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2014 Ford Ranger 4x4 Review: Off-Road Technology Test Photo:
 
 
Kez Casey | May, 23 2014 | 13 Comments

2014 FORD RANGER REVIEW

What’s Hot: Strong and capable off-road, civilised on-road performance.
What’s Not: Serious off-roaders may need to opt for more aggressive tyres.
X-FACTOR: Enough broad appeal and capability to hook tradies, farmers, off-roaders and active families alike.

Vehicle Style: 4x4 utility
Price: $38,390: XL s/cab-chassis 4x4 man to $59,390: Wildtrack d/cab auto (plus on-roads)

Engine/trans:
110kW/375Nm 2.2 4cyl diesel, 147kW/470Nm 3.2 5cyl diesel | 6spd manual, 6spd automatic

Fuel Economy claimed: 8.1 - 9.6 l/100km


 

OVERVIEW

Ford Australia has a few good reasons to celebrate at the moment, and it has the work-horse Ranger ute to thank.

After suffering initial supply setbacks, the Ranger line-up is now constraint-free, with fresh stock (Wildtrak models in particular) pouring into dealers.

The current political difficulties in Thailand may change that scenario should things worsen, but Ford Australia does not expect disruption to supply or production in the short term.

Every Ranger built from May 2014 now carries a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating, thanks to the addition of side airbags to 2WD XL single-cab models, an essential requirement for growing numbers of fleet purchasers.

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There’s also a new 4x4 XL Plus addition to the range (with the larger 3.2 litre diesel).

Aimed at the mining industry, the XL Plus model adds a variety of work-horse features such as canvas seat-covers, additional ancillary wiring, dual-battery system and daytime running lights.

And the market is growing increasingly aware of the Ranger's appeal and capability.

It has finally overtaken Navara and Triton in the sales race, and is now closing in on the previously unassailable Hilux.

So to celebrate, Ford invited TMR to the Melbourne 4x4 Training and Proving Ground to give us a taste of just what the Ranger is capable of across a variety of off-road conditions.

 

THE INTERIOR

  • Tilt adjustable steering with cruise control buttons
  • Front power windows (all models)
  • Three-person bench seat (XL single cab)
  • Bluetooth connectivity with voice control (all models)
  • Vinyl floor covering (XL) carpet (XLS and above) with floormats (Wildtrak)

Inside you’ll find Ford runs a pretty tidy ship. The dash looks modern and feels substantial.

The cabin plastics are robust - they’ll happily cope with grime and mud and also put up with being used as a footrest at smoko. The finish throughout bests Hilux, Navara and Triton.

Go for the top-of-the-range Wildtrak and you’ll score leather-accented trim with powered and heated front seats, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control sat-nav and a cooled centre console.

Even the base-model XL 4x4 boasts Bluetooth, iPod integration and cruise control. Not too shabby for a bare bones worker.

 

OFF THE ROAD

  • 800mm wading depth
  • Electronically selectable dual-range transfer case
  • Hill Launch Assist and Hill Descent Control
  • Available locking rear differential
  • Six-speed manual, or optional six-speed automatic
  • 232mm minimum ground clearance

The point of Ford’s 4x4 adventure in a Ranger was essentially to let the technology do the talking.

To demonstrate how the systems at work in the Ranger can make even a hamfisted fourby-novice like me into an accomplished off-road trailblazer.

Okay, not quite - but this demonstration showcased how using technologies like ABS - and then writing in additional software to take care of hill-hold and descent control - can make off-road forays safer and simpler.

We started off simple: slip the car into neutral, select low-range, hit the descent control button and nose it up the nearest steep hill.

On the way up, we stopped halfway to let the hill-hold show its stuff, before feathering the clutch and throttle to continue.

Same goes for the downhill. Simply a matter of easing yourself onto the path then letting the electronics control the descent - feet free of the clutch and brake.

Even with mud-caked tyres the Ranger still has the smarts to cope. Ditto for gravel road work - with an ABS program specifically for loose surfaces.

So, think it all sounds a bit simple? Well you’re right, but while many cars come with similar features, not all owners know how to make the most of them.

From there we sampled creek crossings, putting the Ranger’s 800mm wading depth to the test. Ford’s engineers have made sure the air-intake and engine electronics are as high in the engine bay as possible to avoid water entry.

Polished logs, rock scrambles, mud ruts - one by one we tackled a string of obstacles to test the low-range crawling ability, ground clearance, approach and departure angles.

