2016 Ford Ranger Review
By STUART MARTIN
Price: $50,990 plus options and on-road costs
Engine/Trans: 147kW/440Nm 3.2-litre turbodiesel five-cylinder/ 6-speed auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.1 l/100km combined, on test 11.2
Construction: Body on chassis
Suspension: Independent double-wishbone front / Leaf spring rear
Towing: 750kg unbraked / 3500kg braked
Ford’s Ranger took light commercial utes a big step forward with its previous-generation PX Ranger and Mark II hasn’t had to take many more strides to keep it at the top.
Mind you, it’s not shy about asking a decent dollar to hop rocks, pull over three tonnes or cart kids to school on the way to the job site.
The Ranger is an unchanged price offering in XLS guise at $50,290 for the six-speed auto – the much-improved six-speed manual is on offer range-wide for $2200 less, if you can handle three pedals and that’s far less of a chore than it was in the previous generation.
The Ranger’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel had few changes made to it in the step from PX to PX Mark II – it still cranks out 147kW and 470Nm, drinks at around 9.2 litres per 100km (the ADR laboratory claim) and weighs in at around 2064kg.
The five cylinder engine offers a slightly different thrum to that of a four-cylinder diesel – it’s no Audi Group B rally monster – and it’s a reasonably quiet driveline under acceleration.
Don’t expect the safety message to drift down the range far from the Wildtrak – there are no parking sensors and no standard reversing camera – it’s available as an accessory using the mirror display and given the multi-purpose nature of these utes as family trucks that’s not good enough.
The Ranger does have six airbags and standard Emergency Assistance (part of the Sync Bluetooth phone system), using a paired mobile phone to call emergency services after a crash, but it doesn’t make up for the missing camera.
Among the other features on the list are cruise control, automatic headlights, power windows, power mirrors, 12-volt and manual air conditioning, plastic steering wheel (which is a bit below par) and part-time 4WD, although there’s no 4WD with centre diff unlocked for on-road work like the Triton has, which would be useful.
The off-road side includes a low range transfer case and a standard rear differential lock, while the list of electronic nursemaids includes stability and traction control, hill start and descent control, and trailer sway assistance, emergency braking and roll-over mitigation.
Getting the big Blue Oval beast off road and grotty isn’t difficult either, provided you aren’t shy about paintwork on tight tracks as it is a big sod – 5359mm long, 1850mm wide, 1815mm tall and on a 3220mm wheelbase, a 12.7 m turning circle isn’t class-leading.
An approach angle of 28 degrees is useful without being startlingly good, but the 27-degree ramp-over and 24-degree departure will do the job, as will an 800mm wading depth.
While the dry weather on road-test through the hills south east of Adelaide didn’t lend itself to testing the wading depth, previous experience in wetter parts of the world leave no doubt as to its accuracy.
Even wearing road-going tyres the Ranger’s ability to clamber up a rocky rutted track – with low range and the rear diff lock employed – is well above average, taking the thumps and getting over them without word-for-word repetition through to the cabin.
The automatic’s first gear in low range doesn’t offer absolutely glacial descents, which means the electronic back-up of hill descent control is a welcome addition.
Packing the back with a tray full of gear isn’t difficult and it’s a decent loadspace – for a dual cab at least – and only the Amarok is likely to cart more gear in the rear tub.
The Ford dual-cab’s tray is 1549mm long (1485mm when measured at the top), 511mm deep, 1560mm wide and 1139mm between the wheel arches, with an 1136kg payload.
Towing is one of the Ford’s fortes, and unlike HiLux (which ) it is claiming 3500kg regardless of transmission choice.
When unladen these utes ride well enough (just) for daily use, although the 16-inch shod Ranger still rounds off the rough edges on bumps better than most; once the tray has around 200kg in it the bounce is reduced.
Steering is now electrically-assisted and is a solid helm on or off the bitumen; handling is still at the pointy end of the class – local engineers have further developed the Ford Oz chassis package and kept it ahead of the segment average.
Cabin comfort is good, with room for four adults in terms of headspace and legs, with a little of the high-knee syndrome that can develop quickly into numb-bum without adequate leg support.
Child seat users get integrated metal clips in the Ford and easy seat-folding access to them for the sporadic school run.
For all the absences, the Ford still has an output advantage as well as an automatic transmission that’s a little smarter, returning 11.2 litres per 100km.
Maintenance costs are a known quantity for longer with a three-year 100,000km warranty and capped price servicing.
The interval is every 12 months or 15,000km (better than the arch rival HiLux) and currently costs $390, but the coverage runs for the vehicle life and is printed on the company’s website.
There’s s lot to like about the updated Ranger but the competition – with the revamped HiLux – is a lot closer; price and an absence of some key features means the decision to go with the Blue Oval is not as easy to make as it once was.