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KANANASKIS RIVER, Alberta — High in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, rivers from melting glaciers run fast and cold, while across slopes splashed with fir and birch the sporadic off-road trail climbs steeply over rounded rocks and slippery soil to reach high and scenic ground.
My four-wheel-drive edition of Ford's Ranger compact pickup truck, flashing a bold face and supporting an expansive passenger compartment, plunges through cold rivulets coursing down a creek bed, then effortlessly powers up a gravel bank on the opposite shore. At a trailhead, the Ranger continues in sure-footed stance, big tires gripping with assurance, big engine snorting an eagerness to climb the hill.
And so we go, bumping over rocks, bouncing over ruts, bounding up that slope. In such action, the Ranger reveals a can-do confidence that indicates there's probably no vehicular task in the outback world this truck cannot accomplish.
For weekend warriors intent on attaining some rugged off-road spot on Saturdays or for those who need the practical workability of a pickup, this edition of the Ranger quickly demonstrates superior traits and offers an early indication, perhaps, that Ford will safely maintain its position with the country's best-selling compact truck.
Any time designers and engineers tamper with such a proven success as the Ranger, the move becomes at best a tricky one, although with these improvements a safe and conservative course was selected.
A remake for the Ranger
The essence of the remake lies underneath the Ranger’s skin. Ford undertook measures that strengthened the truck's chassis and suspension system to create more control and smooth out the ride quality. Then the Ranger's passenger quarters were enhanced, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Also, this Ranger packs more power in three engine options. The base four-cylinder engine, expanding from 2.3 to 2.5 liters due to the increased stroke, rises 5 percentage points in horsepower to reach 119, as torque output climbs by 10 percent.