Friday, December 12, 2008

'04 Ford Ranger

So the first truck on our shopping escapade was an '04 Ford Ranger, extended cab but 2 doors (interesting) base model truck like the '05 Dakota, hand crank windows, rubber flooring, no jump seats in this one. 5spd manual transmission with the 4.0l v6 which surprised me, the big engine but otherwise a total base truck.
This truck was a BLAST to drive. Our '03 feels powerful but this thing flew, the manual trans really makes a difference. I'd have definately bought this truck if it'd had just a few more options like carpet in the rear space and if the price was a little lower... The dealer wanted about $2000 more than we paid for our '03, it had more miles and had a small amout of body damage. We worked with them for awhile but the '03 was just a better deal.

'05 Dodge Dakota

I know, its been awhile but I've been mega busy and today we're in the midst of an ice storm so I've got some time to catch up. I'll make the last 2 truck posts rapid fire.

The dealership with the Colorado I tested months ago had suggested I stop in and try out an '05 Dakota. Turned out to be a club cab, thats extended but not 4 door, which isn't really right, it has 4 doors but they're those backward suicide doors. This was a super stripped down base base model. It smelled wierd from some cleaner they'd used in it. The v6 engine is supposed to produce 210hp but I think this one might be geared to high, it felt gutless where the '04 we tried felt fine if slightly buzzy.
Overall Angie and I both disliked this truck. '05 was the first year of the 3rd generation of Dakota and it shows...

Friday, December 5, 2008

05 Chevy Colorado

Continuing in reverse order: an '05 Chevy Colorado Crew Cab. This is a 4 door like the '04 Dakota but I think the Dakota has more space, and more power. The Chevy seems to sit a little higher.
The thing that interests me most about the Chevys is the paint wears off the buttons on the RADIO... Think about that one for a second. From what I've seen on the Colorado forum this is pretty common but it wasn't until I drove this '05 that I saw it for myself. The other thing that interested me about this truck is that no matter how I hammered the throttle I couldn't break the rear tires free, couldn't even make them squeak. With over 200hp the tires ought to fry...
Fine truck, this particular model had a bad windshield seal, I could actually see the seal down by where the dash meets the glass, not good... The dealer said they'd replace it. Damn right, in fact it ought to be replaced by now...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2004 Dodge Dakota

At the dealership where we bought the Ranger we also tried a 2004 Dodge Dakota quad cab. I was pleasantly surprised with the rear leg room of the Dakota Quad cab, I wouldn't want to ride a million miles in it but I was fairly comfortable. This truck was a v6 which is supposed to produce about 210hp. It makes the power quite high in the powerband and has far less torque than the v8 in my '96 Dakota.
2004 was the last year of the 2nd generation Dakota and you can tell. I'd driven a '98 back when I bought the '96 and didn't like it much at all, by 2004 though the interior felt quality and other than the lower power of the v6 vs the v8 I'm used to I was well pleased with this truck. The big reason I didn't want to buy it was the $4,000 premium over the Ranger. I also didn't particularly care for the short bed you get because of the quad cab.

BTW Angie had the Ranger to the dealership today, the ABS problem was just a loose sensor wire, no problem...

Monday, December 1, 2008

We bought a new truck!

The time had come, my 1996 Dodge Dakota had 222,000 miles on it. Thats outstanding mileage for pretty much any vehicle but it had more than its fair share of issues and I was tired of fixing them. The worst was the transmission going out and I hated to pile any money into that knowing the transfercase was close behind.
So on Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) Angie and I set out to find a new truck. If you remember I drove a Chevy Colorado a couple months ago so I had that as somewhat of a baseline. We tested 5 trucks and I'll talk about all of them but I want to start with the one we actually bought.

Its a 2003 Ford Ranger, yeah its 5 years old but its only got 25,000 miles and is in excellent condition. This particular truck is an extended cab 4 door, the rear doors are reverse opening and can only be opened when the front doors are open. Its four wheel drive and has the 4.0l v6 SOHC (single overhead cam) which the Ranger first got in 2001. Apparently the motor produces around 207hp which compares favorably to the 200 and change my Dakota had. Our truck has a 4 speed automatic transmission and many options including nerf bars (really steps but they're round on the bottom like nerf bars), a sliding rear window, AC (although all the trucks we looked at had AC) cd player with MP3 capability, fog lights (driving lights really) and probably some other things I've forgotten.

I hadn't driven a Ranger since my highschool girlfriend had her '94. That truck was, put politely a crapbox. The '94 would have been generation 3, this '03 is generation 4 and its interesting to see how much more truck a generation buys you. Its bigger, more powerful and just feels overall better built. I also LIKE that its smaller than my Dakota, it feels more nimble, it turns tighter and its easier to park. The smaller bed isn't a huge problem as with the Dakota we would usually run out of weight capacity before we ran out of space... The Ranger sits slightly higher than the '96 Dakota which is a good thing when it comes to pulling my snowmobile trailer, the receiver hitch would frequently hit the ground with the Dakota, and a bad thing when it comes to loading stuff into the truck. Fortunately its only an inch or two higher, not a huge difference.

I love having a transmission that shifts smoothly and predictably although I'm iffy on the electronically controlled 4wd system. Right now it seems to work fine, turn the knob and its in 4wd quickly with little fuss. Hopefully things stay that way, and to ensure it we'll be putting it into 4wd once a week to keep things lubricated...

There is one minor issue that needs to be addressed. Right now every time you make a full stop the ABS activates just before forward motion ceases. In some cases this means the truck goes an additional 4-6" farther than you think it will. Not safe and not fun. Apparently this is a pretty common problem and that the sensors are just dirty and should be an easy fix which the dealership should fix under our 30 day warrenty.