by Brad Leach - 11/12/09
During the week a Ranger Wildtrak graced the Car Showroom garage just about every 'tradie' we know made an excuse to call in and check out Ford's top truck.
Painted in 'Winning Blue' with orange details and sitting on bold 18-inch alloy wheels, the Wildtrak certainly turned heads, and based on the reactions from our 'tradie' mates, it seems Ford has nailed the specifications demanded by its target market.
While entry-level Ranger models target commercial buyers, the Wildtrak is kitted with a range of luxury features designed for both work and recreation.
Based on the 3.0-litre diesel Crew Cab (four-door) four-wheel-drive Ranger, the Wildtrak provides Ford with a formidable vehicle in a market niche vacated by Toyota with the demise of the TRD Hi-Lux.
The Wildtrak is no shrinking violet and we like its in-your-face styling.
In other Ranger models you can choose a 2.4-litre diesel engine, but the Wildtrak comes with the 3.0-litre TDCI turbo-diesel that delivers 115kW of power and a meaty 380Nm of torque.
One of the new generation of common rail high-pressure direct injection diesels - the high-pressure injection improves fuel economy and reduces exhaust emissions - the 3.0-litre TDCI returns fuel economy as low as 9.5l/100kms and CO2 emissions of 250g/km.
We tested a Wildtrak with the optional five-speed automatic transmission (five-speed manual is standard).
Drive is to the rear wheels via a limited-slip differential and the two-mode 4x4 system has a shift on the fly mechanism. We liked the simple center console selector switch for the all-wheel-drive operation (high and low range).
It's inside that Wildtrak stamps its mark as a recreational truck. The nicely finished Alcantara leather seats with embroidered Wildtrak logos look great, the steering wheel and gear lever also get leather, there is air-conditioning, power windows, nice carpet and floor mats plus a six CD in-dash audio system (Bluetooth phone connectivity is optional).
A center seat belt in the rear gives the Wildtrak five-person capability but - as with most Crew Cab utes - the boys from the football or basketball club wouldn't be keen on a long ride in the rear.
To help your weekend adventures, the Wildtrakk scores a center console Multi Meter which has a compass and also graphics which show the angle of the truck for steep hill climbs and descents.
We're keen on our utes here at Car Showroom and in our view, the Wildtrak is the best-presented ute interior we've seen since the TRD Hi-Lux. With its dual-range 4x4 capability, the radical Ranger shapes up well for weekend off-road requirements like water sports and dirt bikes.
We've only seen the Wildtrak in 'Winning Blue' paintwork and were pleased this was the color Ford delivered to us - it looks great.
As well as those tough 18-inch alloy wheels, the Wildtrak gains a unique aerodynamic sports bar, lots of chrome on the front grille and exterior mirrors (with integrated LED turn indicators and puddle lamps), fog lights, aluminium side steps and roof bars and a stainless steel rear step bumper.
The cargo area gains a clever roller shutter lid with a sturdy lock to keep contents secure and also a bedliner and 12-volt power socket - a setup sure to please dirt bikers, trailer sailors and jetski/waverunner enthusiasts.
And prominent Wildtrak badges remind everyone this isn't your run-of-the-mill Ranger ute.
Unfortunately we don't have a wave runner, dirt bike, trailer boat or jetski in the Car Showroom garage…but if we did, we're sure the Wildtrak's one tonne payload and 3,000 kgs towing capacity would be very handy.
We did tackle our test route confidently knowing the Wildtrak comes standard with driver and front passenger airbags and side head/thorax airbags plus a limited-slip differential and ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD).
Front suspension is a double wishbone independent design and the rear provides dual rate semi-elliptic leaf springs.
Ford's 3.0-litre TDCi engine is nicely mated to the five-speed automatic transmission and the Wildtrak accelerates briskly through the gears. Over our mountain roads route the automatic performed well and did not slip into multiple changes up and down the range like some do in those circumstances.
The 3.0-litre TDCi diesel is not the most powerful engine in this segment (but only by a few kWs) and - like all diesels - it's a little noisy first thing on cold mornings.
At speed over our mountain test route, the Wildtrak's 18-inch wheels and tyres provided good grip and turn-in, but we would have liked the power steering to be little less weighted and more direct.
And we suspect Ford's interior designers won't be keen on that old-style t-bar handbrake making it to the next all-new Ranger whenever that appears.
With no more TRD Hi-Lux, the Ranger Wildtrak's only direct rival is Mitsubishi's Triton, powered by Mitsubishi's 3.2-litre common rail turbo-diesel, the Triton delivers a slight edge in power (118kW) but with 343Nm can't match the Wildtrak's 380Nm of torque.
Looks the part; nice interior; clever specs
Over-assisted power steering; old-style t-bar handbrake
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