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Driven: Ford Ranger Wildtrak. Image by Ford.

Driven: Ford Ranger Wildtrak
Big, brash pick-up with a big, brash engine - the Wildtrak is great, but not a class leader.

   



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Ford Ranger

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Good points: Looks, interior, handling, the power of that 3.2 five-pot

Not so good: Noisy even by pick-up standards, suspect ride, costs a lot as a Wildtrak

Key Facts

Model tested: Ford Ranger Wildtrak Double-Cab 4x4
Price: Ranger starts from 18,445 (excluding VAT); Wildtrak from 33,404.64 (including VAT, deduct 20% for commercial vehicles), car as tested 37,610.64
Engine: 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: four-door one-tonne pick-up
CO2 emissions: 221g/km (1,200 VED first 12 months, then 140 annually thereafter if registered as a private vehicle; flat 240 VED for commercial vehicles)
Combined economy: 33.6mpg
Top speed: 109mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Power: 200hp at 3,000rpm
Torque: 470Nm at 1,500- to 2,750rpm

Our view:

Although the Ford Ranger pick-up truck has been around for a long time - since at least 1998 as rebadged Mazda B-Series vehicles, although even longer if you trace Ford's convoluted use of the Ranger name in its native US - it was only with the arrival of this, erm, third-generation one-tonner in 2011 that the Blue Oval got to grips with the whole pick-up thing and decided to make its own. And it was developed by Ford Australia, no less... but we digress.

Anyway, it was good timing, really, as this particular Ranger has massively increased Ford's presence in this market, in Europe particularly. A facelift in 2015 managed to keep it looking fresh but the problem is the rapid expansion of the one-tonne pick-up sector is well and truly on - the longtime, traditional Japanese manufacturers have been joined by Volkswagen, Mercedes and even Fiat in recent years, and we're still waiting for Renault to finally see sense and confirm it will bring the Alaskan to the UK.

The Ford Ranger, for what it's worth, is priced from as little as 18,445 here, which looks extraordinarily competitive until you realise that's for a single-cab workhorse derivative with a 2.2-litre diesel engine and steel wheels; it's the sort of thing you might see in road-salt-grubby white, wearing Forestry Commission logos or similar and being driven in a disinterested fashion along the M40 by someone wearing a hi-vis vest. Far more representative of the luxury-laden pick-ups that private punters buy - or, at least, some people purchase ostensibly as a commercial vehicle, before then using them for, um, 'other tasks' besides building site work - are the double-cab models, which begin with the 2.2-litre Ranger Black Edition at 26,945 excluding VAT (31,794, if you're not a self-employed plasterer).

However, it's this Wildtrak range-topper which most tempts buyers into Ford dealerships, despite the fact it's at least a hefty 33,400 with VAT included. Powered by the 3.2-litre five-cylinder TDCi turbodiesel, it delivers mighty outputs of 200hp and 470Nm, which are only bettered by the most potent version of the V6-powered VW Amarok. It's also the only one-tonne pick-up in the UK, aside from the Amarok, that has more than four cylinders... well, at least until Mercedes gets the X 350 d out in the middle of this year. So there's that in the Ford's favour.

That five-banger engine sure is charismatic, but it - like much of the Ranger Wildtrak - lacks for the mechanical refinement of similarly high-end trucks from VW and Mercedes. There's no doubting the Ranger has a particularly rugged appeal, what with its lantern-jawed appearance and the no-nonsense way it goes about its business, but the buying public's very move towards these trucks has driven most manufacturers to work hard on improving the unladen ride quality and reducing noise levels.

The Ranger seems to be an exception. Even by the standards of this CV-derived class, it is noisy. The motor is loud from idle to tickover, which is great when you can (just about) discern the mournful five-cylinder howl at higher revs, but to be honest most of the time that is drowned out by general compression clatter and the whooshing of the turbo. You also pick up on a lot of tyre and wind noise in the Ranger, which is not unusual for a class in which every vehicle is tall and bluff and heavy. But again the Ford seems to lag slightly behind key rivals on this score. Further, it has one of the more fidgety rides of the sector; admittedly, it's not ruinously bad, but the Ranger thumps and bumps about more than an Amarok or X-Class/Nissan Navara would. Or even a Fiat Fullback Cross/Mitsubishi L200, for that matter.

Which is not to say we dislike the Ranger Wildtrak. Far from it, in fact. For a start, it looks great. That imposing, 'Ranger'-branded barred grille giving the Ford real presence, while the graphics and 18-inch machined alloys work really well. Mind you, while all colours suit the Wildtrak, if you're not ordering it in Pride Orange metallic (+480 inc. VAT) then we would politely suggest you're doing it all wrong. It's a great shade and it makes the Ranger's charcoal detailing stand out a treat, while it also complements the part-orange Wildtrak interior seat trim. And a big surprise here - the Ford has the best cabin in the segment; yep, we're including the Mercedes and Volkswagen rivals in this assertion. With contrast stitching, a nice SYNC 3 infotainment system that looks well integrated in the dash, high-quality switchgear and a steering wheel/gearlever combo that doesn't look appear as it was hastily lifted from a Transit Connect, the Ranger Wildtrak has the most SUV-esque interior of any pick-up going.

It's also brutally fast and a lot of fun to drive, despite its slightly rough manner. That engine provides wonderful performance and the Ranger possesses a belting six-speed manual, again one of - if not the - best in class. That makes accessing the Wildtrak's mighty power a doddle and the big Ford truck will take quite a lot of traffic by surprise with how quickly it can hustle along. And, like many Fords, it seems to have a chassis with genuine handling excitement mixed in, as the Ranger feels extremely capable being thrown into bends. That's thanks to steering that's, yes, the best in class.

So, as you can see sifting through this review, there are many areas where the Ranger is leading the way for one-tonne pick-ups - the steering, the interior, the gearbox - but then there are some crucial departments where it feels a bit behind the times; the ride quality and elevated NVH levels being the main causes for concern. The performance is epic and the five-pot engine does provide plenty of character, yet the Ranger is expensive as a Wildtrak, comfortably outstripping a Nissan Navara Tekna to the tune of 2,500.

It's therefore impossible to call the Ford the default choice in the one-tonne pick-up sector, because it is too compromised in certain areas to beat more rounded rivals. But it has masses of allure and it at least gives customers even more agony of choice if they're in the market for one of these things. Just make sure that if you do plump for the Ranger Wildtrak, you order it in orange, yeah?

Alternatives:

Fiat Fullback Cross: The lifestyle version of Fiat's Mitsubishi-based one-tonne truck is a pleasant thing to drive, although it doesn't feel like it has the sheer muscle of the Wildtrak.

Mercedes X-Class: Refinement is key for this German luxury take on a Nissan Navara. Really costly and some of the interior finishing is questionable, but a mighty V6 model is on the way.

Volkswagen Amarok: All V6 power for the Volkswagen truck and it's a belter, which just feels that bit less obviously a commercial vehicle in all departments than the rather blue-collar Ford.


Matt Robinson - 26 Sep 2017



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2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak drive. Image by Ford.2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak drive. Image by Ford.2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak drive. Image by Ford.2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak drive. Image by Ford.2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak drive. Image by Ford.

2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak drive. Image by Ford.2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak drive. Image by Ford.2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak drive. Image by Ford.2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak drive. Image by Ford.2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak drive. Image by Ford.








 

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