Part 1: Wildtrak in the shed
When Ford chucked me the keys to a Ranger Wildtrak 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo diesel in December, I knew it was just the ticket to serve as 4X4 Australia’s resident tow tug for camper trailer reviews.
With heaps of grunt and an impressive 3.5-tonne towing capacity, the Wildtrak was born for the job. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was just how comfortable the Ranger would be as an everyday people mover.
Year after year the Ranger proves itself as one of the most popular 4x4s in Australia, and it wasn’t long before I got a glimpse of why. With power, comfort and functionality to spare, this vehicle would happily serve tradies, serious adventurers, weekend warriors, young parents and grey nomads alike.
Despite its smaller engine size than the stablemate Wildtrak 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder Bi-Turbo packs more of a punch when it comes to power down low. It’s got loads of torque at 500Nm at 1750 to 2000rpm, versus the 3.2-litre’s 470Nm at 1750 to 2500rpm. The 2.0-litre also enjoys a 10-speed automatic gearbox, providing the vehicle a smooth, quiet ride at low and highway speeds.
To my surprise and delight, the Ranger drives and handles more like an SUV than a hefty ute, a fact I appreciated greatly when using the vehicle for grocery runs, school drop-offs and arvo beach missions in my hometown of Wollongong.
Historically I’ve found driving 4x4 utes can make me feel like an 11-year-old who has stolen dad’s keys for a spin around the back paddock, which is to say, too small to do so comfortably. Not the case with the Ranger. Finding a comfortable seating position with the six-way electric seat controls is easy and visibility is excellent out every window. Steering is light and predictable at any speed and manoeuvring around tight carparks is simple.
Parking is aided by some handy technology, namely the autonomous reverse-parking feature which scans the street for a spot of a suitable size and backs the thing in for you.
If I’m honest, I was a bit too nervous to relinquish control but my partner, an electrical engineer and virtual reality professional (ahem, massive nerd) was right into it. Cool trick indeed. Front and rear parking sensors help, of course, as does the reversing camera displayed on the 20cm entertainment screen.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto enable the safe navigation of your phone’s call log, messages, music and podcasts while driving, and will be sorely missed by yours truly when I go back to driving my 2014 Volvo.
Other driver-assist technology I loved was the radar cruise control with adjustable sensitivity to enable the vehicle to coast at a specified distance from the car in front. It’s so smooth and subtle that my biggest gripe is that you can easily drop well below the speed limit without realising it’s happening.
Automatic headlights and wipers plus lane-keep assist and emergency crash warning features also gave me the warm, fuzzy feeling of someone having my back.
And while this summer’s relentless rain combined with border closures and pandemic influences of manufacturers’ stock levels foiled more than one camper trailer review plan during our first month with the Ranger, it got a good workout in our household for weekend excursions to secret swimming spots in Kangaroo Valley, lazy Sunday drives out to Wombeyan Caves and school holiday missions to the Mid North and South Coasts of NSW.
TOTAL KM: 3356km
KM THIS MONTH: 2250km
AV FUEL: 8.1L/100km
Part 2: Tow Tug
Our second month with the Ranger Wildtrak 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel saw little improvement on the weather front. Weekend after weekend became a washout as our friend La Niña poured her moody torrents over the Australian east coast summer. Great for farmers, ducks and bushfire evasion, not so good for camper trailer or 4x4 adventures.
But after thrice rescheduling a review of the Cub Campers Drifter II camper trailer, we eventually decided to suck it up and push on. Besides, there appeared to be a bit of break in the clouds.
Momentary glimpses of sunshine were about the best we could hope for. So, it was onwards and upwards to the Hawkesbury, just outside Sydney, for a quick overnighter.
We’d planned to meet Matt Kennelly from Cub Campers at our chosen spot, Burralow Creek Campground, so the trip there in the Ranger involved no towing. The Wildtrak is a dream to drive on the open highway, its 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel engine with 10-speed transmission providing a refined and quiet ride.
Driver-assist technology adds to the feeling of comfort behind the wheel, with adjustable radar cruise control enabling you to maintain a safe distance from the car ahead. I could happily drive this car all the way to the tropics, if only the pandemic hadn’t closed all the borders.
We made a left towards the campground, and the tarmac gave way to dirt. The drive into Burralow Creek is about 20 minutes of generally well-graded dirt, but the weeks of relentless deluge had created washouts and thick, slippery mud on hairpin bends. More fun than we expected.
Once we arrived, we hooked the camper on to the Ranger and set off back up the road to test her out and get some happy snaps for this here magazine.
The Cub Drifter II weighs just a lick under 1400kg tare, which was the approximate weight on test as the water tanks were dry and there was no gear loaded in the camper. The Ranger, with its 3500kg towing capacity, was always going to giggle at this Lilliputian load. Still, the road in the reverse direction was steep, slippery and washed out, so she’d have to work a little.
The 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo diesel, despite being a smaller engine than the stablemate Wildtrak 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel, offers plenty of grunt down low. It’s got ample torque of 500Nm from 1750 to 2000rpm, versus the 3.2-litre’s 470Nm at 1750 to 2500rpm. This loans itself very well to towing, and served us well as we lugged the Cub back up the sodden, windy track.
The Ranger barely seemed to notice the load of the camper, powering up the hill with ease. The transmission however, while ninja-like on the highway, is not as smooth in low range. Gear changes at low speed tended to thud a little.
At our request, the Ranger was equipped with Ford’s own electric trailer brakes, with the discreet controller knob easy to access alongside the gear stick. Set to a low level of 3 to 4 to suit the Cub’s diminutive weight, the brakes worked efficiently and smoothly as we headed back down into the gully to the campground.
Sure, it was a brief glimpse into what the Ranger Wildtrak 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo diesel is capable of when it comes to pulling a load, but the rig impressed nonetheless. Combined with its exceptional driving comfort and ease of manoeuvrability around town, this vehicle would be an excellent option for anyone looking for a 4x4 that’s equally suited as a weekend workhorse and everyday family mover.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, La Niña unleashed her fury on us once more later that day and all through the night.
TOTAL KM: 4985km
KM SINCE LAST UPDATE: 1629km
AV FUEL: 8.1L/100km
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