Ford Ranger WILDTRAK - The HEEL TOE perspective

An article, initially meant for Top Speed. Eventually found its way here.

It is no secret that Ford has long tradition in building rugged pickup trucks and workhorses. They made a wise decision to emphasise on this, when marketing their trucks. It may be their strongest card yet, and they need it now more than ever, as the pickup segment has never been more crowded. Players like Volkswagen Amarok, Mercedes X-Class, and Renault Alaskan are only some of the newcomers, not to mention the ones that have come long before that, such as Toyota Hilux, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi L200 and Isuzu D-max.

While they have the full truck lineup to choose from in North America, Europeans have to content with “lesser” trucks. And while the Ford Ranger may be less in terms of dimensions, it is certainly not less of a pickup truck.

There are four trim levels available. XL being the base. The higher, XLT level, swaps the 16-inch steel wheels for alloys of the same size. A 4.2 inch display is available, as well as cruise-control. The majority of Ranger sales are made by the Limited and Wildtrak trim levels, which imbue a surprising amount of sophistication for the segment.

With the european spec cars you can only choose between turbocharged diesel engines. Two versions of the 2.2 Duratorq 4 cylinder- 130 and 160 horsepower, the first one available only in the base trim level, and a 3.2 litre, inline 5 cylinder with 200 horsepower and 470 Nm of torque. The higher trim levels have a choice between a 6 speed manual and a 6 speed PowerShift automatic.

Our test car was the Wildtrak 3.2 litre mated to what has to be the smoothest automatic gearbox I have ever driven in a pickup truck. It is a dual-clutch system, built by Getrag Ford Company. I was also impressed by the software, and how it doesn’t perform needless downshifts as you progressively move your right foot further down. Instead it keeps the engine at the optimal rev range, for the smoothest acceleration.

The engine starts process, includes turning the key, instead of pushing a button, which is something you rarely see these days, and something I actually enjoy.

You are greeted by the enthusiastic and surprisingly unintrusive sound of the 5 cylinder diesel. Considering the piston stroke of 100.8 mm the engines climbs up the rev range surprisingly quick. It uses all of its 470 Nm all the way from 1500 to 2750 rpm.

On our mixed course, which included highway driving and off-roading, we managed to achieve around 8L /100 km or 30 mpg, which is a decent figure for a 2.3 ton diesel pickup truck.

The car is easy to position on the road, and doesn’t feel as big as it is. Sharper movements are followed by slight body roll, but good dampening rate, and chassis rigidity make sure you stay on track. The car feels like it has decent road manners. Not surprisingly, off-road is where the Ranger really shines. It can go through water obstacles as deep as 800mm which is the best in its class. Most of its competitors can handle up to 500mm. With clearance of 229mm on our test car, we had confidence the undercarriage would not scrape even on the more uneven parts of our course.

Using the Electronic differential lock you can set the power distribution equally between the two axles, giving you maximum off road capability.

An important aspect in every pick-up truck is towing capacity. The Ranger can handle up to 3500 kg or just over 7700 lbs, which is on par with the Nissan Navara, and best in class.

We have to talk about the interior. Ford Ranger has always been a workhorse first. However the Limited and Wildtrac trim levels bring a sort of duality to the truck’s personality. It wants to do more than just haul stuff in the back.

The leather stitching on the upper part of the dashboard is a nice touch, and most materials in the cabin feel high quality. I admit I was expecting the same amount of luxury, as in a cave, but the cabin really is a nice place to spend time in. Ergonomy-wise, everything is easy to comprehend, including the SYNC3 system for the most part, with its 8 inch display. The driver is not overwhelmed by a chaotic mix of touch screens and buttons whose purpose is vaguely suggested. I found everything to be very well organized and purposeful.

Prices start at around 25 000 euro (East EU prices) for the XL and up to 39 000 for the top of the range Wildtrak. Price wise it is a well rounded offer, sitting in the middle of the segment.

The model has always been a workhorse first and a passenger car second. But this generation of the model really showed us, that you can have almost everything in one well balanced package.

As cliche as it may sound, the Ford Ranger was and still is an honest truck, only now it brings a level of sophistication previously unknown to the model. In an age where most cars are built with the intention of being good all rounders, it’s nice to see Ford’s small truck stepping it up on the quality front, without losing its character.

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