Ford Ranger Wildtrak 2019 first drive review
Sometimes bigger isn't better.
The thirst for big dual-cab utes is on the rise, but not everything is growing in the segment.
Like the Ford Ranger Raptor before it, the 2019 Ranger line-up introduces the newest and smallest yet most powerful engine under the bonnet. It’s already begun to polarise fans of the acrobatic Raptor but in this work truck it promises to add more power and more torque with better fuel efficiency.
It also joins a tweak in appearance that sees the front grille and bumper re-styled with new high intensity discharge headlights and DRLs – though everything still looks very much like last year’s model. There’s also a better equipment list and the debut of automated emergency braking, semi-auto parking assist and traffic sign recognition to the already present lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
Vehicle Style: Dual-cab ute
Price: $60,590 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre diesel bi-turbo 4cyl | ten-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.7 l/100km
If you need a flash work partner the Wildtrak is the top dog of the Ranger range, outclassing the Ranger Raptor for towing capacity and payload with its traditional leaf-spring rear suspension rather than the bespoke desert busting set-up of the Raptor.
The Wildtrak is still designed to stand out on the worksite with the largest alloys available in the line-up, a unique sports bars on the rear and other model-exclusive kit. It is also one of the only dual-cab utes to get a comprehensive active safety suite as standard.
If you don’t like the idea of this 2.0-litre engine on test the 3.2-litre is still available (and at a discount), but there’s a bit to like about the new engine.
The 2019 Ranger starts with base-model XL, powered by a 2.2-litre diesel twin-turbo (3.2-litre optional) in 4x2 format and priced at $33,690 plus on-road costs.
The XLT is a step up from that with the 3.2-litre turbo diesel as standard and the new 2.0-litre engine a $1200 option. It’s priced at $50,290 in 4x2 layout with a six-speed manual transmission or $56,190 plus on-roads as a 4x4.
The 4x4-only Wildtrak is priced from $60,590 plus on-road costs, again with the 3.2-litre turbo as standard and the 2.0-litre with 10-speed auto adding $1200.
Extras are metallic paint at $600 and black finish alloys at $500. The XLT can be optioned with the Wildtrak’s safety suite for $1700, giving it AEB, semi auto parking assist, traffic sign recognition, driver monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and automatic high beam.
No stone is left unturned in the Wildtrak’s equipment list. It starts with exterior additions including new HID headlights and LED fog lamps, 18-inch alloys, alloy side steps, unique Wildtrak sports bar, rear step bumper, puddle lamps, roller shutter for the tray and tow bar kit.
Inside the tub is a tray-liner and 12V socket that’s complemented by a 230V house-plug socket in the cabin for charging tools. The seats are bolstered slightly and finished in partial black leather trim with eight-way electric seats and there’s keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, leather steering wheel and gear lever, 8.0-inch infotainment with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera and a remote-locking tailgate with lift assist. It also gets the full safety suite as standard.
Not many utes can claim to have the level of active safety technology the Wildtrak has. It includes AEB with vehicle and pedestrian detection, semi-automatic parking assist, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, driver monitoring, lane keeping assist and automatic high beams.
It is a cost-option on the XLT model and not available on the XL.
WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?
The Ranger sits middle-of-the-pack in terms of interior presentation and the Wildtrak’s leather trim and 8.0-inch infotainment system elevate it most. Ergonomics on the seats are good and even the rear seat isn’t too shabby, offering reasonable support for adults underneath relatively generous headroom.
The electric driver’s seat has a good range of positions that will cater for both short and tall occupants, but the steering wheel is tilt-only adjustable.
Despite a high stance with 232mm of ground clearance the Ranger is easy to get into via side steps and grab handles available to all four doors. The rear tub also benefits from a rear bar step.
The cabin is spacious and a wide centre console bin with deep storage puts some breathing room between the front seats. The rear seats also have reasonable knee-room (not something many dual-cab do well) and the outer seats are ISOfix compatible with further anchor points on space cab models.
