It might be classed as a ‘compact pickup’ in the U.S., but the all-new Ford Ranger T6 won’t be sold there, or in Canada, because it’s too close in size to the larger F-150 – go figure. There’s nothing compact about it then, but this is the trend toward leisure-lifestyle bakkies we’ve seen in recent years, which really started with Nissan’s Navara when it was introduced in 2005. Since then, other manufacturers have slowly followed, with the Hilux having grown in proportion, followed by the Amarok and now Ford’s all-new Ranger.
The ‘all-new’ part comes from the Ranger having been designed from the ground up under the ‘One Ford’ strategy. This means that although the new bakkie was conceived in the U.S., its development was under taken by a global development team based in Melbourne, Australia. We don’t much like the Aussies on the rugby field, but any bakkie designed by them to run in a similar, take-no-prisoners, Southern Hemisphere environment like ours, can only be a good thing in our book. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, because while the Aussies may have designed the new Ford Ranger, we, the South Africans, are building the bloody thing mate. Ford Motor Company South Africa has invested heavily in its Straundale and Silverton production facilities where it will build the engines as well as perform the final assembly of the vehicles. One of three production centres globally, South Africa plays a key role in the Ranger’s distribution to 180 countries around the world, making it one of Ford’s farthest reaching products.
The Ranger looks as tough as Ford promises it’s built. Toned, taut and muscular, the new Ranger looks confident on its feet, with a short overhang in front, combined with a bold new three-bar grille – a signature of Ford’s F-Series products. Adding to the Ranger’s distinctive looks are its high shoulder line and narrow ‘glasshouse’, helped in part by a steeply raked windscreen. Larger headlamps, bigger mirrors and pronounced wheel arches, also help to impart its purposeful stance.
But the looks don’t only serve to make the Ranger easy on the eye. The raised shoulder line also provides a deeper load bay (511 mm) and the whole vehicle has grown by some 279 mm in length, (5 359 mm long), and 62 mm in width, (1 850 mm wide), resulting in improved interior and cargo space. Width between the rear wheel arches in the load bay is 1 139 mm, maximum load carrying capacity is up to 1 150 kg on selected models and all 3.2-litre Duratorq propelled models, whether Single-, Double-, or Super-cab, have a maximum towing capacity of 3 350 kilograms. Ground clearance is 237 mm across the range, together with a wading depth of 800 mm.
With a completely new interior design, the Ranger has improved on its levels of comfort. Durable surfaces are employed on the dashboard, centre console and door pockets, which should stand up well to an assault of keys, multi-tools and plenty other hard-edge objects that will likely be thrown at them on a daily basis. In contrast, the major touch-points, such as the steering wheel, handbrake and gear lever, are covered with softer-touch materials – a more durable plastic in the base models and leather in the higher spec units – ensuring the Ranger’s appeal for both commercial and leisure/lifestyle use. The instrumentation proved clear and legible, both during the day and in the pitch black darkness that had descended over the Long Tom Pass by the time we were heading to our overnight stop. Storage areas abound, with a glove compartment that will swallow an average sized laptop, as well as hidden storage bins below the rear seats. Speaking of which, the Ranger finally brings rear legroom in the bakkie class to levels on par with a typical family sedan.
Built on an all-new ladder frame chassis, which has undergone over 1 million real-world test kilometers, the Ranger features coil-over-strut front suspension in combination with traditional leaf springs at the rear. The suspension has been tuned according to its application in either the 4×2 or 4×4 model, with the damping and spring rates adjusted to compensate for additional weight, engine torque and power distribution. On the launch route in Mpumalanga, the different states of suspension tune were apparent over some rough dirt road, with the with additional 275 kg added by the 4×4 drivetrain having been compensated for by a much firmer ride.
On our brief 4×4 route, the Ranger proved capable enough with its approach angle of 25.5 degrees, ample suspension travel, as well as its electronically switchable transfer case and diff-lock. Other safety and convenience features offered on selected models to aid off-road driving are hill-descent, hill-hold and trailer-sway control. Interestingly, Ford’s hill-descent system requires the transmission to be in ‘neutral’, while the vehicle maintains its speed, which is increased or decreased via the steering wheel-mounted cruise control function.
