Car reviews - Ford - Ranger
Butch new styling, completely modernised interior, punchy V6, improved BiTurbo
Room for improvement
High prices, long wait times, no more manual gearbox availability
Can the Ranger maintain its lead as the best mid-sized ute? We find out.
19 Jul 2022
ON SALE now from $35,930 and topping out at $70,190 (all before on-road costs), the T6.2 Ranger finally arrives after more than six years in development, with Ford Australia’s design and engineering centre in the north of Melbourne again being the mid-sized pick-up’s global home room.
The cabin has been completely redesigned, with the adoption of a reach-adjustable steering column at last, as well as an all-new dashboard offering a choice of portrait touchscreens, digital instrumentation, revamped storage, an overhauled heater/ventilation system for more effective climate control. Buyers also score new seats and different cabin trim offering higher-quality materials.
Under the boxy new bonnet are three engine choices, two of which are new to Ranger.
The XL is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder single turbo-diesel. Usurping the old 2.2-litre unit, it makes 125kW of power at 3500rpm and 405Nm of torque between 1750-2500rpm, and is only available as a six-speed torque-converter automatic (6R80).
From the XLS up is the 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel version of the above, badged BiTurbo. Producing 154kW at 3750rpm and 500Nm from 1750rpm to 2000rpm, it is mated to a completely revised 10-speed torque-converter auto (10R80). It employs a fly-by-wire mechanism known as ‘e-shifter’.
Perhaps the most eagerly awaited single item on the new Ranger is the new 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel. Optional for $3000 extra in the XLT, Sport and Wildtrak, it delivers 184kW at 3250rpm and 600Nm at 1750-2250rpm, and also employs the 10R80 gearbox.
The 2.0-litre four-pot Ranger 4WDs employ updated versions of the old part-time 4x4 set-up with 4x2 (rear-drive), 4x4 Low range and 4x4 High range, but the 3.0-litre V6 steps things up with a new electronic on-demand four-wheel-drive system.
Taking in extensive research from most major markets around the world, the goal was to improve everyday useability, comfort, refinement, safety, durability, on-road driveability, off-road capability and overall efficiency.
Front tracks are 50mm wider, the front wheels pushed forward by 50mm and overhang is reduced, leading to a redesign of the front suspension, as being further outboard means longer-travel springs and components can be used, benefitting off-road traction.
All Rangers bar Raptor offer a maximum towing capability of 3500kg (the latter’s is 2500kg). Payloads vary from 934kg to 1441kg, depending on model.
Suspension changes include a redesigned independent wishbone coil-sprung front end, with more-outboard dampers for a greater tuning range and a comfier ride, while the rear has new leaf springs (four per side).
Has the design and development team in Victoria done us proud? You bet.
How is it that the last Ranger remained so competitive – and popular – despite being one of the oldest mid-sized pick-up trucks, having been launched all the way back in 2011?
The answer is easy. As part of the global T6 project, it was designed and engineered in Australia, to perform under our conditions. As a result, more than a decade on from release, the outgoing PX III still feels uniquely well-suited to this country.
Now there’s a new Ranger, called T6.2 (the old P-something codes are no more), and it systematically sets out to right the wrongs of that still-highly-competitive previous iteration.
There was nothing wrong with the styling, but Ford’s research revealed that consumers globally are seeking trucks with a beefier look. Hence the F-150 nose treatment, wider tracks and broader stance. For many buyers, this is enough to get them over the line.
Of course, with tougher design comes the expectation of stronger performance, and in this case, an actual powertrain related to the American F-Series truck has been squeezed into the latest Ranger.
Actually, it’s more like the Ford’s front end has been built around the 184kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, because everything’s been re-engineered to fit. And this all pays dividends in the way the T6.2 feels, sounds and drives.
Let’s start with how much faster the Ranger V6 is. Even a light press of the throttle summons in a wave of torque, launching the pick-up off the line with an effortless ease never experienced in this series before. Aided by a slick-shifting 10-speed auto, response is instant, whether on the open road overtaking or darting between traffic gaps, and all the while accompanied by a smooth, baritone thrum.
