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2011 Ford Ranger Review and First Drive

by Brad Leach -

  • OUR VERDICT: 4/5 rating4/5 rating4/5 rating4/5 rating4
  • PRICE RANGE: $19,740 - $59,390*
  • PROS: American style looks; cleverly designed interior; driving dynamics; it’s Australian
  • CONS: Front seats need more side support
  • Safety Rating: 
  • Green Rating: 
  • Fuel Consumption:  9.3L/100km
  • Write your own review

Ford Australia has scored global kudos for its all-new locally-developed Ranger ute lineup. And that’s significant in the Ford hierarchy because the Ranger is being sold all over the planet – in more than 180 countries. 



Utes (‘pick-ups’ in North America) are a massive and growing part of the Ford business in South America, Asia-Pacific and Africa. So to hand-over to Australia design, engineering and development of the company’s all-new ‘compact pick-up’ (as the Americans call it) is a huge confidence vote for the team in Campbellfield, Victoria.

“No other manufacturer can say they designed, tested, tuned and validated a truck (ute) in Australia (for sale throughout the world),” revealed American Jim Baumbick, Ford’s Asia-Pacific engineering director.

After two days putting the new Ranger through some demanding tests in the South Australian outback, Car Showroom can say unequivocally that Ford Australia has done a mighty job. The Aussies have delivered the Ford world a ute to be proud of.

Ford Ranger Overview


The full lineup is:
Two-Wheel-Drive
XL Single Cab Cab Chassis 2.5l petrol $19,790
XL Single Cab Cab Chassis 2.2l diesel $23,790
XL Single Cab Cab Chassis Hi-Rider 2.2l diesel $28,740
XL Single Cab Pick-up 2.2l diesel $24,740
XL Super Cab Cab Chassis Hi-Rider 2.2l diesel $33,240
XLT Super Cab Pick-up Hi-Rider 3.2l diesel $43,240
XL Double Cab Pick-up 2.5l petrol $30,240
XL Double Cab Cab Chassis Hi-Rider 2.2l diesel $35,990
XL Double Cab Pick-up Hi-Rider 2.2l diesel $34,990
XLT Double Cab Pick-up Hi-Rider 3.2l diesel $44,990

Four-Wheel-Drive
XL Single Cab Cab Chassis 2.2l diesel $38,390
XL Single Cab Cab Chassis 3.2l diesel $40,890
XL Super Cab Cab Chassis 3.2l diesel $43,390
XL Super Cab Pick-up 3.2l diesel $44,390
XLT Super Cab Pick-up 3.2l diesel $50,890
XL Double Cab Cab Chassis 2.2l diesel $42,890
XL Double Cab Pick-up 2.2l diesel $43,890
XL Double Cab Pick-up 3.2l diesel $46,390
XLT Double Cab Pick-up 3.2l diesel $53,390
Wildtrak Double Cab Pick-up 3.2l diesel $57,390
It’s a staggered launch (for example the Wildtrak doesn’t arrive until early next year) so best to speak specifics with your Ford dealer.

Ford Ranger Engine


Entry to the Ford ranger engine lineup is the 2.5-litre, four-cylinder Duratorq petrol engine which has been fettled to deliver 122kW/226Nm and fuel consumption as low as 9.8l/100kms. The 2.5-litre engine is only available in XL models.

Next-up is the 2.2-litre, four-cylinder Duratorq turbo-diesel with 110kW/375Nm and fuel consumption from 7.6l/100kms. 



Range-topper is the 3.2-litre, five cylinder Duratorq turbo-diesel (a Car Showroom favourite). This engine is shared with Peugeot and Land Rover and for the Ranger delivers 147kW/470Nm and fuel consumption as low as 8.4l/100kms.

With its standard 80-litre fuel tank, some Ford Ranger models can cover more than 1,000kms on a single tank.

Petrol models drive through a five-speed manual transmission while diesels can be had with either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.

