First DriveFord’s 4x4 pick-up Ranger gets a fresh look inside and out and new engines for 2016. We drive it off-road for the first time
First DriveRanger is rugged enough to cope with life as a workhorse yet comfortable and well equipped enough to perform family and leisure-related duties
What is it?
The Ranger Wildtrak four-door pick-up is the latest Ford offering to the lifestyle SUV market. What was once a rudimentary builder’s friend gets an up-to-date design inspired by Ford’s Kinetic styling, a 154bhp 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine, a proper double cab, heated Alcantara front seats, electric folding door mirrors and a suitably funky centre console and dash with inclinometer.
A towing capacity of 3000kg, low-range transfer box, impressive off-road ability and a good turning circle means that jetski or boat owners should be able to move anything short of the QE2 down to the waterline and back.
What’s it like?
Most Ranger drivers will need little of this all-terrain potential and be much more concerned with on-road stability, handling and refinement. The new, free-revving turbodiesel has a class-leading 280lb ft of torque at 1800rpm, allowing relaxed motorway cruising and comfortable, if well planned, overtaking. Wind noise at 70mph is quite obtrusive, but no more so than in any of the four-wheel-drive competition.
Car owners might also take some time to get accustomed to the ladder chassis and live, leaf-sprung rear axle. It excels at absorbing large potholes, but the ride suffers over transverse ridges and can be surprisingly jittery on apparently smooth road surfaces.
There’s a reassuring, natural balance with good stability on long bends and, though the rear can be provoked to step out of line when unladen, its resistance to understeer is always impressive.
Inside, the driving position is good and the dash is clear, though the lack of a reach-adjustable steering wheel in a vehicle this size would never be tolerated within the traditional car market. Rear-seat passengers get head restraints and a fair amount of legroom, but little else in the way of creature comforts.
Should I buy one?
If you need the genuine off-road ability or are determined to drive a pick-up, the Ranger Wildtrak offers an excellent, appealingly styled alternative to the ubiquitous Toyota Hilux or old-school Land Rover Defender. But if you’re simply looking for a commuting vehicle that can also take the family camping, then the Skoda Octavia Scout or Yeti, Ford’s own Kuga or the Nissan X-trail are more convincing competitors.