There are no less than 37 variants in the MkII Ford Ranger model range; dual-cab, single cab, 2WD, four-wheel-drive, 3.2 litre diesel, and 2.2 litre. And while some come with SUV comforts, here’s one from the range that’s built to be “the worker” – the $38,590 Ranger XL 2WD dual-cab workhorse.
It comes without leather seats, and without the thick carpet, chrome and sports bars of the upscale models to bring some good news for couriers, tradies, farmers, miners and others who use their utes as they were intended… for work.
Ford’s Ranger XL has scored tougher looks and improved driving dynamics in this updated model, but lost none of its practicality and capability. We like its rubber mats, the smooth 2.2 litre diesel, and we like the way it drives.
Vehicle style: Dual-cab 4x2 ute
Price: $38,590 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/transmission: 118kW/375Nm 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel/6-speed auto
Fuel consumption claimed: 9.4l/100km | As tested: 9.5l/100km
Those figures should have been better because, on merit, the Ford Ranger is ‘the pick’ of the pickups.
In the meantime, we’ve just driven the entry-grade Ford Ranger XL – a 4x2 Double Cab HiRider with the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
Ranger XL gets the freshened front-end which highlights the MkII update package – including a more protruding grille which cascades down to the front bumper (all grey and without the chrome of the upscale XLT and Wildtrak), new headlights (but not the XLT and Wildtrak’s projector beam units), plus new front fender vents.
Under the bonnet, the efforts of Ford’s engineering team targeted reduced NVH and efficiency.
They also squeezed a bit more out of the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel. It delivers slightly more output and a flatter torque curve courtesy of a new smaller variable-vane turbocharger and enhanced injection.
But extra sound-deadening under the bonnet and both sides of the firewall as well as fluid-filled engine mounts (replacing the previous rubber versions), plus electric power steering, provide a noticeable improvement in refinement at all speeds.
And the electric power steering also combines with revisions to spring and damper tune (specific for each model grade incidentally) to provide a smoother ride.
All-up, our Ford Ranger XL Double Cab Hi Rider 2.2 automatic carried a price tag of $38,590 (plus on-road costs). Improved, it is, but it’s also the most expensive of comparable rivals.
- Standard Features: Cruise control with adjustable speed limiter, vinyl floor mats, 4-way adjustment for driver's seat including lumbar support
- Infotainment: AM/FM stereo radio/CD player/MP3 compatible, AUX/USB/iPod integration 4.2-inch colour multi-function display, SYNC1 connectivity.
We got a chuckle reading a newspaper road test of the updated Ford Ranger which criticised the entry-level XL model because it had no interior carpets.
D’oh! That’s the whole point here people!
We’d reckon that the on-site housing of FIFO miners probably doesn’t come with a nice cut-pile weave… and if a drainage contractor had carpet in the ute, we’re betting the drivers’ side floor would soon resemble the third day pitch at Edgebaston.
Notwithstanding, as part of the MkII package, Ford has injected the Ranger with a more upscale look and feel inside – noticeable in the new dashboard surfaces and better quality materials.
Same for the seats and door-trims – this may be the entry-level Ranger, but there’s nothing sub-standard in the new fabrics.
Even the steering wheel feels good, better than some up-market passenger cars.
The driver gets stylish, contemporary instruments in a large binnacle and the controls for audio and climate control are uncomplicated and easily operated, even with grease-covered digits.
And – good news for city couriers battling speed cameras every working hour – Ford Ranger XL comes standard with cruise control and an automatic speed-limiter.
Overall, there’s a spacious feel inside the Ford Ranger – up-front there’s a decent gap between driver and passenger’s shoulders and plenty of leg-room aided by generous seat adjustment.
The rear seat provides some shape for cornering support and, again, even taller co-workers won’t be overly squeezed in either the legs or bonce.
