The What Van? Road Test: Ford Ranger
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Better-looking and more sophisticated than its predecessor, Ford’s latest Ranger pick-up has been pitched into a market that is awash with some impressive rivals. Ford’s offering is up against Isuzu’s new D-max, Mitsubishi’s L200, Nissan’s Navara, Toyota’s Hilux and VW’s Amarok, not to mention Great Wall’s newly introduced and competitively priced Chinese-built Steed.
Aside from the strength of the Ford network, one thing the Ranger has in its favour, however, is the breadth and depth of the range. You can have it as a 4x2 or a 4x4, and as a two-door two-seater single cab, a four-door five-seater double cab, and as what Ford refers to as a Super Cab, which has forward- hinged front doors and small, rear-hinged back doors, providing completely unobstructed access to the cabin’s side thanks to the absence of a B-pillar. It’s an arrangement that first appeared on Rangers around 10 years ago. Single and Super Cab models are also sold as chassis cabs.
You can choose from four different specification levels too – XL, XLT, Limited and Wildtrak – and opt for either a manual or an automatic gearbox.
Then there is the choice of engine. For the UK market it’s diesel only, with either a 200hp 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi or a 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi at either 125hp or 150hp.
We went for a 150hp Double Cab 4x4 in Limited trim, and we can testify that every time we pulled into a rural filling station or country pub for a well-earned glass of orange juice, it drew an instant crowd.
Opt for Limited trim and you won’t lack for comfort. There’s leather- trimmed seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and a reasonable amount of storage space for bits and bobs. Facilities also include a big, lidded glove-box, door bins and a large stowage box between the front seats. Lift the lid and it reveals a tray; lift the tray and it reveals a capacious compartment.
There are also cup holders, a tray in front of the gear stick, and a flip-down sunglasses holder above the windscreen. You fold down the rear seat back to get at the jack and the medical kit and can flip up and secure the seats to create more carrying space or access the storage areas beneath them.
It is pleasing to see that all three back-seat occupants are protected by a lap-and-diagonal belt and a headrest. All too many double-cab pick-ups oblige whoever is sitting in the middle seat to make do with a lap-strap and no headrest at all. Three abreast is a bit of a squeeze in the back however and we wouldn’t fancy being piggy-in-the-middle on a long journey.
Access to the cargo area is by means of a hefty lockable tailgate, which can be unlatched and lowered until it locks into a horizontal position. It cannot be dropped down completely, though, because of the bulky rear bumper that incorporates a step.
A ladder rack with stops to prevent ladders, planks and so on sliding off sideways is mounted behind the cab, and our Ranger’s almost-square load bay was protected by a standard plastic liner.
Four fixed load tie-down points are provided along with a pair of sliding tie-down points on each side wall, and it is good to see a 12V power point.
Maximum load length is 1549mm with a maximum height of 511mm. Maximum width is 1560mm narrowing to 1139mm between the wheel boxes while loading height is 835mm.
Gross payload is 1152kg and our Ranger could haul a braked trailer grossing at 3350kg. It was fitted with a tow-bar for an extra £250 (all prices quoted here exclude VAT).
Meeting the latest Euro5 exhaust emission standards, the 150hp 2.2-litre comes with a variable geometry turbocharger and employs water-cooled exhaust gas recirculation, a particulate filter and an oxidation catalyst. Top power kicks in at 3700rpm while maximum torque of 375Nm makes its presence felt across a 1500rpm to 2500rpm plateau. The four-cylinder common rail engine is married to a six-speed manual gearbox.
Chassis and steering
A new, stiffer, chassis frame, a new suspension package, and a new power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system all figure on the latest Ranger. Our Limited model was fitted with Goodyear Wrangler M/S 265/65 R17 mud and snow tyres, which graced handsome- looking 17-inch alloy wheels.
Ventilated disc brakes are fitted at the front of the vehicle with drums at the rear.
For a big heavy pick-up the Ranger handles well, with none of the wallowing or lurching into corners that used to be a characteristic of such vehicles. The stiffer frame probably helps along with the new steering system and the way the suspension has been redesigned and tuned.
Nor does the Ranger lack performance – in fact, it is highly responsive – but we suspect that 150hp is the minimum amount of power you can get away with in a vehicle like this if you are planning to work it hard. We doubt the 125hp 2.2-litre would pack enough punch for most applications.
Despite its bulk – 5359mm long by 1850mm wide – and the fact that it is a 4x4, the Ranger Double Cab is reasonably manoeuvrable in confined spaces, with 3.5 turns of the steering wheel lock-to-lock and a 12.4m kerb-to-kerb turning circle.
A slick gear-change helps the driver get the best out of the truck, but the engine can sound harsh under acceleration and the unladen ride is nervous, accompanied as it is by a constant pitter-patter from the tyres. This is despite the presence of rubber hydro mounts between the chassis and the cab that are filled with hydraulic fluid to help reduce any shaking.
