The skinny: Ford’s new Ranger makes the best in the segment, better again. Its new styling will do it no harm, this is a terrific-looking ‘truck’, but it’s underneath where the real improvements lie.
The new Ranger is quieter, smoother and more comfortable – but retains its robust drivetrains, hard-grafting towing ability, and work-truck capability. Improved on-road, and improved off it, it remains, for the moment, the benchmark in the sector. (But HiLux is coming…)
Vehicle style: Dual-cab 4X4 and 4X2 ute
Price: from $27,390 - $60,090 (full model-range price list below)
Engine/transmission: 2.2 litre Duratorq diesel, 3.2 litre Duratorq diesel/6-spd manual, 6-speed auto
Power/torque: (2.2 litre) 118kW/375Nm; (3.2 litre) 147kW/470Nm
- 2.2-litre 4X2 (claimed) 9.4 l/100km | (tested): 9.5 l/100km
- 3.2-litre 4X4 (claimed) 9.6 l/100km | (tested): 11.1 l/100km
In the current Ranger, on the market now for four years, Ford already has the sharpest knife in the drawer.
And, of its competitors, neither the top-selling but war-weary HiLux, nor the new Triton and NP300 Navara have bridged the gap to the Ranger.
For on-road finesse, and for its special ‘tough truck’ feel, the Ranger rules.
But now there’s a better Ford Ranger – better looking, better featured… and sharper. Still strong, still immensely capable both on and off-road, but distinctly smoother, and very impressively quiet at highway speeds.
If you had to drive to the Gulf and back, or tow a caravan to Innaminka up the Strzelecki Track, this is the car you’d choose.
You will pick the new model from the front; its new expressive grille and narrowed headlights, creased bonnet and pumped front guards give it a stronger, wider stance.
From the back there is no change, neither to the tail-lights nor metal.
There have been some tweaks under the bonnet though. Both the 3.2-litre Duratorq diesel, and the 2.2-litre have benefited from some revisions to the injectors and induction system, and smaller variable-vane turbos, making both engines quite a bit less ‘gravelly’ on road, and quieter when cold. The 2.2-litre also sees a slight rise in power.
But the bigger changes are to the ancillaries like the steering (electric power-steering replaces the previous hydraulic system), engine mounts, dampers, spring rates and sound-deadening, and to the interior feel and features.
And, no question, this is a very good car.
But the Ranger sits at a price premium against its key competitors.
The Ranger XL single cab-chassis 2.2 litre 4X2 kicks off at $27,390 plus on-road costs - a $3000 increase over the cost of entry to the outgoing range. The up-spec XLT brings a $2450 increase, while the top-dog Wildtrak models see $500 price rises, now priced at $57,890 for the six-speed manual, $60,090 for the auto.
In the sporty up-specced models, the Ranger carries a ‘quality’ air, but you pay for it.
In fact, lining up ‘like-against-like’, the mid- and upper-spec Tritons (for instance) hold a $6k-$10k price advantage over the equivalent Ranger.
For a lot of family buyers, that saving may be enough to tip the scales the capable Triton’s way. So how good is the Ranger? We put both 4X2 and 4X4 models to the test – on highway, gravel, and off road – to find out.
- 4-way manual driver’s seat adjustment with lumbar support
- Auto headlamps, air-conditioning, power windows
- Vinyl floor coverings
- SYNC 1 communication platform, Bluetooth (with voice control) and 4.2-inch display
- AM/FM stereo radio, single MP3 compatible CD player and AUX/USB/iPod integration
- Cruise control and adjustable speed limiter
- 230V inverter (Double and Super Cab) plus inner and outer tie downs (ute tub)
Ranger XL Plus adds:
- Daytime running lamps, plastic side steps, expanded wiring harness and second battery
- 3.5-inch multi-function display
- Ranger XLS adds:
- 16-inch alloys wheels
- Front fog lamps
- Floor coverings (carpet) and front floor mats
Ranger XLT adds:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Projector headlamps and rain-sensing wipers
- 8-inch colour touch screen, sat nav with traffic channel
- SYNC 2, DAB radio, mobile WiFi hotspot and SD card slot
- Dual colour 4.2-inch cluster screens
- Dual-zone climate control
- Cooled console and electrochromatic rear-view mirror
- Rear park assist, tyre pressure monitoring
- Ute bed-liner with 12V socket
Ranger Wildtrak adds:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Eight-way power driver’s seat adjustment with lumbar support
- Leather heated front seats
- Ambient lighting and puddle lamps
- Reverse camera
- Plus, tub roller shutter, among a suite of premium features.
