ON LAUNCH: Behind the wheel of the new Ford Ranger

BY CHARL BOSCH - OCTOBER 16, 2015

I would admit to being a bit sceptical when images of the refreshed Ford Ranger started popping up online earlier this year. Granted, it has been around for four years now, but it somehow seemed odd as to why Ford would feel the need bring out the scalpels and completely change the look of a vehicle that had turned the local market on its head.

Known internally as the T6, the Ranger has been the undoubted star of the Blue Oval’s model line-up, with just over 250 000 units having left the production line in Silverton outside Pretoria since September 2011. To put this into perspective, parking each one end-on-end would cover a distance of 1 348 km i.e. from the plant to the foot of Table Mountain.

In addition, the Ranger made history earlier this year when its became the first bakkie to outsold the venerable Toyota Hilux as South Africa’s top selling pick-up, a feat it continued repeating for a number of months after.

As facelifts or refreshment sometimes have the ability to make or break an existing model, I was left wondering whether the former or latter would prevail when RNews joined the country’s motoring press at the launch of the new Ranger in Cape Town this past week.

Seeing the fleet of Rangers lined-up in the underground car park of the Cape Town International Airport, it was clear that the redesign had given it a more menacing look as oppose to the previous model’s butch stance.

The familiar three bar grille and drop down headlights has been dropped in favour of a prominent trapezoidal grille and rounded projector headlights, that forms a distinctive V and cuts into the front wings.

Inside, the interior has also undergone an extensive reworking with upgraded materials and trim, a new static infotainment display on the XLS, and a brand new eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, as well as a four-inch TFT instrument cluster, on the XLT and Wildtrak.

Fitted as standard, the latter models feature the latest versions of Ford’s SYNC 2 media interface which allows the driver to control the entertainment system, climate control and smartphone settings through voice recognition. In addition, the system can also be prepped for Wi-Fi connection and sports dual USB ports and a single SD card slot.

The first generation of SYNC continues to be offered on the XLS with the base and XL Plus models sporting a standard sound system, and the XL a Bluetooth compatible unit with voice activation.

Safety has also been revised with the Wildtrak coming equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Departure Alert and Keeping, Driver Fatigue Warning, front and rear parking sensors with reverse camera, and Tyre Pressure Monitors, the latter two also available on the XLT.

Up front, the range of engines has also been revised with the most notable being a power hike for the high-spec 2.2 TDCi Duratorq turbodiesel. Equipped with a number of upgrades for better fuel consumption, the amount of twist has increased from 110 kW and 375 N.m of torque, to 118 kW and 385 N.m. A six-speed manual gearbox is again the only transmission offered.

Available solely with a five-speed manual box, the low-power 2.2 TDCi (88 kW and 285 N.m) and 2.5 Duratec petrol (122 kW and 226 N.m) remain unchanged, while the flagship 3.2 TDCi receives a new exhaust gas recirculation system that is said to improve consumption by up to 18%. Output however still stands at 147 kW and 470 N.m of torque with the option of a six-speed manual or similar ratio automatic.

With the launch route taking in a number of the Cape’s famous mountain passes, any initial concerns that the Ranger would roll around under heavy cornering soon disappeared as it felt planted with limited to no body movement. Steering feedback as also gone up a notch with revisions to the electric power steering while wind noise has been muted further thanks to improved sound denting.

Where the Ranger really came into its stride was off the beaten track. With low range and the diff-lock engaged, it effortlessly managed to overcome a particularly bad off-road section up the Matroosberg mountains, despite the rather limited (behind the wheel) off-road experience of its driver.

Going down also proved easy as all four-wheel drive models are fitted as standard with Hill Decent Control, which allows the driver to change the speed with a button on the steering wheel. Putting my trust in the system and resisting the urge to stamp on the brakes or clutch, our 2.2 XLS effortlessly made to the bottom without hassle.

The route to our overnight stop and back to the airport the following day, was completed behind the wheel of a Wildtrak automatic. Its distinctive eye catching orange paint work and cosmetic enhancements aside, the interior received considerable praise when it came to the question of built quality. It also felt more composed around the tight bends of the Hex River and Du Toit’s Kloof Passes, with the ride being firm but comfortable.

While some might doubt its looks, most of the utterances from the scribes at launch, me included, were in favour of the Ford Ranger’s new found identity. More imposing than before and with enhanced levels of comfort and safety, its battle as the country’s top seller is set to intensify when the new Hilux arrives next year.

 

MODEL RANGE*

SINGE CAB

MODEL POWER
2.2 TDCi 88 kW / 285 N.m
2.2 TDCi XL 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.2 TDCi XL 4x4 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.2 TDCi XL-Plus 4x4 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.2 TDCi XLS 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.2 TDCi XLS 4x4 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.5 122 kW / 226 N.m
3.2 TDCi XLS 147 kW / 470 N.m
3.2 TDCi XLS 4x4 147 kW / 470 N.m

 

SINGE CHASSIS CAB

MODEL POWER
2.2 TDCi 88 kW / 285 N.m
2.2 TDCi XL-Plus 4x4 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.5 122 kW / 226 N.m

 

SUPER CAB

MODEL POWER
2.2 TDCi 88 kW / 285 N.m
2.2 TDCi XL 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.2 TDCi XL 4x4 118 kW / 385 N.m
3.2 TDCi XLS 147 kW / 470 N.m
3.2 TDCi XLS 4x4 147 kW / 470 N.m
3.2 TDCi XLT 4x4 AT 147 kW / 470 N.m

 

DOUBLE CAB CHASSIS

MODEL POWER
2.2 TDCi XL-Plus 4x4 118 kW / 385 N.m

 

DOUBLE CAB

MODEL POWER
2.2 TDCi 88 kW / 285 N.m
2.2 TDCI XL 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.2 TDCi XL 4x4 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.2 TDCi XL-Plus 4x4 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.2 TDCi XLS 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.2 TDCi XLS 4x4 118 kW / 385 N.m
2.2 TDCi XLT 118 kW / 385 N.m
3.2 TDCi XLT 147 kW / 470 N.m
3.2 TDCi XLT AT 147 kW / 470 N.m
3.2 TDCi XLT 4x4 147 kW / 470 N.m
3.2 TDCi XLT 4x4 AT 147 kW / 470 N.m
3.2 TDCi Wildtrak 147 kW / 470 N.m
3.2 TDCi Wildtrak AT 147 kW / 470 N.m
3.2 TDCi Wildtrak 4x4 AT 147 kW / 470 N.m

 

*Pricing not made available

 

PHOTO GALLEY