Ford Ranger The Interior


There’s a lot to like in the clever interior of the all-new Ford Ranger – starting with the best-in-class rear leg and knee-room in the Double Cab. We experienced the new Ranger Double Cab back-to-back with equivalent Amarok, Navara and HiLux and it was a long way in front – in fact Ford says two six-footers can sit behind each other on both driver and passenger sides.
 


The deep centre bin is the largest in class (8.5-litres), door pockets can fit 1.5-litre drink bottles and the glovebox has been sized to fit a 16-inch laptop computer – that’s all good news for working ute drivers and recreational users as well. We also liked the clever storage box under the audio player with USB and iPod plugs – you simply plug in and there’s a spot right there to park your portable device.

Material quality in the XL and XLT models we drove was first-class. Ford says their interior designers worked hard to source new materials with a premium feel and excellent durability.

 

We were surprised the steering wheel only adjusted for rake (not reach) but nevertheless the driving position was good. And interestingly, Ford says reach adjustable steering does not rank highly on the list of requirements of ute customers it researched.

Ford Ranger Exterior & Styling


Ford’s Australian designers were given a clean sheet of paper when it came to Ford Ranger design and in our eyes, the Aussie-created newcomer has now assumed the top of the totem pole when it comes to good-looking utes. At 5359mm long and 1850mm wide, dimensions may be similar to rivals (‘compact pick-ups’), but new Ford Ranger shares a DNA with its ‘21st Century Built Ford Tough’ F-Series pickup siblings in North America (in fact the F150, North America’s best-selling vehicle for the last 30 years, is only about 10 per cent larger overall than the Ranger). 



That’s evident around the front-end with the chrome, three-bar grille and large headlights.

The side profile of utes is often bland, but all-new Ford Ranger overcomes that with very stylish sculpturing and upward-sloping glasshouse.

And if you thought the rear-end of utes were not important – think again. Ford’s stylists and aerodynamicists worked hard on airflow, both at the leading edge of the ute ‘box’ (to minimize wind noise) and at the top of the tailgate which has tapered width to smooth-out the exiting airflow that comes over the roof – very smart.

So new Ford Ranger is aerodynamically impressive in the quest for optimized fuel consumption. With a drag CD of .399, the new Ford Ranger can thank its raked front grille, windscreen, bonnet and front air-dam.
 


But here’s the critical bit for most ute buyers – Single Cab (1.82 cubic metres) and Super Cab (1.45 cubic metres) deliver the largest ute ‘boxes’ in their segments, while the Double Cab (1.21 cubic metres) is at the sharp end of the field.

Ford Ranger On The Road


Ford showed its confidence in new Ford Ranger’s all-round capability by staging the Asia-Pacific media launch in the Adelaide Hills and outback Flinders Rangers. The tough roads here test regular Australian drivers but must have been a shock to our colleagues from nations like Thailand and The Philippines (who came the day after us).

Due to the staggered launch timing, we only drove Ford Ranger XL and XLT 4x4 models (single cab and double cab) powered by the 3.2-litre turbo-diesel engine. And that five-cylinder powerplant remains a Car Showroom favourite – handy acceleration, quite and refined.
 


Over the varying speed twists and curves of the Adelaide Hills (fresh from the action of the Classic Adelaide Rally) we drove manual and automatic versions of the all-new Ford Ranger both unladen and with more than 450kgs of cement bags strapped into the cargo bay. The results were impressive – with a double A-arm front suspension (including clever soft mounts for the anti-roll bar) and advanced leaf-spring rear (preferred by many ute buyers) ride and handling definitely matched the segment’s best (Amarok and HiLux).

For the off-road testing we tackled a variety of tracks at Wilpena Pound and again the new Ford Ranger shone. We particularly liked the downhill descent control which allowed you adjust the set speed via either accelerator pedal or cruise control buttons (we found more accurate settings could be achieved using the cruise buttons on the steering wheel as the bumps and ruts challenges smooth operation of the throttle).

