WHAT’S THE DEAL?
The Wildtrak is the most expensive Ranger going – and one of the most expensive utes on the market.
All come with the 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel, with the manual version costing $57,890, plus on-road costs, while the auto ramps that up to $60,090.
But there’s plenty thrown in for the money; dual-zone ventilation, heated front seats, satellite-navigation, 18-inch alloy wheels and a tow bar. There’s also unique seats trimmed in a mix of coloured material and leather, as well as myriad other aesthetic tweaks that include a grey sports bar and a grey grille.
Plus it’s the only Ranger (for now) with a standard reversing camera, complete with a centre guide to help align the tow bar. Notably absent are smart key entry and push-button start; something increasingly common in more affordable SUVs.
Those wanting more can choose the Tech Pack ($600) which adds active cruise control, lane departure warning and forward collision warning.
The Ranger’s interior is one of the more spacious of the dual-cab utes, with good rear seat space and a comfortable pair of front seats. Storage areas are good, too, with a covered centre console and an overhead compartment for sunglasses.
The tray, too, is a relatively deep and well-proportioned, with a rugged ribbed plastic tray liner. The roller shutter tonneau cover is simple to use and a great idea, but there is a downside: the compartment it rolls in to takes up a bit of space towards the front of the tray. So fitting a push bike in, for example, could require the removal of its front wheel. You can temporarily remove the whole retractable unit (many Wildtrak drivers do) and maximise tray space without the fancy cover.
ON THE ROAD
It’s all about tweaks with the PX Mark II Ranger. The basic chassis is unchanged, but suspension has been tweaked for improved ride comfort. Unladen there’s still some of the characteristic ute bouncing over large bumps, but it’s generally well-controlled. And a few people on board can quell it further. It’s also relatively quiet, too, making for comfortable long-distance progress.
There’s also a new electric power steering system that replaces the hydraulic system still used in the BT-50. It’s light and accurate yet maintains a respectable level of feedback to ensure the Ranger drives well. Ford has also tweaked the suspension of the Ranger. And while it doesn’t have the plushness of a Volkswagen Amarok with the optional comfort suspension set-up (it does without a leaf in each of the rear packs), it’s an excellent blend of control and comfort. Plus the Ranger is respectably quiet for a ute.
Under the bonnet, the engine doesn’t initially look any different: it still produces 147kW and a stout 470Nm. But refinement is a big part of the story, with an improved fuel injection system quietening things down. The turbocharger is also slightly smaller, so it spins up quicker for better performance. Throw in tweaks to the auto transmission shift points and it makes for a responsive and grunty truck.
Nothing has changed on the 4x4 front with the Mark II Ranger. It has the same 237mm of ground clearance and same part-time four-wheel drive system. Plus it can wade through up to 800mm of water, which is excellent for those not fussed with fitting a snorkel.
The Ranger does without the electronic smarts of its SUV sibling, the Everest – that car has an on-demand four-wheel drive system with a Terrain Management System, which adjusts the traction control and throttle response to various conditions (sand, snow/gravel/grass and rock). For the Ranger Wildtrak it’s a part-time system with low range. There’s also a locking rear diff to improve traction. It all works fine in most conditions, albeit without the ability to drive all four wheels on bitumen.
However, there are some challenges with the Wildtrak. The side skirts that add to that visual toughness hang quite low and are prone to scraping over more challenging obstacles. The departure angle, too, is significantly reduced due to the tow bar; the cheaper Ranger XLT has a 27 degree departure angle whereas the Wildtrak has only 21 degrees. Up front, too, the lower black plastic chin can scuff on things, but it’s fairly flexible so copes with the punishment.
Tow capacity equals the best in class, claimed to be 3500kg.
It’s not cheap, but there’s a lot to like about the Ranger Wildtrak. The diesel engine is a muscular unit and one that’s stepped up with the tweaks for this Mark II version. And the blend between off-road ability and on-road friendliness is fantastic.
And, for a lot of people, the fact it looks the business will be enough.
Yet, for many, a lesser model may make sense. The XLT, for example, brings all the hardware but with less of the fizz – and for less money. If only Ford would fit a reversing camera to those models.
Price and specifications
Engine: 3.2-litre inline five-cylinder turbo diesel; 147kW at 3000rpm, 470Nm at 1750-2500rpm
Transmission and 4WD system: Part-time 4WD with low range transfer case
Braked tow capacity: 3500kg
Spare tyre: Full size
Fuel tank: 80 litres
Fuel use (claimed): 9.0L/100km
Fuel use on test: 11.4L/100km
Approach/departure angles: 29 degrees/21 degrees
Ground clearance: 237mm