Classic CARmentary: 1998 Ford Ranger 4X4 Super-Cab Splash

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

It was really difficult finding a picture of a 1998 or newer Ranger in Boysenberry Blue.  I actually used a manufacturer photo of a Red Splash when this originally ran on May 5, 1998.  As you can see I couldn’t find a super cab, but I really wanted to share the color because it’s quite rare.

I again flouted the 350-word limit, and didn’t really like the changes made by my editor, so the version below is the one I submitted.

Ford calls it “Boysenberry Blue.” I call it purple. Admittedly, a strange color for a light truck, but combined with the chrome wheels and mock-fendered bed, the thing looked quite striking. It’s a definite statement on how light trucks have changed: the Splash looks more at home with a couple of surfboards on the roof and a jet ski in back than anywhere near a construction site.

The Ranger is Fords “small” truck whose primary domestic competition is the Chevy S10/GMC Sonoma/Isuzu Hombre triplets, but which also competes with Japanese pick-ups such as the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier (Mazda B-series pick-ups are essentially re-badged Rangers). It’s been redesigned for 1998 with a new front suspension, more powerful engines, and a bold new front fascia. Our Super-Cab tester was fully equipped with part-time “shift-on-the-fly” four-wheel drive, 4.0 liter V6, power windows, locks and mirrors, 4-speaker stereo with CD player, cruise control, tilt-wheel, and an anti-theft system. All of the controls are within reach and easy to manipulate, and the Splash even comes with a full set of gauges, something you can’t get on many sports cars. The rear compartment includes a set of minuscule, fold down side-facing jump seats. Anyone foolish enough to think they can use this as a primary vehicle for a family of four should be sentenced to sit in one of them for an extended period of time. A child safety seat would be placed in the front, and a cut-off switch for the passenger-side airbag is provided for that purpose.

The 160-horsepower V6 has adequate power, but provides a hefty amount of torque. You don’t even have to downshift to accelerate from low speeds. Properly equipped, it can tow a 6,000 pound trailer. And even though its bed is narrower than the standard Ranger’s, you can fit a Barcalounger back there (really).

The ride is better than in past Rangers, but it will seem rough for those used to cars. The rear end is light tends to hop around on rough pavement. The shifter is notchy and throws are long, which can become tiring in urban driving. Biggest complaint: the car alarm kept inexplicably going off, and the owner’s manual was not clear as to how to lock the truck without activating it (my wife figured it out – lock the doors without using the remote or power assist).

Overall, the Ranger is one tough, good-looking, “hip” truck.

For more information contact 1-800-392-FORD


Type:2-Door Pickup
Engine:160 horsepower, 4.0 liter V6
Transmission:5-Speed Manual
EPA Mileage: 16 city/20 highway
Tested Price:$22,870

The jump seat comment was a direct jab at my brother-in-law who, three years prior, convinced his wife to trade in their Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan for a Mazda B4000 even though they had two children.  “It seats four, it’s less expensive than the Olds, and I need a truck!”  Shortly after writing this review, my sister-in-law gave birth to their third child and they had to use her old Thunderbird as the family car.

While the “You don’t even have to downshift to accelerate from low speeds” comment might sound pretty basic to those of you who’ve driven trucks or any vehicle with a big engine/stick shift combination, it was a revelation to someone like me who’s only driven a stick hooked up to a low-torque four-cylinder engine.