For those who give their utes a swim, the new Ford Ranger delivers an impressive wading depth of 800mm, aided by a raised engine air intake with a one-way valve to prevent water digestion and sealing/waterproofing of critical components which sit under that level.

We have no hesitation in saying the new Ford Ranger has matched, if not bettered, the best in the class for driving dynamics both on and off-road.

Ford Ranger Challenges


After two long days behind the wheel of various Ford Ranger variants, our only minor criticism is the front seats – they’re a bit short of side bolstering which was noticeable in high-speed corners and extreme off-road conditions.

Ford Ranger Verdict


Impressive – very, very impressive and a testament to the design and engineering capability of Ford Australia. That’s the all-new Ford Ranger summed-up.

Styling is personal, but in our eyes the new Ford Ranger is the pick of the utes. We love the cues to the large F150 - cleverly blended into compact pickup proportions - which provide brilliant street cred. 



And the marketing team has played its role with very, very sharp pricing.

The new Ford Ranger is without doubt the new benchmark vehicle in the ute segment…and given the quality of the opposition, that’s a tremendous achievement for the Ford Australia team.

Ford Ranger The Competition


No question a ‘Ute War’ has broken out in Australia. Ford and Mazda announced their intentions late last year with global previews of the all-new Ranger and BT50 at the Australian International Motor Show (Sydney).

Mazda will lift the covers from the all-new (‘Ranger-related’) BT50 lineup shortly. We’ve already seen its curvy body style and know it shares Ford’s diesel engines (147kW/470Nm, 3.2-litre, five-cylinder and 110kW/375Nm, 2.2-litre, four-cylinder).

Toyota responded with this month’s major facelift for the all-conquering HiLux. As part of the package, Toyota significantly improved the HiLux value proposition with the entry-level now $18,990.

In cricket terms, there’s no doubt Toyota HiLux already has a massive run tally on the scoreboard. Now with upgraded looks and better interiors, the HiLux’s uprated 2.5-tonnes towing capacity is overshadowed by the new Ford ranger’s 3350kgs maximum, but the fact is HiLux is unlikely to be beaten in the sales race any time soon, no matter how good the opposition.

Nissan Navara is booming with its split D22 and D40 model range appreciated for their hard working performance. Priced from $23,690, Nissan Navara – like major rivals, sold in single cab, king cab and dual cab variants - isn’t the ute segment’s price leader and isn’t quite as clever as Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux with interior storage spots, but the range-topping STX550’s 170kW/550Nm, turbo-diesel V6 certainly has big-time aspirational appeal. 



Like Navara, Mitsubishi’s Triton isn’t the newest ute out there and Mitsubishi says no all-new model or facelift is planned in 2011. Priced from $20,990 and employing a 2.4-litre petrol engine or two versions of the 2.5-litre diesel, Mitsubishi Triton scores points for its large cargo area.

Holden’s Colorado range soldiers on with the usual three choices of cabin, a V6 petrol engine or a 3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel. There’s an all-new model coming next year.

Isuzu D-MAX is a Car Showroom favourite. With no passenger cars or SUVs to distract them in Australia, the Isuzu team’s focus on its extensive range of D-MAX utes (priced from $25,100) has resulted in a well-equipped range, powered by that tough and economical 3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.

And of course the headline-grabbing newcomer to the game is Volkswagen’s Amarok. Starting at $33,990, the Volkswagen Amarok isn’t cheap, but it’s beautifully kitted-out - in the Volkswagen way – drives great, stands out from the crowd with its Volkswagen-style front end and its wide cargo box can accommodate a standard pallet.

Currently the Amarok isn’t fighting a fair fight as it’s only available with a four-door body style and six-speed manual transmission. But Volkswagen doesn’t do things by halves and in Germany has just launched the Amarok with this segment’s first eight-speed automatic transmission.

Bottom line for ute buyers in this ultra-competitive segment? Work those dealership sales staff hard for the best deal and carefully compare specifications and capacities (payload, towing etc) specific to your needs. 

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