No hoarse five-pot bellow that was such an acoustic signature of the old 3.2L turbo-diesel. The V6 has been worth the wait and it’s worth every one of its 3000 extra dollars. Particularly when you realise how reasonable the diesel consumption is.
That all said, the revised 2.0-litre BiTurbo is no slouch either. Ford claims its internals are largely new or altered, and so fixes the indecisive and sometimes jerky shifts of the previous version of its 10-speed automatic transmission.
And while power is actually down slightly compared to before (by 3kW), a rethink has resulted in a differently tuned, far livelier and more appealing powertrain experience. Lag is minimal, throttle reaction punchy and noise levels civilised. This is the twin-turbo application the Ranger has always deserved.
Unfortunately, no 2.0-litre single turbo diesels, 4x2s or XL grades have landed in Australia as yet, due to continual production hold-ups, so all the grades sampled at the local launch involved the higher-spec 4x4 series.
Still, even the XLS walks a likeable line between utilitarian and middle class, and a lot of that has to do with just how effective the cabin overhaul has been.
Addressing probably the outgoing Ranger’s biggest drawback despite being one of the roomiest and best-packaged medium pick-ups available, the newcomer’s redesigned dashboard drags the series into the 2020s, with its pleasing symmetry, modern touchscreen tech, appealing digital instrumentation dials and somewhat higher-quality cabin trim.
The SYNC 4A multimedia system is one of the world’s best, most of the switchgear makes sense and is in reach, there’s storage aplenty, ventilation is ample and the seats are superb.
Plus, at last, the Ford’s steering wheel adjusts for reach as well as height. Hallelujah! Now, folk of all shapes and sizes will find a better driving position compared to before. That’s progress.
Now, all this time, we’re talking about the lowly XLS interior. It actually has everything you need in this sort of vehicle. The XLT has heaps more of the little luxury conveniences you might prefer, like keyless entry/start, rear-seat air vents and ritzier trim, and the Wildtrak downright dazzles, but all the real charm and convenience are yours near the bottom of the range.
Downsides? The big screen in the Wildtrak glitched in two examples we drove, so Ford needs to ensure the quality is right; the latter’s extendable outboard cup holders struggle to take wider cups; the larger screen’s depth makes accessing the USB console outlets a bit tricky; and not everybody likes to use a screen for secondary functions.
While we didn’t experience the Ranger’s newfound extra utility in the redesigned tub, it’s clear that the added features like the improved nighttime illumination and load-bearing side bars on up-spec models would make a difference to people who use them.
What we can tell you, though, is that the new front end and more responsive powertrains make the best steering and riding pick-ups in Australia even better.
Yes, we’d like a bit more weight in the steering, but the Ranger’s ability to corner like no other truck is a feat of engineering genius, even on all-purpose tyres fitted to these Fords.
The handling is linear, the roadholding reassuringly controlled, and the ride quality supple and isolated. Ford’s Australian engineers must be at the leading edge of global body-on-frame dynamics. The Ranger is such a pleasant and relaxing car to drive and travel in.
This even applies over some rugged off-road courses, as tried out at a proving ground, with steep climbs, scary descents, lots of boggy mud courses and a deep-water fording exercise.
As you’d expect from an event hand-picked by the car-maker, the Ranger walked it all without breaking a sweat. It’s still impressively rugged in the rough stuff, though.
After two days mostly on regular roads in XLS, XLT and Wildtrak 4x4s, driving both 2.0-litre BiTurbo and 3.0-litre V6 iterations, the level of progress made over the landmark old Ranger is profound.
Yes, it feels like a Ranger to look at, sit inside and drive, but one that’s way fresher, smoother, faster and more refined. Far from perfect obviously, but hugely capable and satisfyingly accomplished where it matters.
Compared to every rival currently contesting it on the Australian market, the T6.2 feels years ahead. Just like the old model did 11 years ago.
We reckon most competitors just don’t bother raising the bar to the best of their abilities, like the Ford team at Campbellfield and Geelong so demonstrably have.
If this is the local car industry’s full-vehicle development swansong, it’s something we should all feel proud of.
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