Without wishing to detract in any way from the deserved victory of the Ford Ranger XLT Bi-Turbo, it’s a damning indictment on the dual-cab segment that the oldest model tested is the clear winner.
This is to take nothing away from the Ranger, which was a fine vehicle when it was launched and remains so today thanks to plenty of development in the interim, much of which has been completed by talented Aussie engineers.
Judges and writing team: Scott Newman, Byron Mathioudakis, Louis Cordony, Evan Spence
Photography: Ellen Dewar, Alastair Brook, Cristian Brunelli
Catch the full series here
- Premium utes: Ranger vs D-Max vs Triton vs Navara vs HiLux
- Budget utes: GWM Ute Cannon-L vs Ssangyong Musso XLV Ultimate
- Hero utes: HiLux Rugged X vs Ranger Raptor vs Gladiator Rubicon vs BT-50 Thunder
- Off-roading: Ranger vs D-Max vs Triton vs Navara vs HiLux vs Musso vs Ute Cannon-L vs Ranger Raptor vs Gladiator Rubicon
However, it would be reasonable to expect its newer rivals to move the game on, particularly in such a big-selling segment, but according to our testing the Ranger remains the benchmark in straight-line performance (but not braking), ride and handling, towing, payload and infotainment.
What’s more, it’s competitive off-road and in terms of running costs, partly due to its excellent residuals, with only its ageing interior architecture (if not technology) letting it down. Well done Ford, but for the rest, where’s the progress?
Best of the rest are the D-Max/BT-50 twins and the HiLuxes, this quartet separated by just a single point. The Isuzu is now much more than a reliable workhorse, with its impressive new interior, benchmark safety systems and much-improved dynamics, while retaining its strong engine and warranty/servicing offering.
The BT-50 benefits by proxy, though we’re less convinced by this Thunder special edition, as all our testing results also apply to the vastly cheaper (and more tasteful) variants below it in the range.
Toyota’s upgraded HiLuxes are impressive, particularly if you’re regularly heading off-road, both variants tested acing the 4x4 component. Both also excel at towing and the revised engine is strong, along with the unrivalled dealer network and incredible resistance to depreciation.
The most ‘lifestyle’ of our contenders, the Ford Ranger Raptor and Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, were always going to struggle against the criteria, for they ask significantly higher prices while being objectively less useful.
It would be reasonable to expect the Ranger's newer rivals to move the game on, particularly in such a big-selling segment
Their massive off-road tyres harm performance and dynamics and neither can tow as much as the more prosaic dual-cab offerings, yet in their element both are outstanding. The Gladiator Rubicon is nigh-on unstoppable off-road and few vehicles are more fun on a loose surface than a Ranger Raptor, but be aware there is a price to pay for this ability.
As the newest vehicle here, the freshly updated Navara’s seventh placing will no doubt be a disappointment but it scored strongly across the board; the term jack of all trades, master of none springs to mind.
It works well in all disciplines without shining in any one area, which given the model’s recent troubles is a step in the right direction.
Last of the main players is the Mitsubishi Triton, which was primarily let down by its underwhelming engine, but it also trails its main rivals in most areas.
A caveat to this is the Triton’s keen pricing. The $47,940 Mitsubishi asks for a Triton GLS automatic – let alone the current $47,490 driveaway price – leaves you a couple of grand short of a base Ranger, D-Max, BT-50 or Navara and will only get you behind the wheel of a very basic Workmate in the HiLux range.
Now the D-Max has shifted upmarket, the role of dependable workhorse has shifted to the Triton with its $37,940 entry price and industry-leading 10-year warranty.
Bringing up the rear are the two challenger brands. The Ssangyong Musso XLV is a lot of ute for your money, both literally and figuratively, but its engine and dynamics are underdone, making the case for spending a little more on, say, the Triton as money well spent.
Compared to Great Wall’s previous efforts the simply titled Ute is a massive step forward but another similar step is required to be truly competitive. It looks great inside and out, with clever practical touches lacking in some much more expensive rivals, but the substance doesn’t match the style.
Its overall score is badly hampered by the fact that it was supplied without a tow bar and thus couldn’t complete the towing test, but it almost certainly would’ve earned the wooden spoon regardless.
There is no discipline where the GWM approaches the level of its competition and in most areas it lags behind by a large enough margin that not even its seven-year warranty and super-sharp pricing can compensate.
In summary, when all is said and done the Ranger XLT is a clear winner but it appears that it will be left to this car’s successor, due early in 2022, to achieve the next step-change in the dual-cab segment.
Dual-cab sprint times
0-100km/h in metres
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