On tarmac the Ford Ranger gives one the feeling of having a commanding road presence, with accurate steering and limited body roll through corners. The seats are supportive and, depending on the specification, covered in cloth or leather, as well as being adjustable for height and lumbar support.
As well as being offered in three cab styles, the new Ford Ranger is available in a number of specification levels, namely: Base, XL, XLS, XLT and Wildtrack. From the entry-level spec, available features extend to include items such as Bluetooth®, USB and iPod® connectivity, a voice recognition system, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and satellite controls on the steering wheel. Exterior styling features also differ according to spec, with wheels sizes starting at 16-inch steel units on the base models, to 18-inch alloys on the Wildtrack model. The Wildtrack is comprehensively equipped, with items such as a reverse parking camera; ambient interior lighting; contrasting colour highlights in the front fascia, side mirrors, door handles as well as the side air vents. Additional highlights include a roof rack and a sports hoop which enhance its profile.
The Ranger is powered by a choice of three engines, two diesels and one petrol. Both diesel units are produced at the Straundale plant near Port Elizabeth. The new 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi four-cylinder diesel engine delivers peak torque of 375 Nm and power output of 110kW. When fitted to a 4×2 model, Ford claim consumption as low as 8.4L/100 km in a combined traffic cycle. This engine provided enough motivation for the almost 3-tonne bakkie through the hills of Mpumulanga and in combination with the 6-speed manual transmission, despite its agricultural shift action, is likely to be the pick of the bunch for many.
The 3.2-litre, 5-cylinder, Duratorq TDCi provides a bit more ‘go’, with its 147 kW and 470 Nm of torque available between 1 500 – 2 500 r/min. The flagship powerplant felt more willing when coupled with the 6-speed manual, as opposed to the 6-speed automatic, which, while smooth, took the edge off the engines response. Ford claim fuel economy of 8.5 L/100km for the 4×2 manual variant, but we found the engine considerably thirstier when rolling through Mpumalanga’s undulating scenery.
The 2.5-litre Duratec four-cylinder petrol engine has been updated and now delivers 226 Nm of torque and peak power of 122 kW. Mated exclusively to a 5-speed manual transmission, fuel economy with a two-wheel drive model is a claimed 9.8 L/100 km in a combined cycle.
Apart from its bold new design, Ford have also not been shy on their efforts to ensure passenger safety. Safety technologies include a multitude of airbags – including newly designed side thorax items. Seat belt pretensioners, accelerometers and pressure sensors all work to preempt impacts from various angles and ensure safety equipment is deployed in the blink of an eye. Structurally, the Ranger’s doors are forty percent stiffer than the previous model, the bonnet features a pedestrian-friendly honeycomb-like structure and the whole vehicle was put through around 9 000 computer simulated accidents in which the behaviour of over 2 million components were assessed and continuously improved. Simply put, the result is a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating – except where the optional rear sliding window is fitted, which results in a 4-star rating.
The Ford Ranger’s bold, American-inspired design will certainly earn it a top spot in the desirability stakes, while its combination of space, practicality and ‘built tough’ feel, are sure to see it rise up our local sales charts, but we’ll need to spend more one-on-one time with the Ranger before we form a definitive opinion on how it stacks up against its rivals.
|Pricing (incl. VAT and CO2 Tax)|
|Ranger 2.5 XL 5MT Double Cab||R259 400|
|Ranger 2.2 XL 6MT Double Cab||R272 300|
|Ranger 2.2 XLS 6MT Double Cab||R319 200|
|Ranger 2.2 XLS 6MT Double Cab 4×4||R364 400|
|Ranger 3.2 XLT 6MT Double Cab||R380 400|
|Ranger 3.2 XLT 6AT Double Cab||R391 500|
|Ranger 3.2 XLT 6MT Double Cab 4×4||R426 900|
|Ranger 3.2 XLT 6AT Double Cab 4×4||R436 700|
|Ranger 3.2 Wildtrack 6MT Double Cab 4×2||R402 600|
Pricing includes a 4-year/120 000km warranty, 5-year/90 000km service plan and 3-year Roadside Assistance. 4×4 models are also sold with a free off-road driver training course.