Underneath, 4x2 Rangers make use of softer front coil spring rates, revised shock valving, and upgraded suspension bushings for a smoother, less harsh ride. Edge and 4x4 Rangers use an beefier torsion bar setup that generates positive handling without a too-harsh ride. Out back, the previous three-leaf rear springs have been updated to a four-leaf design, said to provide a smoother ride while maintaining the same load rating. Yet, on sandy mountain roads we still noticed a fair amount of rear wheelhop when trying to briskly accelerate away from a stop while in 2WD. However, a Ranger XLT 4x4 had no problem dragging itself over rocks, brush, and other rugged terrain, but we couldn't assess its snow fording ability, as our drive occurred during 100-plus degree summer heat.

On paved highways, our Ranger Edge SuperCab was smooth and easy to maneuver, even during high desert wind gusts. Halting a Ranger is now more confidence inspiring, thanks to 1-in larger front disc brakes and standard ABS modulated by an electronic brake force distribution system in place of a traditional brake proportioning valve.

Inside, much attention has been paid to making the Ranger's cabin quieter. A new firewall was designed to better quell unwanted engine noise (along with new engine mounts that reduce vibrations), while new carpet backing and redesigned weatherstripping team to reduce outside road noise. Wanna make some in-cabin noise of your own? Ford's new Tremor sound system is optional, packing a stout 560 watts of power, two-way Pioneer speakers, a 10-inch subwoofer, and an in-dash CD player that swallows six CDs at a time. A 60/40 split bench seat sheathed in either Graphite or Medium Prairie Tan upholstery is standard on all Rangers, but easy-to-clean, wash-and-wear seat covers are a very real-world aspect of the Edge package. For increased passenger safety, revised airbags (passenger side airbag can be disabled) work with a new BeltMinder seatbelt system that regulates belt pre-tensioning according to impact force and airbag deployment data.

So what does it all mean? Basically, the '01 Ranger offers more power, a smoother ride, increased safety, and a hot new look for about the same price as the old Ranger. For those who lead an active lifestyle, are looking for a bit of added youthfulness, or just want a really good small pickup, Ford's now got an even better Edge (sorry!) on the compact truck market.