Tag Archives: 4WD

2021 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4

Mid-size pickups are now bigger than full-size used to be ….

When is big only mid-size? Well, today, when in the truck world mid-size means big, just not huge, like a “full-size” pickup.

Case in point the mid-size Ford Ranger, which is actually two-plus inches longer and has a wheelbase 7 inches longer than a full-size F-150 pickup had 20 years ago. That’s how much trucks have grown.

Friends and neighbors laughed when I told them the Ranger was Ford’s mid-size, noting it LOOKS like a full-size pickup, or at least how it used to look. They were right.

It also didn’t help that this SuperCrew in mid-level XLT trim also piled on the Tremor package for $4,290. It’s an off-roading package for folks who put their $40+ grand romper through the mud bogs of the world. It also pushes a moderately priced pickup to (in this case) $44,430. That’s way more than my first house cost.

Now I don’t mean to pick on the Tremor, or the Ranger, as Ford is about to launch its new Maverick compact pickup to take the place of what used to be its compact Ranger (got that?) a few years back. Maverick will likely fit more budgets and at least look like a smaller pickup. Great!

But this one is tall and long at 210.8 inches compared with a 2001 F150 at 208 inches long. Ground clearance is 8.9 inches with this 4WD version and we might as well get the Tremor package listing out of the way as it loads up the truck for serious off-roading.

Tremor includes (and I’ll skip a few minor trim and floor liner upgrades) an off-road suspension with Fox (high-end) shocks, Continental General Grabber R-17 off-road tires (noisy on the highway), snazzy step-like running boards, electric locking differential, front differential, fuel tank and transfer case skid plates to avoid damage off road, a terrain management system, upfitter (Ford’s word) switches, and rear tow hook.

I took the truck to a mild off-roading area and it took the big dips and humps with ease and it’s easy to turn the dial on the console for four-wheeling. That little excursion also tweaked something in the cab’s rear, so a rattle ensued thereafter even on smooth pavement.

And while the off-roading suspension is tuned well for ditch banging, it’s mighty bouncy on city streets with railroad track crossings and dips or expansion joint spaces seeming to be the biggest bounce producers. Not real comfy for town driving, but stellar on smooth highways.

Watch Mark’s Ranger video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaBBdbsBHs4

Aiding that is its quick steering, for a large, er mid-size, pickup. The steering weight is dead-on and easy to handle while parking is simple because the truck turns into tight spaces so well. Ranger is an easy driver, just a rough rider.

Power?

There’s only one choice, but it’s solid. The 2.3-liter Ecoboost turbo I4 delivers an impressive 270 horsepower with a 310 torque rating. That makes Ranger quicker off the line than you might anticipate with a bigger truck. Gas mileage is only rated at 19 mpg city and highway with the Tremor edition, but I managed 20.8 and was a bit heavier on city driving. The computer insisted I was getting 23 mpg.

Power comes quickly and easily without too much engine noise, which seems improved since my last Ranger eval a few years ago. Its 10-speed automatic tranny is a smooth operator too.

Folks wanting this off-roader to also be a towing machine will be pleased that it can pull 7,500 pounds and has a payload of 1,860 pounds. That’s segment-leading and currently only Nissan’s Frontier offers more horsepower at 310.

I should remind you that this was the SuperCrew version, which means it has four full-size doors and a roomy rear seat that will easily hold two or three adults. With two they can use the fold-down armrest/cupholders.

The SuperCab is basically the old extended cab with little rear half doors that fold backward and small rear seats that are cramped for anything other than a short haul or miniature people. The benefit of the SuperCab is that it has a full 6-foot bed while the SuperCrew’s bed is just 5-feet. SO if you need to haul stuff it’s SuperCab. If you need to haul family then SuperCrew.

On the pricing front the SuperCrew costs about $2,000 more and 4WD adds roughly $4,000 to any configuration.

On to the interior.

First, Tremor adds spiffy step-like running boards that provide easy step-ups for front or rear passengers, but these are better than the old solid bars. They are wider and easier to step on, even when wet, plus open to let water and muck slide through. A smart and useful design.

The snazzy Velocity Blue (bright metallic blue) Ranger doesn’t go wild with interior design, pretty straightforward and usable. Oh, there are red and gray Tremor logos on the seat backs, but the rest is black leather with gray stitching on the seats and black cloth inserts in the doors.

Door release and air vents are a smoked chrome while the console is flat black as is the dash and door trim.

Info screen is large enough and simple to use.

The info screen is moderately sized but an easy touchscreen to use while the main instrument panel gauges were analog with turquoise needles that were incredibly easy to see. Radio volume and tune knobs are large and the climate controls simple to figure out. Everything was easy to use while driving, not distracting like digital touchpads, etc.

Atop the dash are six auxiliary switches that can be programmed to use with accessories such as big over-cab lights, a wench, etc. That’s part of the Tremor package.

