offerings from the Big Three or the imports will be nothing short of excellent.

They have to be. Anything else hasn't got a chance in this tough buyer's market. Demanding consumers will not tolerate anything that even hints of being second class. So how does the Ford Ranger 4X4 Super Cab measure up?

Great, no matter how you outfit it.

If you open your wallet wide enough, you can almost make the Ranger like a car by adding such things as power windows, door locks and seats, air conditioning and cruise control. That's how the test truck came, and after driving it for a week, it's easy to see why trucks - and this one in particular - have become so popular.

By making the interior as comfortable as that of a well-equipped sedan, Ford has combined the best traits of both vehicles. The gray cloth bucket seats were firm, comfortable and supportive. The gauge package was well lighted, easy to read and included such niceties as a tachometer and an oil pressure gauge.

The interior is roomy, comfortable and well equipped - at least for the front two occupants. The Super Cab sports two fold-down seats that will allow for two more passengers, but chances are they won't be comfortable for any trips longer than a few miles or so. The seats fold down from the sides of the truck, not the rear, meaning that rear passengers face each other.

Power comes from a fuel-injected, 155-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 that has loads of low end torque. The test truck had Ford's electronically controlled four speed automatic transmission. But if you're the shifty type, the Ranger also can be purchased with a five-speed manual transmission.

Two buttons on the dash switch the Ranger from two-wheel to four-wheel drive. And shifting can be done while the vehicle is in motion, or as truck aficionados like to say, ''on the fly.'' But the Ranger is a different beast in four-wheel drive.

When the engine is driving only the rear wheels, the Ranger behaves no different than your average car. But in four-wheel-drive mode, the engine takes on a labored Darth Vader-like breathy tone as it works harder. There's also some added noise from the transmission and four-wheel-drive components. Gas mileage and performance drop slightly. But the traction noticeably is improved. I imagine Central Floridians would use four-wheel drive more during the summer months when we are subjected to daily afternoon thunderstorms and our heavily traveled roads get slick.

In most driving situations, however, one wouldn't need to use four-wheel drive, but it is nice knowing that extra traction is only a flick of the switch away.

In two-wheel-drive mode, the Ranger returned 21 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving with the air conditioning on. That figure dropped to 19.5 mpg when power was applied to all four wheels.

The ride, handling a nd braking are easy to digest. I've been in some trucks that feel more like a roller coaster. The Ranger has a nice sort of subtle ruggedness to it. You know you are in a truck when you encounter rough terrain, but the suspension does a great job of keeping the rough ride out of the interior.

The test truck came with an expensive ($793) shell cover for the bed. The shell was painted red to match the truck, and it gave the vehicle a classy appearance.

Tough, dependable, comfortable and stylish, the Ford Ranger XLT is an excellent truck for a respectable price.

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