No question about it, from base-spec up, this is a pretty classy commercial interior in the new Ranger.
It has a more modern, airy and integrated feel than the outgoing model, accentuated by a faux-metal panel dividing the dash, a neat centre-stack and smart door trims that extend the lines of the dash into the front doors.
The Wildtrack, as you would expect in a $60k (plus) vehicle, is smartly trimmed with leather and contrasting stitching on the dash and seats, sporty fabric seat inserts and chrome and brushed metal highlighting.
The XLT also presents very smartly – both of these models are a long way from the work utes we once knew – but the entry-spec models are also not half bad and certainly not ‘povvo’ pack.
Ford’s fabric trim in the lower-specced models is a durable tight-weave, and the seats across the range are comfortable and reasonably well-shaped, though a little flat in the back.
But, in all dual-cab models, rear-seat passengers get a centre arm-rest with cupholders.
There is also reasonable room in the back, enough kneeroom for adult passengers there, ample for younger passengers and ISOFIX child-seat fixing points across the range.
The SYNC2 communication platform, which also brings with it an 8-inch colour screen and sat nav (in the XLT and Wildtrak models), makes the SYNC1 and 4.2-inch display in the XL and XLS models look pretty underdone.
The displays otherwise work well, information is easily accessed, and the configurable instrument display in the XLT and Wildtrak (you can hide the tacho, set up communication, display trip information etc.) is easily nutted out.
The multi-function steering wheel carries a host of controls – cruise, voice control, Bluetooth, instrument display, entertainment – and is partly responsible for the ‘cleaned-up’ look to the centre-stack.
Lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control can be optioned into the up-spec models as part of Ford’s ‘Tech Pack’. Emergency assistance though, is standard across the range.
But the big omission in the XL, XLS and XLT models, and found as ‘standard fit’ only in the Wildtrak, is a reversing camera.
For goodness sake, how hard can it be? And where is ANCAP in this? A lot of these cars will be used as family cars, and, without a reversing camera, it is simply not possible to pick up objects in the mirrors behind that big tailgate in that big tub.
Unless you have one fitted, you’ll be constantly reminding yourself to be very careful around young children and toddlers. (I have witnessed the impact of such a tragedy, the death of a toddler, on an old school friend.)
To be fair, Ford is not alone in omitting a reversing camera – but the fact of its fitment to the Wildtrak (and that it can be specified as an option) surely makes it easier to offer across the range.
Another omission is ‘reach’ adjustment to the steering wheel.
It only offers rake adjustment, and, though the squab and seat-back of the driver’s seat is easily adjusted, there is always something of a compromise without reach.
The Triton has reach and rake adjustment, and the coming Hilux will also feature both.
Lastly, the XL and XLS come with handy rubber mats (certainly handy if pressed into work-truck duties at a muddy building site), the XLT and Wildtrak with hard-wearing carpet floor covering.
And cupholders, bottleholders? Ample, front and back.
ON THE ROAD
- 2.2-litre turbo diesel: 118 kW @ 3,200 rpm / 385 Nm @ 1,600-2,500 rpm
- 3.2-litre turbo diesel: 147 kW @ 3,000 rpm/ 470 Nm @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
- 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission (with sports shift)
- Double wishbone front suspension, leaf-sprung live-axle rear
- Electronic diff-lock (4X2 and 4X4 models)
- Dual range 4WD: 2H, 4H and 4L (2H to 4H selectable ‘on the fly’)
It is only when you drive the Ranger that you will realise just what a terrific job Ford Australia engineers have done with this car.