Safety equipment is sound as the XLT trim adds Co-Pilot 360, Ford’s safety system with blind-spot warning, a trailer tow monitor, park sensors, the 8-inch screen and both WiFi hot spots and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Supposedly it adds lane-keep assist, but I didn’t see that on the tester and frankly was happy to not have it. It’s mostly an annoyance around town and obviously would need to be switched off when off-roading, like the parking sensors. I forgot to switch those off initially and crazy-making beeping ensued as I drove through tall grass.

A technology package for $995 added smart cruise control, a navigation system and forward sensing. Yes!

Seating is another Ranger strong point as these seats provide excellent lower back, kidney and hip support. Some sedans could use these seats. However, they were manual and the driver’s seat included a handle on the side to raise and lower it. The seats also are not heated.

This mid-level Ranger also fell short on a few other items I would expect at $40 grand plus, such as push-button start. Not here, Ranger uses the old switchblade-like key. Unfortunately the tester’s key blade stuck in the fob and had to be pried out each time it was used.

There also was no wireless phone charger, just plug-ins, and the tailgate flops down like a soccer player looking for a penalty. Most tailgates now have an easy-lower mechanism that slowly deploys so as not to smack you as they fold down. Smartly there was a spray-in bedliner for $495.

Spray-in bedliner protects the truck’s bed.

Pricing is all over the place for Ranger, starting at a low-ball $26,000 for the base XL SuperCab with RWD. This XLT with the SuperCrew and 4WD listed at $35,940, including delivery. After all the options, including $750 for Tremor graphics (pricey stickers) and a few other goodies, hit $44,430.

I know that seems high for a “mid-size” pickup if you haven’t shopped for one of late, but the full-size ones easily go for $50,000 to $70,000 today.

As it is, the Ranger is a good competitor for the top-selling Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado and its cousin the GMC Canyon, plus the new Frontier and Honda Ridgeline.

Some would argue it also competes with Jeep’s Gladiator pickup, but I think that’s a whole different market, simply because it’s a Jeep!

FAST STATS: 2021 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4

Hits: Good towing power, quick acceleration, easy handling, dial-in 4WD, and roomy enough for 4/5 people. Co-Pilot safety system, handy side steps, bedliner, 6 auxiliary dash switches, comfy supportive seats. Solid off-road ability.

Misses: Extremely bouncy ride, no heated seats, no push-button start, no easy-lower tailgate, no wireless charger. Only a 5-foot bed, tire noise on highway, tester had rattle in rear of cab, and switchblade key hard to open.

Made in: Wayne, Mich.

Engine: 2.3-liter turbo Ecoboost I4, 270 hp

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 4.650 lbs.*

Wheelbase: 126.8 in.

Length: 210.8 in.

Cargo bed: 5-foot

Tow: 7,500 lbs.

Payload: 1,860 lbs.

MPG: 19/19

MPG: 20.8 (tested)

Base Price: $35,940 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $34,550

Major Options:

Equipment group 301A (auto. day/night mirror, 110-volt power outlet, reverse sensing, leather shifter and steering wheel covers, sport appearance package), $1,670

Tremor off-road package (see story), $4,290

Technology package (adaptive cruise control, navigation, forward sensing), $995

Spray-in bedliner, $495

Tremor graphics, $750

Remote start, $195

SecuriCode keypad, $95

Test vehicle: $44,430

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com, *Car and Driver

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 RAM TRX Crew Cab 4×4

Devilish T-RX ready to crush Ford Raptor sales …

Tell someone you’re driving a 702-horsepower pickup and they look at you like you’ve grown horns from your noggin and said 29-cent gas is back.

But it’s true, the Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab packs a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8, the same used in both the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats. Rating is 702 horses and torque of 650 lb.-ft. with a reported 0-60 mph burst of 4.5 seconds, although some folks have tested it as low as 4.1 seconds. Top speed is said to be 118 mph.

You may be saying to yourself, that’s a racer, not a pickup and you’d be right, except the TRX is street legal, if you can afford one.

This is a Muscle Truck, much as in years past we’ve had Muscle Cars, and still do, thankfully. Continue reading 2021 RAM TRX Crew Cab 4×4

2020 Ford Expedition Max Platinum 4×4

Expedition Max redefines big luxury truck …

There’s big, and then there’s Max. In this case Max is Ford’s new Expedition Max, as if the original Expedition weren’t large enough. Apparently it was not.

The Max is nearly a full foot longer than the original’s 210 inches and this special Burgundy Velvet Metallic ($395) test SUV was the Platinum edition with 4-wheel-drive, the tippy top of Ford’s SUV lineup.

And let’s get this out of the way right up front, it’s priced like the Platinum edition it is, starting at $81,505 with delivery and checking in at $84,065 as equipped. That’s way up there and competes well with its cousin, the Lincoln Navigator, which with 4WD lists at $76,185. Note too that Navigator’s twin-turbo V6 creates 450 horsepower, while the tested Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 delivers a healthy 400 hp. Continue reading 2020 Ford Expedition Max Platinum 4×4

2020 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab

New engine improves Nissan’s compact pickup …

I’d been looking forward to testing Nissan’s 2020 Frontier compact pickup since hearing about its upgrades at the Chicago Auto Show in February, just before the Covid lockdown.