With only two on-board, a fold-down centre arm-rest provides cupholders for the morning brew or post-work ‘frothie’(that hard-earned thirst…)
ON THE ROAD
- 2.2-litre turbo-diesel: 118kW @ 3,200rpm/ 385Nm @ 1,600-2,500rpm
- 16-inch steel wheels
- Locking rear differential
- 6-speed automatic transmission
- Suspension: double wishbone front/leaf spring rear
When it comes to driving dynamics on and off-road, it’s useful to remember that the Ford Ranger is unique in being developed from ground up by Ford Australia. And it feels it.
We’re sure the Triton, Navara and upcoming HiLux benefit from considerable local testing, but we’re just sayin’…
For the MkII update, Ford says the aim was a smoother ride for all Ranger models. That brought into play revised spring and damper tune (different for each model grade), and a re-do of the traction control calibration.
And that extra sound insulation under the bonnet and both sides of the firewall.
The result, when you turn the key, is a Ford Ranger package which is just noticeably better in every way.
It’s a work ute, not a sports car, but you’ll be genuinely surprised by how well the 2WD Ranger XL steers and its cornering grip.
But now it goes about things with a quietness and refinement which is apparent on any road surface. For tyre roar and road noise, it’s quieter than a lot of passenger cars.
And it handles surprisingly well for a 'square-rigged' ute. Pitched into corners at speed, through pot-holes or when kicking along on a gravel road, it is very well-controlled, and well-isolated.
The wheel is free of kickback, and only when hitting really big holes – that would have a light-duty SUV slamming into the bump-stops – is there any noticeable jarring. This is a really well-sorted ‘work’ suspension.
There is also very little of the jittery rear-end feel you associate with unladen utes. It's "there", but you'll soon forget it's there (especially when you drop a load into the back).
You’ll also get no complaints from us about Ford Ranger’s 2.2-litre turbo-diesel.
Unless you’re going to regularly lug the maximum 3.5-tonnes on your tow-bar, the smaller capacity powerplant offers plenty of performance, it has no trouble finding its legs for overtaking, and is perhaps a tad more refined than the bigger 3.2-litre diesel when working hard.
Aside from the 3.5-tonne maximum towing capability (braked-trailer maximum, that is, with an empty tub), the 2.2 HiRider boasts a payload capacity of up to 1450kg, with a tub that measures 1549mm long, 1560mm wide, 1139 between the wheel-arches and 511mm deep.
Lastly, we’d like to say parking for couriers and trailer-hitching for those who tow is eased by the reversing camera but, alas, on Ford's Ranger XL this important safety feature is missing.
Ford isn’t alone here and we’ll say no more than this: utes and SUVs are statistically over-represented in driveway deaths of toddlers and young children.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control, stability control and six airbags are standard in the Ranger XL, however a reversing camera is a notable omission for such a tall car.
HOW IT COMPARES:
For entry-level model utes we rank the Ford Ranger XL number one. The Ranger is at the head of the pack for driving dynamics and refinement - but number one for value-for-money it isn’t.
Triton drives very well, is also quiet on road, and is very good value buying; Navara has a more SUV-like interior, coil-sprung tub and a smooth diesel. Click through to the key rivals:
VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s one more illustration of the ‘Americanisation’ of Australian culture that we’re now calling utes ‘trucks’ or ‘pickups’. And, like in that land of the ‘F-Truck’, they’re increasingly used as the daily drive, or for recreation, rather than as a work vehicle.
But, work or play, those who spend a lot of their time at the wheel will find a lot to like about the updated entry-grade XL model PX MkII Ford Ranger.
We’re thinking the interior comfort and the quiet refined operation would count for a lot when you’re spending a lot of the day in your ute. As would that big tub on the back and the hard-grafting diesel drivetrain.
Likewise the slick driving dynamics (just the lack of rear-end jiggling to start with) would also score big points among working drivers.
And - at the risk of sounding like a TV ad for ‘BAM Easy-Off’ – at the end of a working day, just a quick wipe with a damp cloth will have the interior floor and trim looking clean and shiny and ready for a new day on the shovel.