Every model in the range is such a good performer on road, that it disguises its leaf-sprung hard-grafting work-truck origins.
Sure, you will always be aware you are driving a ute, that jiggle from the load-carrying rear can never be completely disguised, but this one drives exceptionally well.
There is a ‘tight’ elasticity to the way it absorbs bumps and broken tarmac, and it transfers little in the way of jarring or thudding into the cabin. It is equally as impressively smooth on gravel.
But the big achievement with this new model is the serene quiet at highway speeds. Tyre roar is as good as absent, with only some wind-flutter around the wing mirrors and at the base of the A-pillars intruding into the cabin.
It is quieter than a premium German saloon – quieter than the 3 Series, quieter than the C Class – on coarse tarmac. At 110km/h, on the coarsest blue-chip bitumen surface, the Ranger consistently recorded a dB reading of just 64-66dB.
At this level, there is no intrusion into quiet conversation. And it is something you will really appreciate on a long highway haul.
And even when accelerating hard, when overtaking or hustling away from standstill, the Ranger – for both the 2.2-litre and 3.2-litre diesel engines – is quieter than any other diesel work-ute in the segment.
What is responsible for this new-found level of refinement is fluid-filled engine-mounts, a lot of extra sound deadening below the floor and on the firewall, tweaks to the induction system and exhaust gas recirculation and changed damping and spring rates (with better isolation).
But it is still a work-truck. The Ranger’s 3.5 tonne towing capacity remains unchanged. And, in particular with the 470Nm 3.2-litre diesel, there is masses of torque there to deal effortlessly with a big load hitched up behind.
(A caution: tow ratings can be a tad misleading if you don’t also factor in the load in the tub, and how many you’ve got in the cabin. Talk to your dealer first about GVM and GCM calculations.)
The 2.2-litre is no laggard though.
We drove it in the base-spec 4X2 XL model, and, like the 3.2-litre, have nil complaint with its refinement and performance on road.
In fact, depending upon the job you’ve got in mind, or if just looking for a versatile family car (that can also do the Saturday run to the tip or get the horses to the pony club), the 2.2-litre 4X2 Ranger will be well up to the task.
For both models, the new electric power-assisted steering helps things (replacing the hydraulic system in the previous model).
While the feeling is typically ‘work-truck’, in other words a little isolated, it is light at lower speeds, makes tight manoeuvres a breeze and reduces drag on the engine (by eliminating the hydraulic pump).
A virtue in the previous model, and not diminished in the new Ranger, is its effortless ability in the rough.
It will climb a wall, and happily eke its way down the other side. Of course, there is a lot of electronic assistance to the way it performs – electronic diff-lock, traction control, hill-hold and hill descent control – but it’s also assisted by 230mm of ground clearance, an 800mm wading depth and short frontal overhang.
We put it through a deep river crossing, through a claggy mud bath and up and over a 45 degree incline, coming down in ‘angel’ – neutral – without raising a sweat (although with a slight tightening to the pantal region).
The Ranger’s ability to creep slowly up and over rocks and steep inclines, just relying on the ‘hand of God’ torque from the effortlessly strong diesel under the bonnet, makes you wonder what would stop it in the bush.
With this car, you can certainly take the family and the trail-bikes, far, far off the beaten track, and get them safely home again.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars.
Safety features: The new Ranger comes featured with the usual spread of dynamic and passive safety features including stability/traction control, ABS anti-lock brakes, six air-bags, emergency stop signal, cruise control, adjustable speed limiter, trailer sway control, plus (in 4X4 models) hill-start assist and hill descent control.
Emergency assistance, triggered from the Bluetooth, is standard with all models while up-spec models also get tyre pressure monitoring. Features such as adaptive cruise, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist and driver impairment monitor can be optioned.
Only the Wildtrak gets a reversing camera as standard.
HOW IT COMPARES:
We think Ranger is still the pick of the crop, despite the recent entry to the segment of the new Navara and new Triton.
