by Brad Leach - 06/01/12
Talk about ‘worth the wait’. Ford teased us for a while with snippets about the all-new Ranger ute, and now it’s here, the Australian-developed Ranger stakes a major claim to being the best in the business.
That’s a major credit considering Toyota recently launched a facelifted version of its top-selling Hi-Lux range. But the Ranger edges ahead in areas like its six-speed automatic transmission, interior space and on-road refinement.
Ford Ranger was conceived, engineered and developed by Ford Australia. Now the Aussie Ranger is a global ute for Ford - sold in markets throughout the world (except North America). Its success is a real credit to the local Ford teams.
As usual in Australia’s massive ute market, Ford Ranger is sold in a staggering number of different body, and tray configurations as well as 2.5-litre petrol and two diesel engines – 2.2-litre four-cylinder and 3.2-litre five-cylinder.
Car Showroom tested a Ford Ranger Double Cab 4x4 pickup in XLT specification powered by Ford’s excellent 3.2-litre, five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.
With a towing capacity up to 3350kgs and advanced technology like ‘Trailer Sway Control’ the new Ford Ranger is not only the best ute ever developed in Australia, it is one of the world’s best.
Company fleet operators and private buyers alike will also be impressed by Ford Ranger’s abundant safety features such as side curtain and side thorax airbags.
Ford Ranger XLT employs the well-known 3.2-litre, five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine used by Ford, Land Rover and Peugeot. With 147kW at 3000rpm and peak torque of 470Nm from 1500-2750rpm, Ford’s five-cylinder turbo-diesel leaves most rivals languishing.
Our XLT Double Cab drove via a six-speed automatic transmission and Ford’s 4x4 system with new electronically-controlled transfer case and more compact front differential.
Combined cycle fuel consumption for the Ford Ranger XLT Double Cab automatic as tested is rated at 9.2l/100kms. Fuel tank capacity is 80-litres.
Ford Ranger XLT Double Cab delivers a knockout punch to segment rivals with its roomy interior. In fact Ford says six-foot people can be comfortably seated simultaneously front and rear – that’s great news especially for tradies.
Interior style for the new Ford Ranger aligns with other contemporary Ford designs like the acclaimed Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo. That means a stylish centre stack console for the climate control and audio (six-speaker MP3/CD/Bluetooth system with voice control and 4.2-inch multi-function display screen), lots of storage bins and nice four-spoke steering wheel.
While steering wheel adjustment is rake only and we would have liked a bit more side support from the front seats, there’s no doubt the Ford Ranger XLT delivers a premium interior look, punctuated by high standard materials and a light, airy feel.
Ford’s latest F-Series trucks look great and while the Ranger was developed locally and not for the North America market, there is a ‘family familiarity’ about its exterior style. We reckon the Ranger is s styling triumph which stamps this ute with a strong on-road presence.
Those Ford truck looks start at the front with the hallmark three-bar grille and modern headlights. And both side and rear designs are clever with curves and raked windscreen not just for looks but also for aerodynamics (improved fuel consumption and reduced wind noise) drag CD is .399.
The ute box in our Ford Ranger Double Cab XLT measured 1.21 cubic metres.
Car Showroom gave the all-new Ford Ranger a big green tick after our first drive at the national media launch in Adelaide. We’ve not altered our opinion one iota after this time testing an XLT Crew Cab 3.2D over our normal Melbourne test routes.
The difference this time? Oh, about 450kgs of cement bags!
Ride and handling tune for all utes is calibrated with some weight out-back (that’s what they’re designed for). So for the media launch in Adelaide Ford strapped 450kgs of cement bags into the trays of the Rangers we drove – this time in Melbourne, our XLT Double Cab had no load.
Same conclusion however – Ford Australia has done a brilliant job with the Ranger’s double A-arm front suspension and leaf-spring rear to deliver a driving dynamic which challenges the Volkswagen Amarok for the title of best-in-class. It’s the precise steering response, refinement over bumps and high-quality chassis balance which sees the Ford Ranger edge ever so slightly ahead of the all-conquering Toyota HiLux at this point in time.
And a big part of Ford Ranger XLT’s performance is accredited to the 3.2-litre Duratorq turbo-diesel engine. With 147kW/470Nm on-tap, Ford’s five-cylinder remains one of our favourite powerplants and in the ute application delivers handy response for both every-day driving, off-road use and trailer-pulling (Ford Ranger towing capacity up to 3350kgs).
Significantly our Ford Ranger XLT drove via a six-speed automatic transmission. Nissan’s range-topping Navara ST-X550 stands alone in ute-land with its seven-speed automatic transmission (Volkswagen Amarok has an eight-speeder in Germany!) but other Navara models as well as Toyota HiLux run a five-speed automatic transmission.
Around town, our Ford Ranger XLT easily coped with freeway traffic thanks to its abundant acceleration and good all-round visibility. Our tight CBD car park was a challenge with Ranger’s not-insignificant 12.7-metre turning circle – only range-topping Ranger ‘Wildtrak’ gets a standard reversing camera.
We’ve now spent considerable seat time in a bunch of Ford Rangers and this week with the XLT model confirmed our previous thoughts – the only minor criticism we can fire-off is the lack of side support in the front seats…exaggerated in the otherwise sporty XLT variant we tested.
And those with young children or who tow (or like us who park in miniscule CBD car parks) would appreciate Ford extending the rear-view camera to other Ranger models beyond the range-topping ‘Wildtrak’.
All things considered the Ford Ranger is the ute for us – by the most slender of margins over HiLux and Navara. Ranger gets out vote for its looks (admittedly a personal call), its driving dynamics and interior space.
Much of Ford Ranger’s high standard driving dynamics can be attributed to its Australian origins. When you consider the chassis engineering of the FG Falcon and now the Ranger…well they’re an impressive bunch at Ford Australia and their efforts deserve sales success.
Such is the competitiveness of the ute segment, there is but $100 difference between the retail price of the Ford Ranger XLT Crew Cab 4x4 and its major rival the Toyota Hilux 4x4 Double Cab SR5 ($53,390 for the Ranger and $53, 490 for the Hilux). Looks are a personal thing (we like the Ranger) and then you ask: what price for driving dynamics and interior space? Because it’s in these categories the all-new Ranger eclipses the HiLux - which is mid-way through its model cycle.
Nissan Navara D40 2.5 STX Dual Cab 4WDis a contender at $53,240. Like the Toyota HiLux, Navara’s comparison with the Ford Ranger just pulls-up short in the interior space and dynamics departments but – again like HiLux - Nissan Navara has proved its toughness and durability over the long haul.
At $51,490, Mitsubishi’s Triton GLX-R Double Cab delivers a saving of a few dollars. No doubt about the specs or the toughness of the revised 2012 Triton – but it’s a fair way short of the Ford Ranger for refinement and interior space.
Volkswagen Amarok buys into this one because the Ford Ranger XLT Crew Cab compares with Amarok in Highline or Ultimate model grades (currently only sold as a crew cab, six-speed manual model, Volkswagen Amarok is excluded from comparisons with many Ranger, HiLux, Navara or Triton models). Ford Ranger XLT’s 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre turbo-diesel sees-off Amarok’s 120kW, but – and this is a biggie - Amarok’s refinement/sophistication challenges even the Ranger’s lofty standards.
As always, with so many great vehicles so evenly matched, you simply must shop around and compare details specific to your needs.
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