Wind and road noise have been properly subdued, however (perhaps that has made engine noise more obtrusive than it would otherwise be) and four-wheel drive is easy to engage – all you need to do is twist a switch between the front seats. Twist it one notch further and you will stay in four-wheel drive but engage a low-range set of gears – handy if the going gets rough.
You can switch from 4x2 to high-range 4x4 while the truck is in motion at speeds of up to 75mph.
When 4x4 and the low-range gears are selected, the accelerator pedal suddenly feels softer and less-sensitive. That is deliberate, and is intended to stop the driver accelerating unintentionally if his foot bounces on the pedal while travelling over bumpy ground. The standard Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) also recognises when the truck is driving over uneven terrain and tries to ensure the best balance between stability and timeliness of intervention. It includes the Traction Control System, which maximises traction at each driven wheel more effectively than a limited slip differential would, says Ford, adding that as a consequence a limited slip diff is not being offered as an option.
In addition, the ESP can be partly switched off to disable over- and under-steer control, with engine torque reduced at the same time while maintaining brake intervention traction control with an eye to ensuring the vehicle keeps going through deep sand or thick mud. The ESP can be switched to a second setting further to amend the braking intervention that aids the initial pull away in snow and icy conditions.
But all this technology may be of little consequence if the Ranger suffers serious under-floor damage while crossing rough country, and Ford has worked hard to minimise the risk. The transfer case and oil pan are protected by hefty cross-members, the fuel tank sits higher than the chassis frame and is shielded, and the engine and radiator are shielded too. Ground- clearance is 232mm, and the Ranger boasts a wading depth of 800mm plus approach and departure angles of 27.7º and 25.9º respectively.
How does it do off-road? Remarkably well if a brief ramble around some sloppy West Country fields is anything to go by, with the technology alluded to earlier ensuring the pick-up keeps moving in clinging mud. Sloshing through a large area of standing water that turned out to be deeper than we anticipated made us appreciate the generous wading depth and there was enough ground clearance and suspension articulation to ensure we didn’t bash the underside on boulders.
Limited trim, despite the name, means plenty of goodies. The list includes climate control, which can be adjusted to meet the separate requirements of the driver and front passenger, a driver’s seat that is electrically- adjustable in eight different ways, including height – unused to such luxury in light commercials we happily fiddled with the adjustment for ages – and cruise control.
To that list can be added an onboard trip computer, heated windscreen, electric windows front and back, electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors – the latter are nice and large but unfortunately do not include a separate wide-angle section – and a radio/CD player. MP3-compatible and with remote steering wheel-mounted controls, it comes complete with an aux-in socket and the system is Bluetooth-enabled with Voice Control System.
You will find a pair of 12V power points on the dashboard – there’s one in the back of the cabin too – and both front seats are heated.
Polished chrome sill bars with steps enhance the Ranger’s looks, and our truck was finished in metallic paint for an extra £400.
Buying and running
The Ranger is protected by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty with no mileage restriction in the first year plus a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals are set at 12 months or 20,000 miles.
The Ranger is the first pick-up ever to achieve the maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating thanks to its reinforced cab, a comprehensive set of standard airbags – including front driver and passenger, side curtain and driver’s knee – and a bonnet and front bumper designed to minimise injuries if a driver hits a pedestrian.
ESP has already been referred to. ABS is standard too, as are Hill Descent Control, Trailer Sway Control, Hill Launch Assist (to help prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards when the driver is pulling away on an incline), and Adaptive Load Control, intended to provide extra stability if heavy items are being transported.
Our Ranger was equipped with a Park Pilot reversing camera. Big double-cab pick-ups can be surprisingly difficult to reverse-park, especially when they are so heavily laden that your view rearwards is partially obscured. But select reverse when Park Pilot is fitted and you are instantly rewarded with a clear image in the rear-view mirror, with the system nonetheless beeping if you get too close to an obstacle because Limited Rangers come with reversing sensors as standard. Our only criticism is the way in which condensation on the camera lens can fog the image first thing in the morning. Otherwise, the Park Pilot is a winner. You have to pay an extra £750 to enjoy its benefits but at least the package also includes satellite navigation.
Anti-theft measures include a Ford PATS immobiliser and a Thatcham Category 1 alarm. Remote central locking is standard.
Attractive and effective with plenty to offer..
Ranger’s roots stretch back to the ’80s
Ford can trace its involvement in the purpose-built pick-up market in the UK back to 1982 and the launch of the Cortina-based and – like the new Ranger – South African-built P100. Six years later it was succeeded by the Sierra-based P100, which was made in Portugal – less controversial than doing business in South Africa in the days of apartheid – and was offered with either a 2.0-litre petrol or a 1.8-litre diesel engine.
When the Sierra died so did the P100, and that left Ford with a gap in its line-up.
It filled it with a Transit fitted with a very fancy, pick-up body produced by Telford- based Ingimex.
With close ties to Mazda’s B-series, the first Ranger to be sold in Britain broke cover in 1999 and was succeeded by revised models in 2002 and 2006. The latest Ranger made its UK debut at last year’s Commercial Vehicle Show before going on sale in 2012.