Car reviews - Ford - Ranger
Sharp steering, range choice, strong styling, biturbo engine refinement, all-round usability
Room for improvement
Minimal performance difference between 3.2 and biturbo, sub-XLT interior feels a bit cheap, new suspension tune gives firmer unladen ride
Extra safety tech, added powertrain choice boost Ford Ranger appeal
12 Oct 2018
Australia’s second-best-selling model has also revised its suspension set-up for better driving dynamics when hauling loads, while total variants in the range have decreased from 34 to 29.
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is also included in the range for the first time, while the Ranger becomes the first vehicle in its segment to offer semi-autonomous active park assist, sure to appeal to those looking to use a ute as a family vehicle instead of a commercial workhorse.
Are the changes enough to keep the Ranger’s position as one of the most popular offerings on the Australian new-vehicle market?
In a market getting increasingly flooded by pick-up offerings, the Ford Ranger has long been considered one of the best all-round propositions for driving dynamics, ride comfort, performance and styling.
The latest update looks to build on these attributes, adding extra equipment to broaden the Ranger’s appeal beyond tradies and those needing a work vehicle.
Most notable of the new equipment changes are the inclusion of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and traffic sign recognition as standard on the top-spec Wildtrak (it is also part of a $1700 option pack on XLT) which are features that separate Ford’s pick-up from its utilitarian roots and brings it closer to the likes of a family SUV.
Another new feature sure to be a hit with the family crowd is semi-auto active park assist, which can provide the steering input when parallel parking – a very useful feature for a car that sits over five metres long. Like AEB, it is standard on Wildtrak and optional on XLT.
Some minor changes have been made to the Ranger’s interior, which is one of the cleanest and best laid-out in the segment.
Ford’s 8.0-inch Sync3 infotainment system (standard on XLT and Wildtrak, optional on XLS) sits snugly in the dashboard, with a simple layout that forgoes buttons surrounding the screen in favour of solely touchscreen operation, with the exception of volume and tuning knobs and music skipping buttons underneath.
Sync3 is a good unit and would be among the best for pick-ups, however we did experience one time when the system froze when trying to add waypoints into the navigation system.
The entire interior is laid out well, with an instrument cluster that forgoes the traditional speedo/tacho layout for dual information displays, and a clean arrangement of air-conditioning buttons. The chunky steering wheel sits well in the hands, and gives you a feeling of comfort and control.
Wildtrak versions gain leather-accented upholstery, giving the cabin more of a premium feel. However, the orange stitching and Wildtrak decals feel a bit gaudy, and we feel Ford can probably do without them.
Meanwhile, the mid-spec XLS feels very commercial, with manually adjustable cloth seats and hard black plastics throughout the cabin. Furthermore, if you choose not to option the Tech pack, the XLS comes with a tiny 4.2-inch monitor with no sat-nav or digital radio.
For this reason, we think the XLT hits the sweet spot for interior spec, with most of the features of the Wildtrak, sans the blingy finishes.
Ford has included the 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre biturbo-diesel engine from the Raptor in the new Ranger line-up, which is offered on select variants for a $1200 premium over the 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder equivalent.
Performance from the biturbo engine is not noticeably more potent than the 3.2-litre, however it does have an advantage in other areas.
The biturbo has a slightly sharper throttle response than the larger donk, and engine noise under acceleration is noticeably quieter. The biturbo also gains the edge in fuel consumption, recording a figure of 8.7 litres per 100km against the 3.2-litre’s 9.3L/100km. We did not have a chance to drive the entry-level 2.2-litre engine, which is consigned to 4x2 versions only.
We think the biturbo is probably the pick of the two, however if a new top-spec engine is being introduced to the range, we would have liked to have seen a more noticeable bump in performance.
Ford’s engineers have made some minor suspension changes that make the Ranger better to drive when towing or hauling a large payload, and while we were unable to drive the car while towing, we had plenty of time behind the wheel with unladen versions.
The Ranger generally is one of the better-mannered pick-ups for ride quality, and the updated version is still commendable. Road imperfections are generally dealt with well, however we did occasionally finding ourselves wishing for a softer suspension tune.
However, as is the case with pick-ups, balancing ride comfort and towing/payload ability is a tough ask, and we think Ford has mostly got it right.
Steering feel has long been one of the highlights of the Ranger, and the new model is no different, helping prevent the car from having a truck-like feel around corners. It is well-weighted and precise, something that not all utes can lay claim to.
A short off-roading exercise also helped demonstrate the ability of the Ranger, with low-range gearing, a rear differential lock and hill descent control helping it through slippery and testing conditions.
Styling is largely the same, and this is a good thing – the Ranger is one of the best-looking pick-ups on the market, with boxy styling that looks tough and suave at the same time.
Prices have increased across the range between $300 and $1000, a reasonable increase considering the changes.
Ford has not tried to reinvent the wheel with the new Ranger, rather focusing on improving small elements of an otherwise excellent pick-up.
We foresee the Ranger continuing to carry on as one of the most popular offerings in Australia, helped by the extra safety equipment and greater engine choice of the recent update.
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