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Suspension tweaks mean the high-end Ford Ranger M-Sport 3.2 TDCi handles well, but it's one pricey pick-up
Steve Cropley Autocar
12 August 2016

What is it?

Rally car-builder M-Sport’s modified version of Ford’s top-end European pick-up truck, the 3.2-litre diesel Ranger Wildtrack. The Cockermouth-based firm, run by former star rally driver Malcolm Wilson, is currently in expansion mode, and is keen to establish a range of own-brand modified road cars. It is concentrating at first on Ford’s commercials, and already offers M-Sport versions of the Transit Custom and Connect.

Those vehicles are all built in Abergavenny by Van Sport, using a specification laid down by M-Sport. The builders have wisely concentrated on décor and suspension for their improved models, rather than change the power trains or mess with the ultra-convenient selectable four-wheel drive system.

The two M-Sport Transits are already on sale, and the Ranger hits showrooms next month. It costs £35,995 plus VAT for the top-spec, 3.2-litre diesel, six-speed automatic version we're testing here. That’s a pretty solid £43,200 retail for those of us who can’t claim VAT, although it's likely to appeal most strongly to professional owners in search of image, and attracted by the fact that even this vast double cab pick-up attracts less benefit-in-kind (BIK) taxation than a Sportage or Discovery Sport.

What's it like?

In the UK, this most luxurious of Rangers aims to play the role fulfilled in America by the famous Ford Raptor: a pick-up with performance and road ability to rival a specialist SUV. The M-Sport Ranger is neither as big or wide as a Raptor, but it’s still 5.4 metres long and weighs 2.2 tonnes - big for Europe - so it needs all of its 197bhp, and more to the point its 347lb ft of torque, to feel energised. The 0-60mph time is just under 11sec, which is reasonably brisk but no threat to hot hatches. Its speciality, however, is mid-range acceleration: it can accelerate 30-70mph in an impressive 11.7sec.

The big thing about the M-Sport Ranger is its road presence. It has a special, Raptor-like front bumper, a new bonnet lip, a special grille with a pair of inset Lazer lights, prominent black wheel arch extensions and door handles. There's also a sports exhaust to give more character to your progress, but it’s more noticeable inside than out. The interior is entirely re-trimmed in quality black leather, and there’s a leather-trimmed steering wheel with an ultra-thick rim that perfectly suits the Ranger’s character and steering effort.

Our test car had an optional off-road set-up that increases the ride height by 40mm and calms the rear spring rates (normally set up for industrial load-carrying) at the same time, to give a more level ride. There’s also an optional undershield, and an impressive Lazer light bar.

On the road, the M-Sport Ranger performance feels powerful and refined. That's because its big five-cylinder diesel is smooth and well insulated from the interior, and the six-speed auto transmission is as smooth as a saloon’s. You sit much higher than you do in a Range Rover, especially with the extra ground clearance, which takes a bit of getting used to, and there is noticeable body roll and a fair bit of scrabbling at bends as the chunky tyres on 18in wheels work hard to change direction.

However, the chassis grips well and resists understeer, and the steering is surprisingly accurate, especially around the straight-ahead, where so many commercials just don’t perform. You can hustle it when you need to, and it’s surprisingly enjoyable. The vast wheelbase and softer rear springs give a decent ride, especially since the latest Ranger chassis is impressively stiff.

Should I buy one?

Yes and no. Don’t think this will make a good alternative to a soft-roader, because it won’t. It’s very big and very tall. There’s a pleasant, American-bred simplicity about it which some will seem rather at odds with the high VAT-inclusive price. However, if you’re a non-VAT buyer who truly needs a luxurious load-carrier and want to stand out in a crowd, this is about the best double-cab option going.

Ford Ranger M-Sport 3.2 TDCi 4X4 double cab

Location Cumbria; On sale September; Price £35,995 plus VAT; Engine 3198cc, 5cyl diesel; Power 197bhp at 3700rpm; Torque 347lb ft at 1500-2750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd auto; Kerb weight 2193kg; 0-62mph 10.6sec; Top speed 115mph; Economy 31.7mpg (combined); CO2 234g/km; Rivals Volkswagen Amarok; Mitsubishi L200

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Comments
2

12 August 2016
Another company has the trademark in the same classification for that...

14 August 2016
i realise it's tuned for torque but i think 250hp could be a power figure that would make this more M-Sport worthy..shouldn't be impossible with a remap.

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