All easily dispatched by factory-standard unmodified Rangers, and without breaking a sweat. You can''t fail but be impressed by its capability.

A plus for this really heavy work is the Ranger’s ladder-frame construction. While still common in twin-cab utes, more off-road wagons are now of monocoque construction.

For towing and heavy-duty off roading the body-on-frame method works best; hence the Ranger’s 3500kg maximum braked towing capacity.

In extreme terrain, when picking up a heavily rutted trail, the strong torque of the 3.2 litre diesel - a fat 470Nm - and the 6spd auto are near unstoppable. The benefit of the auto is the ability to creep smoothly, allowing the torque to slowly wind your way up and over.

For those thinking of getting a long way off the beaten path, Ford also shared some good common sense when heading into marginal trails or tackling river crossings.

The simple rules of thumb apply, no matter how capable the machine: check your surroundings, walk it out first, don’t enter water crossings that are too deep or flowing swiftly, and if there’s a simpler way out - take it.

In a critical situation, it's good sense as well as a capble 4X4 that will get you home safely. No amount of rugged off-road technology can counter ill-considered gung-ho bravado.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.72 out of 37 possible points.

Safety features: All Ranger models now feature dual front, front side, and curtain airbags as well as three-point seat belts in all seating positions plus a drivers seatbelt reminder for XL and driver and front passenger belt reminder for XLS and above.

Dynamic stability control features across the range, along with hill launch assist, hill descent control, brake assist and trailer sway control.

 

RIVALS TO CONSIDER

The 4x4 commercial vehicle market in Australia is packed solid, starting with budget rivals like Great Wall and newcomers from Foton and Tata, up to the venerable Hilux. Of those, the following are on level-pegging with the Ranger:

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

Ford gave us an opportunity to see the Ranger without modification, exactly as you’d pick one up from your local dealer, and to show its capabilities straight out of the box.

It isn’t what a typical owner might put one through - after all there is no typical owner. From farmers to trade buyers, miners to off-road enthusiasts, everyone will have their own gruelling yardstick by which to measure the Ranger’s ability.

But this is one capable car. As we have discovered every time we've put a Ranger to the test, it has immense ability off-road, is built for a lifetime of graft, and not only works harder, but has the technologies to work smarter.

In 2011 TMR handed Ford Ranger our Best Buy award, and we stand by that decision today.

For its mix for comfort, ability and features, the Ranger is still hard to beat.

 

PRICING (excludes on-road costs)

Ranger 4x2
Model 2013 MLP3 Content
Added
2014 MLP3 MLP Change
XL Single Cab Chassis 2.2L $23,740 Side Airbags $24,390 +$650
XL Single Cab Chassis 2.2L Hi-Rider $28,740 $28,740 No change
XL Single Cab Pick-up 2.2L $24,740 $24,740 No change
XL Super Cab Chassis 2.2L Hi-Rider (AT) $33,240 $33,240 No change
XLT Super Cab Pick-up 3.2L Hi-Rider (AT) $43,740 Sat-navigation $44,240 +$500
XL Double Cab Chassis 2.2L Hi-Rider (AT) $35,990 $35,990 No change
XL Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L Hi-Rider $34,990 $34,990 No change
XLT Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L Hi-Rider $44,490 Sat-navigation $44,990 +$500
Ranger 4x4
Model 2013 MLP3 Content
Added
2014 MLP3 MLP Change
XL Single Cab Chassis 2.2L $38,390 Side Airbags $38,390 +$650
XL Single Cab Chassis 3.2L $40,890 $40,890 No change
XL Plus Single Cab Chassis 3.2L (AT) New model $46,280
XL Super Cab Chassis 3.2L $43,390 $43,390 No change
XL Super Cab Pick-up 3.2L $44,390 $44,390 No change
XLT Super Cab Pick-up 3.2L $51,390 Sat-navigation $51,890 +$500
XL Double Cab Chassis 2.2L $42,890 $42,890 No change
XL Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L $43,890 $43,890 No change
XL Double Cab Chassis 3.2L $45,390 $45,390 No change
XL Plus Double Cab Chassis 3.2L (AT) New Model $51,760
XL Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L $46,390 $46,390 No change
XL Plus Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L (AT) New Model $52,760
XLS Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L New model $45,590
XLS Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L New model $48,090
XLT Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L $53,390 Sat-navigation $53,890 +$500
Wildtrak Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L $57,390 $57,390 No change
 
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