DRIVING IMPRESSION: Ford Ranger 3.2 TDCi Double Cab XLT 4x4 AT

BY CHARL BOSCH - FEBRUARY 26, 2016

It is really hard not be impressed by what the T6-generation Ford Ranger has managed to achieve since making its debut in South Africa five years ago.

With well over 250 000 units having left the production line in Silverton near Pretoria since September 2011, the Ranger also managed to achieve the seemingly impossible when it became the first bakkie to outsold the segment dominating Toyota Hilux on a couple of occasions last year.

In addition, the Ranger also cemented its position as the country’s second best-selling light commercial vehicles with a total of 33 920 examples finding homes in 2015, a mere 1 764 less than the venerable Hilux.

Although most of the hype surrounded its engine line-up and decidedly un-bakkie interior with a number of segment firsts, the choice of styling arguably played a big role in winning local buyers over.

Inspired to an extent by that of the then brand new twelfth generation Ford F-series in the United States, the T6 dropped the flat smiley front facia of its Mazda B-series derived predecessor, in favour of a curved macho and aggressive appearance that some could argue had been missing from other bakkie offerings.

The decision then to introduce a facelift seemed like a big mistake as bringing out the scalpels and altering more than just a headlight, could have resulted in the Ranger losing is US-derived looks, and returning to the conservative image it previously held.

These concerns were however put aside when the country’s motoring press had their first taste of the refreshed Ranger in Cape Town four months ago. Boasting the same external front end and interior of the all-new Everest, which is underpins, the Ranger received acclaim from those present with some even predicting an all-out war between it and the new Hilux.

While the latter remains untested, the chance to get better acquainted with the revised Ranger, a week after being wowed by the Everest, was met with huge amounts of enthusiasm when our tester arrived in the form of a XLT-spec 3.2 TDCi Double Cab 4x4 auto.

Although it slots in below the Wildtrak, the XLT, if you factor out the extra cosmetic paraphernalia and a few toys, effectively rates as the flagship model and somehow brings out the best of those new looks, even in the Oyster Silver colour it arrived in.

With the same mean looking projector type headlamps, pronounced front bumper and frankly massive chrome grille embossed with the Ford logo, the Ranger, in simple terms, looks more butcher and purposeful than before, with the appearance further boosted by chunky running boards and newly designed 17-inch all-terrain alloy wheels.

Measuring 1 139 mm in length, the Ranger’s load box is quite impressive for a double cab with Ford claiming a payload of 938 kg and loading volume of 1.18m³. A rather nifty feature is the addition of a LED light mounted in the underneath the third brake, which, at the press of a button inside the cab, illuminates the rear to aid loading at dark.

As impressive as it was in the Everest, the interior of the Ranger raises the bar significantly in the bakkie segment. While hard plastics are used on most surfaces, the beam-inspired facia looks modern and smart with the feel further lifted courtesy of satin silver inserts on the gear lever and steering wheel, as well chromed door handles and inserts around the air vents.

Taking pride of place on the dash, the eight-inch touchscreen infotainment display replaces the previous mail slot-like static screen, and like the Everest, incorporates Ford’s SYNC 2 media interface that either allows for commands to be given using voice recognition or by the screen itself.

Often the burden of any double cab, rear head and legroom is far from lacking in the Ranger with the latter being particularly noteworthy.

Also far from lacking, storage compartments are plentiful and consist of a rather big glovebox, pockets in the doors, slot underneath the ventilation switches, split box between the front seats that also doubles up as a cool box, rear seat pockets and half-a-dozen cupholders.

Standard specification is not left wanting with the XLT boasting a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth, aux input, dual USB jacks and SD card slot, dual-zone climate control, auto on/off lights, cruise control, daytime running lights, rear parking sensors with reverse camera, adaptive load control, folding electric mirrors, auto lock/unlock doors, electric windows all around with one touch function for the driver, traction control, Hill Start Assist, Hill Decent Control, six airbags, ABS with EBD and EBA and trailer sway control.

It’s aesthetic and interior changes are however in stark contrast to what lies up front. Bar the addition of a new exhaust gas recirculation system that is claimed to boost efficiency by 18%, the 3.2-litre five-cylinder Duratorq TDCi turbodiesel engine has remained largely the same as before, with power and torque remaining at 147 kW and 470 N.m of torque.

Admittedly still very much recognisable as a diesel when you turn the key, the Port Elizabeth built oil-burner comes into its own when you slot the gear lever into Drive and mash the accelerator. Although our Ranger had completed less than 4 000 km, the engine reacted immediately with each throttle input and with more than enough low-down torque, made for easy overtaking and cruising.

A big part of the drivetrain’s success has to go to the six-speed automatic gearbox. Though fundamentally the same as in the Everest, the self-shifter offered quicker and smoother shifts when you press on, and would not abruptly shift down when you are or coasting or preparing to stop. Moving the gear lever into Sport mode, the responsiveness was even more immediate with shudder free shifts and no lagging.

Having shown what it can do off-road during the launch when part of the route took in a challenging section of the Matroosberg Mountains, the Ranger’s rotary 4WD selector knob was left in 2H throughout is weeklong stay, even when faced with probably one of the worst corrugated gravel roads leading to the recently opened Oyster Bay wind farm.

Foregoing the Everest’s coil spring suspension layout, the Ranger reverts back to a traditional leaf spring setup, which proved comfortable if a tad firm on the open road, but more than adequate when the tar gave way to hard gravel.

The move might have been risky, but there is little doubt that the mid-life refreshment has made the Ford Ranger even more competitive than before. Boasting more teach and those imposing looks, it really is a case of let battle with the Japanese one commence.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE LAYOUT DOHC 20v Inline 5
DISPLACEMENT 3,198 cc
MAX POWER 147 kW @3000 rpm
MAX TORQUE 470 N.m @1750-2500 rpm
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; Rear-wheel drive / Four-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Six-speed automatic
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] n/a
TOP SPEED n/a
FUEL CONSUMPTION 8.9 L/100 km
EMISSIONS 236 g/km
PRICE R566 900