DESPITE A TWO-WHEEL-DRIVE CHASSIS, THE 2016 FORD RANGER XLT HI-RIDER LOOKS EVERY BIT AS TOUGH AS ITS 4X4 STABLEMATE.
It delivers the rugged tough-guy looks that have made high-end dual cabs so popular, but understands that some owners probably won’t venture too far off the beaten track.
In fact, externally, the only visual cue is ‘Hi-Rider’ decals on the tub. In the showroom however, you can expect a decent $7900 saving comparing like-for-like.
The Ranger XLT Hi-Rider 4X2 might not go as far off road, but can still tow as much, and actually carry a little bit more in the tray. Sounds like a very decent compromise indeed.
Vehicle Style: 4x2 dual cab ute
Price: $48,690 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 147kW/470Nm 3.2 5cyl turbo diesel | 6-spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.5 l/100km | tested: 10.0 l/100km
Not so long ago, the two-wheel-drive versions of body-on-frame utes were the poor cousins to their 4x4 equivalents: lower specification, smaller engines, built for work, not pleasure.
In some instances that’s still the case, but, increasingly, there’s a shift to high-riding, equal-spec variants that come with everything except the off-road hardware.
These 4X2 variants offer a choice to buyers who don't need to play in the mud, and are not planning to tackle The Simpson.
Ford has stopped short of the range-topping Wildtrack, but it does offer the richly equipped Ranger XLT as a 4x2 ‘Hi-Rider’ two-wheel-drive flagship. We gave it a week-long workout to see what it is made of.
- Standard equipment: Cloth seat trim, dual zone climate control, radar cruise control, speed limiter, MyKey parental lock-out system, power windows, leather steering wheel and gear knob, self-dimming interior mirror, auto lights and wipers, dual reconfigurable 4.2-inch instrument cluster, cooled centre console
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch Sync 2 touchscreen with voice control, AM/FM/DAB radio, six-speaker audio, Aux and USB input, mobile WiFi hotspot, single CD player, satellite navigation
Step up into the Hi-Rider’s cabin (it’s as far off the ground as the 4x4) and you’ll find exactly the same furnishings as in the XLT 4x4.
In fact, the only difference is the disappearance of the low-range dial and hill-descent buttons next to the gear lever.
You still get a high-seated driving position, cloth seat trim, dual-zone climate control, Sync 2 infotainment, configurable instrument cluster, and cruise control with speed limiter - features that still stand out in the highly competitive dual cab ute market.
Seat comfort is on the money. Up front there’s plenty of adjustment and, yes, room to swing a cat, while in the rear three adults will fit without complaint, with a natural angle to the backrest and more than enough knee and head room.
The dash and door trims are well finished - there’s a little more hard plastic than you might expect to find in a family SUV, but the fit and finish is about as good as it gets. The matte-silver trim highlights, well-designed wheel and 'solid-feel' controls hide the Ranger’s commercial vehicle origins well.
Cabin storage serves a generous glovebox and chilled centre console, a bottle holder in each door and a pair of cup holders front and rear.
Tray dimensions match the 4x4 model exactly with 1485mm length at the top of the tray box, a width of 1560mm and 1139mm between the wheel arches, while the tailgate provides a 1330mm loading width. The XLT also offers LED tray lighting and an alloy sports bar with a high-mount stop light.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 147kW/470Nm 3.2 litre five-cylinder turbo diesel
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: double wishbone front, leaf spring rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front disc, rear drum
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, turning circle: 12.7m
- Towing capacity: 3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
If you’re worried that the Hi-Rider might lack the oomph of the 4x4, fear not - the engine and transmission are exactly the same.
And that is good news. The 3.2 litre in-line five-cylinder diesel - producing 147kw at 3000rpm and 470Nm from 1750 to 2500rpm - is a very stout hard-working unit.
In our test car, it came matched to a six-speed automatic, but a six speed manual is also available if you’d like to take care of shifting duties.
Thanks to the loss of a transfer case, front driveshafts, and associated 4x4 componentry, the Hi-Rider has a kerb weight that’s 101kg less than the XLT 4x4.
From behind the wheel you may not find the Hi-Rider feels too different, but it does have an extra spring in its step if you’re heavy on the throttle.
The difference might also show up at the pump, with the lighter Hi-Rider a touch more friendly on fuel consumption when compared directly to our time in the 4x4 version.
But everything else about the XLT Hi-Rider’s demeanour is almost a carbon copy of the 4x4. The ride is just as user-friendly around town - comfy enough when unladen, but more settled with a tray-load of gear.
While it is no rabbit through a set of corners (perhaps a Falcon Ute might be a better option if that’s what you want in a load-lugger), it does handle well, particularly given the limitations of a tall ride-height and the rigid rear-axle riding on leaf springs.
There’s a fair amount of body-roll in bends and dive under heavy braking, and the steering is a little woolly. However, there’s more than a few large SUVs that are not as composed as the Ranger.
The good ground clearance means you can easily traverse a chopped-up work-site, but there’s no four-wheel-drive or low range if the going gets really tough.
As for long-range comfort, thanks to decent noise insulation and low levels of road and wind noise, the Ranger comes up trumps.
Handily, thanks to the Hi-Rider’s underbody weight loss, the maximum payload increases to 1051kg compared to 952kg for the 4x4, while maximum towing capacity remains at 3500kg.
Little therefore, if anything, is lost in the switch to the 4x2 Hi-Rider - in fact it’s the version that can potentially work even harder.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Ranger scored 36.72 out of 37 possible points
Safety features: Standard features include stability control including trailer sway control, rollover mitigation, hill descent control, hill start assist, six airbags, and emergency assistance, which dials emergency services in the event of an accident.
An optional XLT Tech Pack features forward collision alert, driver impairment monitor (fatigue detection), lane departure warning with lane keep assist, rear park sensors, reversing camera, and tyre pressure monitoring.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A dual-cab ute with two driven wheels in place of four, but a higher ride height? Easy done, you can have a Holden Colorado LTZ, a Nissan Navara ST-X, a Toyota Hilux SR-5, or an Isuzu D-Max LS-U at the top end, while the Mitsubishi Triton and Mazda BT50 only offer mid-grade high-riding 4x2 utes.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
There is no 'loss of face', or work capability, with Ford's Ranger XLT Hi-Rider parked in your driveway compared to the XLT 4x4.
It looks just as tough, is just as rugged, and it need only be you that knows about the missing transfer case underneath.
As a work truck, it’ll do the same heavy lifting, or even a little bit more if you load it to the limit. And, on weekends, it’ll carry anything you care to throw at it - from push bikes to dirt bikes, camping gear, home renovation supplies, or whatever else.
Just like the XLT 4x4 would.
If you’re not looking for that 4X4 go-anywhere capability, the Ranger XLT Hi-Rider is a perfectly capable weekday workhorse that can easily function as a comfortable family escape machine on weekends.
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