Ford Ranger Review – 3.2 Double-Cab High-Rider XLT: The most popular bakkie, or pick-up truck as its known in United States of America, is the Ford F-150. It was the best-selling vehicle in that country for 24 years and in 2011 almost 600 000 of them found their way to new owners. 600 000!
A quick poke around the Ford America website and the smallest double-cab (or SuperCab, as Billy-Bob would call it) I could find is almost 6 metres long, almost 2,5 metres wide and weighs a touch over 2,2 tons. Now we all know how obsessed the Yanks are with “bigger is better” and granted some of their trucks are ridiculously oversized, but a quick look at the dimensions of the recently introduced, local all-new Ford Ranger makes for interesting reading.
At over 5,2 metres long , 2,1 metres wide and weighing 2.2 tons, the new Ford Ranger is anything but an insubstantial vehicle. Heck even JR Ewing from Dallas fame would be proud to be seen behind the wheel of the Blue Oval’s flagship bakkie. And apart from those enormous dimensions it can tow a braked 3,3 tons (a few prized cattle?) and wade in almost a metre of water (oil maybe?).
Impressive, very impressive. That’s some serious kerb weight, but fortunately the Ranger 3,2 offers up a healthy 470 N.m of rotational grunt to dispel any notion of it being under-powered. With a healthy 147 kW developed 5-cylinder diesel mill, the Ranger picks up speed alarmingly for such a large, heavy vehicle. Mated with a precisely-matched manual gearbox, which has an impressively short throw for a bakkie, the engine feels bulletproof – but I believe the 6-speed automatic option would be better option still.
With that workhorse rear suspension the Ranger never felt nimble or light-footed, but expecting that would be like asking the John Ross Ewing to exchange his chaps and cowboy hat, adorn a tutu and perform a pirouette – it just won’t happen. On very corrugated rough roads the rear jiggles and jumps, so the Ford might require a few hundred kilos over the rear axle to settle it down in those conditions.
What I did appreciate, however, was the well geared steering, which for a bakkie is well weighted. Compared to that of the Nissan Navara for example, which felt woefully loose, the Ranger is a revelation. Impressive as the Ranger is on the outside – I would go so far as to say it is the best-looking bakkie on sale today – it’s the interior of this behemoth that deserves special mention. Any preconceptions you may have bakkies, throw them out the window or into the weeds now, else the Ranger will do it for you.
Without boring you to tears by reading from a specification sheet there are a few items worth mentioning. Voice control, climate control, leather trim, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary connectivity, electrically folding side mirrors with puddle lamps, ABS with EBD, ESP with DSC, hill decent control, hill launch assist, roll over mitigation, adaptive load control, trailer sway control, remote keyless entry, seven airbags and a 5 Star Euro NCAP safety rating! If I didn’t know better, I would say that farmers are getting soft!
But, nowadays double cab bakkies aren’t aimed exclusively at the farming community, not that they ever have been in the past. Let’s be honest though, previous generation bakkies weren’t the most comfortable vehicles to live with everyday, but by including an array of luxury features, which in the past have only really been found on passenger vehicles, manufacturers are casting their marketing nets (Lassos?) and targeting a far wider audience, and with a 5 Star NCAP rating, even the safety conscious family man.
My only concern when using a double cab as a family car is the lack of safe storage areas. Yes the load tub on the new Ford Ranger is enormous, but unless it’s covered by a canopy it serves no purpose to a family man or woman. And personally, I don’t like canopies, I think they detract from the overall look. Saying that, bin rubberizing, in my view should be a factory standard as even on our new test unit, the load bin had taken a beating already, revealing nasty scratches and dings on the load-bin floor and the edges higher up.
Given the resplendent metallic blue paint finish of the test unit I drove, this was highlighted even more. Overall, the new Ford Ranger is an impressive piece of equipment with an arsenal of talents to keep the likes of Toyota’s favourite son, the Hilux and Volkswagen’s upstart, the Amarok, honest – from design and engineering, to equipment, ride and handling. I have to say, job well done, Ford.