The redesigned '93 Ford Ranger is a prime example of how far pickups have come since the days of the buckboard ride and grin-and-bear-it interior accommodations. The Ranger has been king of the compact-truck hill for the last six years, and for '93, Ford has upped the ante with more contemporary sheetmetal, an updated interior, and retuned suspension and steering systems.

The Ranger's new look brings the pickup solidly into the '90s. "Its modern, yet masculine styling," wrote one judge, "walks the line between 'sport truck' and 'work truck.'" Inside, the Ranger drew mixed reviews. While it was applauded for its thoughtful control placement, comfortable seats, and handy armrest/storage compartment, some criticized the quality of the trim.

Although a carryover, the optional 4-liter V-6 in our XLT is still one of the Ranger's brightest highlights. With 160 peak horsepower, a stout 220 pound-feet of torque, and responsive multipoint fuel injection, it was praised unanimously for its strong output, solid, refined feel, and snappy performance. One tester noted, ''You can climb hills with little effort, and the competent four-speed automatic makes wise gear selections." Another simply said, 'It's the best engine in its class."

For '93, the Ranger's handling and ride quality have been upgraded to complement this impressive powertrain. The truck was quiet and balanced. Roll motion was evident while cornering, but well controlled. Even through the twistiest parts of our driving loop, the truck proved tight and stable, with a surprisingly supple ride. One tester stated, "The Ranger is so comfortable and such fun to drive, you almost forget there's a bed back there." Several drivers, however, felt Ford's over-assisted power steering diluted the driving experience. "The Ranger tracks fine and goes where it's pointed, but lacks the crisper, communicative feel of the Toyota pickup."

Overall, we found the new Ranger ranks among the best in its class. In subjective scoring, the Ford led the field in the categories of Styling and Design, Quality Control, and Occupant Comfort and Convenience, and three of the six editors scored the Ranger highest overall of the group. For the foreseeable future, the Ranger seems well poised to continue its class domination.