The Navara has the most SUV-like interior and rides very well. The Triton holds a hefty price advantage while also offering a quiet ride, a very capable 4WD system and well-featured spec-list.
It may come down to a price consideration, or you may want to wait till the new HiLux arrives, but, for the moment, our money is on the Ranger (even at its price premium).
Comparing up-spec competing models with the $56,590 Ranger XLT 3.2 litre automatic:
- Mitsubishi Triton Exceed automatic - $47,490
- Toyota HiLux SR5 automatic - $54,490
- Nissan Navara ST-X 4WD automatic diesel dual cab - $54,490
Note: Manufacturer’s list prices quoted, excluding on-road and registration charges.
VERDICT | OVERALL
This new Ranger is one very impressive vehicle. If you’ve always thought a twin-cab ute was too utilitarian for you, lacked finesse or was too ‘trucky’ to consider, then take a close look at the new Ranger.
This is the ute for buyers who may have thought they would never have a ute.
It will take you and your family anywhere; it offers car-like quiet inside, is filled with high-end technologies, and is both comfortable and effortless on a longer drive.
You will notice a little fore-aft jiggle – that’s a legacy of the load-carrying leaf-sprung tub behind – but, thanks to a nicely controlled front-end, it needs to be on a particularly rough road to really unsettle things.
The Ranger offers all of the advantages of the versatile 4WD ute, will climb in and out of anything, wraps it up in a very handsome four-door body, and can easily double as a comfortable, effortless family tourer.
That’s got to be a pretty appealing car, isn’t it?
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- XL - Single Cab Chassis 2.2L MT - $27,390
- XL - Single Cab Chassis 2.2L Hi Rider MT - $30,890
- XL - Single Cab Chassis 2.2L Hi Rider AT $33,090
- XL - Single Cab Pick-up 2.2L MT - $28,390
- XL - Super Cab Chassis 2.2L Hi-Rider AT $35,590
- XLT - Super Cab Pick-up 3.2L Hi-Rider AT $46,690
- XL - Double Cab Chassis 2.2L Hi-Rider AT $37,590
- XL - Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L Hi-Rider MT - $36,390
- XL - Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L Hi-Rider AT $38,590
- XLT - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L Hi-Rider MT - $46,490
- XLT - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L Hi-Rider AT $48,690
- XL - Single Cab Chassis 2.2L MT - $38,790
- XL - Single Cab Chassis 3.2L MT - $41,290
- XL - Single Cab Chassis 3.2L AT $43,490
- XL Plus - Single Cab Chassis 3.2L AT $46,480
- XL - Super Cab Chassis 3.2L MT - $43,790
- XL - Super Cab Pick-up 3.2L MT - $44,790
- XLT - Super Cab Pick-up 3.2L MT - $52,390
- XLT - Super Cab Pick-up 3.2L AT $54,590
- XL - Double Cab Chassis 2.2L MT - $43,290
- XL - Double Cab Chassis 2.2L AT $45,490
- XL - Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L MT - $44,290
- XL - Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L AT $46,490
- XL - Double Cab Chassis 3.2L MT - $45,790
- XL - Double Cab Chassis 3.2L AT $47,990
- XL - Plus Double Cab Chassis 3.2L AT $51,960
- XL - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L MT - $46,790
- XL - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L AT $48,990
- XL Plus - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L AT $52,960
- XLS - Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L MT - $45,590
- XLS - Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L AT $47,790
- XLS - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L MT - $48,090
- XLS - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L AT $50,290
- XLT - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L MT - $54,390
- XLT - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L AT $56,590
- Wildtrak - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L MT - $57,890
- Wildtrak - Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L AT $60,090
- Automatic Transmission - $2200
- Prestige Paint - $500
- Steel Bull Bar (XL Plus only) - $1800
- Tech Pack - XLT - $1100
- Reverse Camera
- Adaptive Cruise Control (including Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Impairment Monitor)
- Tech Pack - Wildtrak - $600
- Adaptive Cruise Control (including Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Impairment Monitor)