Thanks to aerodynamic design enhancements, the nationís most economical pickup truck gets even better fuel economy for the 2008 model year.

Additionally, Ford also made the 2008 Ranger more affordable to operate by extending service intervals to 7,500 miles, helping reduce the cost of routine maintenance.

All models feature Fordís Personal Safety System, tire pressure monitoring system, anti-lock brakes and LATCH child-seat anchor system.

While Ford has made a number of enhancements, the Ranger still provides consumers with a wide variety of options ó three engines, two transmissions, rear- or four-wheel drive, two body styles and a number of trim lines.

With a price range starting around $15,000 and depending on configuration, the ability to tow up to 6,000 pounds, there is a Ranger for virtually every compact pickup need.

Available in Regular Cab and in two- and four-door SuperCab configurations, consumers have their choice of four trim line series for the Ď08 model year ó XL, XLT, Sport and FX4 Off-Road.

Buyers also have the option of a 7-foot box on XL and XLT Regular Cab models.

XL models include a 2.3-liter I-4 engine (143 horsepower/154 lbs.-ft. torque) mated to a five-speed manual transmission (five-speed automatic available). Features include 15-inch, seven-spoke silver steel wheels, Fordís Personal Safety System with front-passenger sensing system, SecuriLock passive anti-theft system, tire pressure monitoring system, black front and rear step bumpers, black H-bar grille, black door handles and side mirrors, interval wipers, Rally gauge cluster, AM/FM audio system with clock and 60/40 split-bench seat.

XL 4X4 models are powered by a 3.0-liter V-6 engine (148 horsepower/180 lbs.-ft. torque) on Regular Cab and a 4.0-liter V-6 engine (207 horsepower/238 lbs.-ft. torque) on SuperCab trucks. Features also include an electronic shift-on-the-fly 4X4 system and 15-inch all-terrain tires.

XLT models add body-colored front and rear bumpers, chrome H-bar grille, air conditioning and MP3-capable audio system with CD player.

XLT 4X4 models add fog lamps, heavy-duty gas shocks, rear jump seats and tow hooks on SuperCab models.

Sport trim adds the 3.0-liter V-6 engine on Regular Cab models, body-color wheel-lip moldings, mirrors and door handles, fog lamps, heavy-duty gas shocks, tow hooks, black side-step bars on SuperCab models and Class III trailer hitch receiver.

Sport 4X4 models add 16-inch cast-aluminum wheels and three skid plates.

FX4 Off-Road adds limited-slip rear axle, heavy-duty Rancho twin-tube gas shocks, two-tone paint styling, shadow grey wheel-lip moldings and bumpers, bed-rail and tailgate lip protectors, tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel with speed control, power windows, mirrors and locks, remote keyless entry, sport bucket seats, center floor console and privacy glass.

For those in the market for a compact pickup, the Ranger is a must to add to the test drive list.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS

MODEL:

2008 Ford Ranger

2-5 seat compact pickup †

Rear-; four-wheel drive

Trim packages:

XL, XLT, Sport, FX4 Off-Road

PRICE RANGE:

$15,000-$25,000

ENGINE:

2.3-L I-4 (143 hp/154 torque)

3.0-L V-6 (148 hp/180 torque)

4.0-L V-6 (207 hp/238 torque)

TRANSMISSION:

5-speed manual

5-speed automatic

EPA: 21/16/15 mpg city, 26/22/20 mpg highway 2WD manual (2.3-L/3.0-L/4.0-L) †

FUEL: Regular unleaded gasoline

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 188.9-203.6 in.

WHEELBASE: 111.5-125.9 inches

WIDTH: 69.3-71.3 inches

HEIGHT: 66.2-67.7 inches

WEIGHT: 3,030-3,668 lbs.

TRACK: 58.5/57.3

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 17-; 19.5-; or 20-gallons

TIRES: 15-, or 16-inch