Mod cons are good, with USB charging points and a 230V house-plug socket in the rear of the centre console unit. The tub also gets a 12V socket and the Wildtrak adds an automatic-locking tailgate with roller blind cover over the 1.18 cubic-metre capacity tray.
HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel caused a rift when first introduced on the Ranger Raptor and now it begins to roll out on other Ranger models. Unlike in the Raptor, it’s a $1200 option for either XLT or Wildtrak models, with the 3.2-litre five-cylinder engine still the standard mill.
On paper, the 2.0-litre is the winner, producing 157kW of power and 500Nm of torque that’s up by 10kW and 30Nm over the five-pot. It’s also connected to a 10-speed automatic that adds four gears above the standard six-speed unit.
It’s also more efficient than the five-cylinder engine, claiming 6.7l/100km – down from 8.2L - but you have to work it hard to get it moving along briskly.
Straight off the bat, it doesn’t feel markedly different in outright performance, producing peak power a little later in the rev range and full torque a touch earlier. But there is a lot of torque that will tow most of what you can throw at it and the unladen driving experience is more polished thanks to the engine’s smooth revving response and slick transmission.
It’s not a machine for the traffic light grands prix – positions owned by the Volkswagen Amarok and Mercedes-Benz’s V6 utes for now – and that’s the shame for the Raptor, but in a purposeful work dog like this the available torque and smooth drivetrain are a comfortable compromise.
Enjoyable on-road driving and dual-cab ute aren’t commonly threaded together, and the Ranger is no different, but as a high-riding ute it has some of the better ride and handling traits you’ll get in a 3.5-tonne tow car.
The Wildtrak’s 18-inch alloys don’t do much to soak-up a firm suspension set-up but it is surprisingly supple at times, cruising along country roads comfortably and hitting broken suburban streets without the scuttle it’s step-sibling BT-50 does. If dynamic ability or the best ride in town is high on the list the Ranger Raptor reigns supreme – but you’ll miss the 3.5-tonne towing capacity and almost one-tonne payload out back.
The Raptor doesn’t have the same level of safety gear either, which the Wildtrak has standard, and the adaptive cruise control works well to keep a steady distance to leading traffic.
The Ranger also has some of the best steering available. It’s a touch light and elastic compared to a road car, but it doesn’t have the agricultural feel found in other big utes.
Off-road, the Ranger has a rear-diff lock and traction systems that are well tuned for climbing scraggly inclines and mud - declines are also made easier with hill descent control. Dedicated off-roaders will also appreciate strong aftermarket support for the model. It’s a good performer in-between the two surfaces on gravel, where the traction control gives enough slip for correcting slightly without losing power though never feeling unsafe.
The Ranger Wildtrak is rated to tow 3500kg but its payload of 961kg is just under the magical one-tonne marker. While the 3.2-litre was a good tow engine the new 2.0-litre shouldn’t be a hindrance, producing more power, more torque and matched to a 10-speed automatic. It will likely work harder though, and fuel efficiency will take a hit..
The 2.0-litre might have been deflating when it debuted in the performance-pitched Raptor but it’s a sensible addition here. It benefits the driving experience with more refinement, more grunt, a quieter ride and the latest 10-speed automatic transmission that helps shave fuel use. It isn’t the answer to the VW Amarok V6 or Merc’s similar machine, but that would perhaps be an answer to a question no one is asking - just yet
2018 Ford Ranger Wildtrak Price and Specifications
Price: from $60,590 (plus on-roads)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel
Power: 157kW at 3750rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1750-2000rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic, 4WD
Fuel use: 6.7L/100km
Alex Rae is Drive’s Melbourne based reporter with over 10 years’ experience in the automotive industry as a photographer and journalist. Having studied both engineering and the arts, Alex understands what makes things tick while appreciating that sometimes it’s all about form over matter…