Ford says its new Ranger ute was designed around the driver, but it has also spread its features around the farm, the suburbs and the highways that link them
As the newest ute on the lifestyle block, and popular choice for caravan and fifth wheeler towing duties, Ford’s Ranger brings together a package of town-and-country features none of its rivals quite manage, from class-leading torque to outstanding room and ride for passengers in the back of the double cabs. The perennially best-selling Hilux starts to look old, despite a just-introduced facelift.
Prices range from $34,690 for a base 2WD cab-chassis to $66,290 for the top Wildtrac automatic, making this the most expensive Thai-produced ute on the market. The Nissan Navara ST-X 450 auto is $62,800 and the top Hilux auto, $61,890.
Ranger’s equipment list reads like that of a modern mid-sized car. Utes and cars have been converging for years, but Ford has well and truly blurred the differences, despite designing-in various “macho” touches to the interior, like an instrument cluster whose appearance is not unlike the shell of a G-Shock watch. Airbags, electronic aids, convenience accessories and the ability to take crash damage are all up there with cars. Its Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system incorporates a bunch of clever electronic keep-me-safe and traction assists. These include Hill Descent Control, Hill Launch Assist, Trailer Sway Control, Adaptive Load Control that improves vehicle stability when loaded, Roll-Over Mitigation, Emergency Brake Assist, and traction control for off-roading.
Ranger out-tows its Japanese rivals with a braked rating of 3350kg, handily ahead of competitors like the Triton or Navara D40 and eclipsing its arch-rival, the Hilux, by 850kg. The rating’s pushing close to the top 3500kg braked rating enjoyed by such vehicles as the Land Cruiser and Defender.
However, it’s a hollow achievement, as some Japanese manufacturers, Toyota in particular, are extremely conservative with their braked towing figures. And Ford warns that the hero rating only applies when using the company’s own tow-pack and towball.
The Ranger includes Trailer Sway Mitigation (TSM) in its suite of electronic aids. When stability control sensors identify swaying movements of the trailer or caravan the system – which was pioneered by Bosch – intervenes by braking individual wheels of the towing vehicle to save the day.
Ford showed videos of the same caravan being pulled by a variety of pick-ups along a wet American test track. The Ranger stayed true to its course during various manoeuvres, while some without TSM found themselves in precarious situations.
Search “trailer sway control” on YouTube for a bunch of videos showing drivers being saved from really scary situations.
The Ranger is larger in all important dimensions. The Double Cab is 5359mm long and 1850mm wide. Its wheelbase is now 3220mm, and front and rear tracks are wider. The extra dimensions have been put to particularly good use in the cabin.
And despite the roomy cabin, Ford has been able to fit a large wellside tray to double cabs. It’s longer than any of its key rivals at 1549mm and deeper at 511mm. Most rivals are about 450-460mm deep. Six rated tie downs are fitted to the tray interior and the “working” XL has a row of lashing points running the length of the tray’s exterior.
When fitted with Ford’s liner, standard on the XLT and the Wildtrak, owners gain a cleverly integrated 12v power outlet on the tray. Wildtrak has a rear-view camera, its display integrated into the rear-view mirror. It’s optional on other wellsides.
New Zealand is concentrating on the 3.2 litre Duratorq TDCi five-cylinder turbodiesel. This flexible, smooth unit produces 147kW and 470Nm of torque anywhere between 1500rpm and 2750rpm. Combined fuel consumption ranges from 8.4 litres per 100km from a 2WD manual, to 9.6 on the Wildtrak.
On-road, it’s not particularly quick off the line, but overtaking times are brisk no matter which transmission is being used. When fitted with the manual gearbox Ranger’s probably the “sportiest” of any ute sold here.
Ford provided 700kg loads at the launch programme and these made a big difference to ride. Moving from torsion bars to coil springs at the front, and from recirculating ball steering to rack-and-pinion has enhanced handling.
Meanwhile, the stability-control electronics give the driver reasonable leeway before kicking-in, and work unobtrusively when needed.
See the Ford Ranger for sale.