Ford's 3.2-litre ‘Puma’ five-pot is still obviously a Ford commercial unit, but it’s quiet at idle and at fairly low revs, and its vibrations are kept well under control.
It pulls with grumble-free force from just above 1000rpm, but even when it begins to emit a few multi-cylinder harmonics higher up its vocal range, you know that it’ll be gasping for breath before 4000rpm comes and goes.
Not that it matters. Easy pulling power is what this powertrain is specified to deliver, and that it achieves very well. Torque peaks at 347lb ft, but 300lb ft is on offer between 1300rpm and 3300rpm.
Which means, once you’ve got the Ranger rolling and up into fifth and sixth, it’s a surprisingly effortless drive. Rarely will you need to change down – be that to climb, overtake or just accelerate on the motorway.
Don’t confuse this for a fast car, but it’s not desperately slow, either. A sub-11sec 0-60mph time would have been competitive with a big four-cylinder, mass-market 4x4 not so long ago. The most telling statistic is that cracking 30-70mph in fourth takes 11.7sec – just a second slower than it will take if you trawl through the gears instead.
Should running costs take priority over performance, the smaller 2.2-litre diesel is worth considering. It is available with either 123 or 148bhp. We found the latter to be a strong performer owing to its 277lb ft of torque which, whilst some way off the 3.2's headline figure, is still enough to make decent progress.Whichever engine you choose, it’s better to think of the six-speed gearbox as a five-speeder with a dog-leg first. The real first gear is so short that it’s only really useful off road and for towing.
The shift quality is poor, though. It’s elastic, heavy and vague, and at times can feel more like you’re forcing a dislocated limb back into its socket than trying to select another gear.
But that’s one entirely tolerable shortcoming in a car that, in most other respects, performs like a slightly heavier-duty family 4x4.