From £22,2446
Ford transforms the Ranger into a plush £40k rival to the new breed of more road-focused pick-ups – but it can't hide its roots

What is it?

While most new pick-ups want to give an illusion of being a true alternative to a big SUV, the Ford Ranger is unashamedly a pick-up truck. Ford’s marketeers will probably still try to convince you otherwise, but the Ranger is as rough and tough as pick-ups come.

Torque-rich, five-cylinder, 3.2-litre diesel engine from an old Ford Transit? Check. Solid rear axle and leaf springs? Check. The ability to tow a steam locomotive? Check.

Since this generation of Ranger arrived in 2012, it’s had a series of updates, culminating in this latest, plushest Wildtrak X range-topper, designed to take the fight to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class and Volkswagen Amarok – each a truck too, of course, but aimed at the more ‘lifestyle’ minded buyers who are migrating to pick-ups in larger numbers.

Ford will be hoping to woo 1000 of them with this Wildtrak X limited to that number, the special edition getting a few visual styling tweaks, an exclusive blue paint colour with lots of black trim to go with it, a locking cover for the tray, 18in alloy wheels and extra convenience and safety kit. 

2 Ford ranger wildtrak 2018 fd static rear

What's it like?

While rivals can carry off an impression of a car quite well, the Ranger can’t. It’s a dyed-in-the-wool truck, no matter how many toys are in the cabin, or how pleasing it is to the eye with its nice new paint, trim and addenda. 

While we commend Ford for the honest approach of the Ranger and its effectiveness at what it was set out to do, it can also be used as a stick to beat this Wildtrak X version with. Ford quotes £38,574 for it, rising to £40,350 for our test car with a smattering of options.

That’s a lot of money for something that really doesn’t wear such a price tag comfortably, sitting alongside V6 versions of the X-Class and Amarok, which are more car-like in their cabins and on-road performance.

Toyota’s top-spec and even-better-appointed Toyota Hilux is rougher and tougher still, beating all comers in our pick-up off-road test earlier in the year. You’ll also get as much as £10,000 change from even the top-spec Nissan Navara or Mitsubishi L200, models the Ranger would find more comfortable company in usually.

So as a £40,000 vehicle the Ranger must be judged. There are no dynamic changes in its evolution into a Wildtrak X, so whereas when it was first launched in 2012 it was the standout on-road performer in the segment, rivals do now ride and handle more car-like than ever and have surpassed the Ranger.

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When you’re carrying no load, the low-speed ride is as crude as you’d expect from something with such a chassis. Its best, most comfortable work is done at about 60mph on faster, smoother roads – here it settles nicely, and the high driving position and commanding view of the road make the Ranger a surprisingly relaxing companion.

It still handles better than you’d expect, with body roll well controlled and the steering competent and at least feeling connected to the body, something that wasn’t true of pick-ups a decade ago. It’s not a car you’d ever want to push on with, but it’s no disgrace either.

Everything about the engine exudes workhorse, from the grumble at idle to the surge-like sound whenever you press the accelerator pedal. A V6-powered Amarok is considerably more refined. Yet the Ranger’s engine feels strong and rich in torque, and connected to a transmission with a very short first gear to help get those heavy loads moving. Up to speed, it’s flexible, and its power and torque reserves are easily accessed. While lacking refinement, the engine is entirely in keeping with the Ranger’s workhorse brief. 

The Ranger itself is a big motor, too. An X-Class (and its Nissan Navara donor car) feels big, but the Ranger feels half a class bigger again. That’s reassuring if The Walking Dead suddenly came true, less so when squeezing through a width restrictor into Morrisons car park. 

The Wildtrak X brings with it an interior that has much more in common with Ford’s passenger cars, albeit from a generation before. The material mix is a nice blend of comfort and quality where you interact with it, and robustness where it’s likely to take a kicking and get a bit mucky. 

5 Ford ranger wildtrak 2018 fd cabin

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Should I buy one?

We like the Ranger – it’s honest, approachable and entirely fit for purpose. Yet while the Ranger was once one of the best of the breed on the road, the pick-up sector has since exploded with new and ever more credible rivals that have gone past it as a true big SUV alternative. 

No matter how much window dressing Ford does to the car and how many toys it sticks on it to create versions like the Wildtrak X, its best work is done much lower down the range. So as a £20,000-£30,000 pick-up, the Ranger can give the plusher pick-ups a bloody nose – yet as a £40,000 model, it’s made to look rather exposed. 

Ford Ranger Wildtrak X specification

Where Berkshire Price £38,574.64 On sale Now Engine 5 cyls, 3196cc, turbodiesel Power 197bhp at 3000rpm Torque 347lb ft at 1500-2750rpm Gearbox 6-spd automatic Kerb weight 2211kg Top speed 109mph 0-62mph 10.6sec Fuel economy 32.1mpg CO2 231g/km Rivals VW Amarok, Mercedes-Benz X-Class

8 Ford ranger wildtrak 2018 fd static flatbed

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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House Speaker 15 October 2019

Pickups generally

Are bought by VAT qualifying businesses/self employed. That is the reason the convention of quoting prices '+VAT' should be kept. For the private new buyer these things are ridiculously expensive.

Second point is that the Ranger is over the unladen weight for a dual purpose vehicle to retain most national posted speed limits. On most non-motorway roads it is limited to 50mph max speed unless the posted limit is less. Speed camera van computer systems do take this into account, so be at least aware of this.

Thirdly, contrary to some misinformation here, this pickup does not come from Thailand. For the UK the T6 and newer variants have always been made at Ford's South Africa factory. Even the engines are made there.

Until very recently the 3.2 Wildtrak automatic  could be bought, after all available new car discounts, for £22,000 + VAT, at which price it makes commercial sense considering the other tax advantages of a commercial vehicle as opposed to a car for a business.

jagdavey 20 December 2018

40 grand for an old truck made in Thailand???

Another one of Ford's rip-off the British motorist stunts. This is made really cheaply in Thailand & sold at premium prices. (To compenate for the losses they make from selling cars made in high cost Germany)

catnip 19 December 2018

Pick ups aren't my thing at

Pick ups aren't my thing at all, but I get 'luxury', up-market ones such as the X-Class or Anorak even less. I would have thought that half the appeal of a truck would be to have something a bit rufty-tufty, less refined,maybe a bit harder and more involving to drive. Something like a more basic Hilux or L200 would appear to fit that bill better. But that's just me, I guess the buyers after these top end models are just interested in the look and the tax breaks.