A Zoom update this spring further stoked my curiosity. I much prefer compact pickups to the big boys and Frontier has always been a strong competitor in what now is really a mid-size market. Yet due to Covid shutting assembly plants and some timing issues Nissan’s 2020 model just arrived and is going on sale, about when you’d expect a 2021.

No problem. It was worth the wait.

How so? Continue reading 2020 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab

2020 Lexus GX460

Lexus GX460 a bit of a throwback, but that’s OK …

A few years back we drove an old Toyota RAV4 loaner while our car was in the shop. The RAV had no power windows, just cranks, and a radio with six buttons, no screen. It felt refreshing and fun to drive.

So why not a little mild throwback design on cars and their features?

Lexus, of all folks, has kept its mid-size SUV, the GX460, cousin to the Toyota 4Runner, about the same for 10 years, which means it lacks a few frills that today’s SUVs have. Yet, at its heart it’s a beauteous beast that is fit to go off-roading like a Jeep or Land Rover, but feels as luxurious inside as the finest luxury sedan. Maybe Lexus is on to something. Continue reading 2020 Lexus GX460

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Army Green tells you this SUV isn’t for wimps!

4Runner TRD Pro a muscular drive …

My wife calls Toyota’s 4Runner a manly man’s truck, and it certainly is.

Tall, muscular looking, big tires and wheels, a hood scoop, a husky luggage rack on the roof and an engine that growls along with knobby tires that rumble on the road. Yes, manly and a serious off-roader, made even more so by being the TRD Pro edition. Continue reading 2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2019 Nissan Pathfinder SV AWD

Pathfinder SV rocks on the simple side …

For those looking for a mid-size sport-utility truck or crossover with a third-row seat, it’s possible you’ve chosen the most competitive segment for your vehicle search.

That’s where this week’s perfectly fine Nissan Pathfinder finds itself. After more than 30 years on the market Pathfinder is a known quantity, an expected strong value and good ride. It remains so, but then so are most of its competitors, the likes of the Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and the newish Volkswagen Atlas and Subaru Ascent. All are solid choices. Continue reading 2019 Nissan Pathfinder SV AWD

2018 Ford F-150 4×4 Supercrew Platinum

F-150 Platinum is both a work truck, luxury hauler … 2018 Ford F-150

Ford’s F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in the United States because it’s both a muscular work truck and a macho man’s luxury family hauler.

That dichotomy is precisely represented by this week’s test vehicle, the upscale F-150 Supercrew Platinum. Anytime you see the word platinum you can be pretty sure there’s luxury involved and a high price tag to go with it. Continue reading 2018 Ford F-150 4×4 Supercrew Platinum

2017 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 TRD Off-Road Premium

Tough Toyota 4Runner is anything but a TRD  …2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD

Let’s face it, you’d better have a pretty strong, competent vehicle if you’re going to give one of its models the TRD moniker.

We all know what that sounds like, but in Toyota’s case it means Toyota tough, as in Toyota Racing Development. And that’s why the new 4Runner proudly touts TRD in its name and on its haunches.

The test truck was the mid-level TRD Off-Road Premium edition with four-wheel drive and a sparkling Barcelona Red Metallic paint job. It also features a tough-looking exterior with distinctive nose and a hood air scoop that not all models have, not to mention few of its competitors.2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD

4Runner is a big ute, rolling on a 109.8-inch wheelbase it’s a sizeable 191.3 inches long and weighs a hefty 4,750 lbs. So move over mid-size crossovers and SUV pretenders, 4Runner is ready to go rock-climbing, and the TRD version thumbs its nose at rough terrain. Continue reading 2017 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 TRD Off-Road Premium

2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

New Nissan Pathfinder more civilized, comfy …2017 Nissan Pathfinder

My Navy son had a Nissan Pathfinder years ago and it was a true sport-utility truck, built on a truck chassis and able to go off-roading with the other utes of the day.

Pathfinder has been around now for 30 years, but those trucklike days are gone as more utes convert to crossover vehicles built on car platforms. That’s what the 2017 Pathfinder rides on. That makes for a more comfortable ride and more civilized vehicle.

The tested gold Pathfinder Platinum was the top-shelf model though, with a 4-wheel-drive system. Still, at nearly $45 grand I’m not sure I’d slop it through much mud and muck. That’s OK though, because precious few buyers ever took SUVs off-road, which has led us to the ever expanding crossover market. It makes sense to give drivers a vehicle more suited to 99.99% of their driving.2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Pathfinder’s new styling looks less boxy and trucky. It rides on a 114.2-inch wheelbase and feels as refined as any of its competitors, such models as Toyota’s Highlander, Honda’s Pilot or Hyundai’s Santa Fe. The interior is quiet and lathered in leather.

But it’s the Pathfinder’s power that’ll get your attention once you sit inside the roomy interior that will seat seven because of its third-row seat. Continue reading 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD