Pick-up trucks were used to be seen lugging heavy construction equipment around with dried paints trickling down under the tailgate, now though, they are seen carrying either pets, potted plants or extreme sports paraphernalia in the rear bed. And come to think of it, they’re a lot like denims; once worn by labourers, now worn by fashionable people.
And that is why Sime Darby Auto Connexion (SDAC) decided to assign a group of motoring hacks to get themselves on a one-night trip to selected locations to get out from the city to the outskirts and the deep end to experience what’s its like to be a Ford Ranger owner (as according to their market research). In this case, a beach getaway for a day in Kuantan to get our feet wet and sandy on the beach.
Things are shifting for sure, and like how SUVs went from being purely off-road vehicles, to now the main mode of transport executives to travel from place to another in the city, the pick-up truck is evolving into lifestyle items catering well-to-do people doing outdoors-ey things. The Ford Ranger has a tough and dominant appearance, yet stylish enough not be seen like fish out of water in the urban landscape.
Being in tune with the times, the new Ranger Wildtrak and XLT+ gets LED daytime running lights, with the two Wildtrak variants also fitted with LED front foglamps. There is also clearer differentiation between variants visually, with bumper treatments and colours reflecting the character of each one.
The rear bed has a capacity of 1.18 cubic metres which is able to haul payloads of up to 1,000kgs. And if there’s a need to hitch a trailer, the maximum towing capacity stands at 3,500kgs throughout all the Ranger models.
The fold-down back panels of pick up trucks tend to be rather heavy. That’s not an issue with the Wildtrak and XLT+ variants with the Easy-Lift Tailgate. A new (yet very simple) internal mechanism which provides additional torque to the Ranger’s tailgate hinge making it much lighter to lift, with a 70% reduction in initial force required to raise it for closing. It’s definitely a lot lighter than lifting a 2.5 kg dumbbell.
Likewise, the durable and tactile cabin hasn’t seen much changes either albeit with newly added features. In the Wildtrack variant, the interior gets a black-themed interior with contrasting stitching to give the interior a premium ambiance.
The Ranger is now equipped with keyless entry and pushstart button on the XLT+ and Wildtrak. This is the sort of feature owners of such vehicles will appreciate as they won’t need to dig into their pockets for a key to unlock the doors or start the vehicle.
Having to sit in both trucks, the seats are plush with adequate lateral support, which is helpful in keeping the occupants fresh on long distanced and keeping them in place when going off road. There’s a big beefy armrest in the middle, which encloses a wide and cooled deep cubby, keeping drinks chilled.
As you can expect, many of the switchgear that surrounds the driver is build to last with many years of repetitive usage, and this is especially important in a workhorse; the buttons and dials has good tactile feedback with a sense of robustness, especially with the power window buttons.
The one thing that throws people off is the audio volume and radio tuner dials, which can be easily mistaken as the temperature rotary controls. It’s a non-issue, but requires some time to familiarise with the climate control button layout on the centre stack. In XLT models and below, the dials control the air conditioning temperature and blower speed.
At the rear, the bench seats can sit two comfortably with ample amounts of legroom. Regardless of trim levels, there is a retractable centre armrest with two cup holders are available for the two rear passengers to stow items in and to rest their arms on.
SYNC3 is available on the Ranger XLT+ and Wildtrak and apart from its voice command capabilities and it is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This means that many new smartphones launched in recent months can be connected to the infotainment system and the apps on the phones can be mirrored (and used) on the 8-inch full colour touchscreen.
Besides those, you can also connect your mobile via Bluetooth, which the SYNC3 system is one of the quickest and easiest systems to pair up with. If not, there’s USB and AUX ports available as well.
The other good thing is that especially with the Wildtrak is it also comes with a in-built satellite navigation system for those times when the vehicle is beyond areas where there is mobile phone coverage.
Sound reproduction is massively better than in many of its rivals, where the 6 speakers in the XLT+ and Wildtrack are able to reproduce music with clarity and depth. And if you’re into acoustics, the range toppers are able to commit.
The XLT+ comes with the single Variable-Geometry Turbocharger (VGT) and the Wildtrack and Raptor will come with the bi-turbo version, with both engines coupled with the 10-speed automatic transmission. The single-turbo 2.0-litre mill in the XLT+ makes 177 hp at 3,500 rpm and 420 Nm at 1,750 – 2,500 rpm.
The pair of turbochargers operates sequentially, one for the lower end and the other for the upper end to provide seamless power and torque delivery without lag. A variable geometry turbocharger is employed to deliver greater throttle response and eliminate lag by spooling up quickly at low speeds.
The second unit is a fixed geometry turbocharger with a high flow capacity to deliver maximum power and performance. If you’ve seen how a stock Toyota 2JZ engine looks, you’ll may agree that the new bi-turbo Panther engine has a similar vibe to it.
The new 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel engine makes 210 hp at 3,750 rpm and 500 Nm of torque at 1,750 – 2,000 rpm and it’s coupled with the 10-speed automatic transmission making power delivery much more linear and progressive.
First things first, the Ranger’s tall riding body provides a commanding view outside with a clear view ahead above many regular passenger cars. The ergonomics is spot on with many of the switchgear is within the driver’s and passenger’s reach.
Let’s admit it, it’s a big vehicle, but thanks to the electric power-assisted steering, the Ranger is manoeuvrable around tight spaces, making ingress and egress out of tight parking spots, and making three-point turns effortless. Driving at higher speeds, the steering feels progressively heavier as the speed increases, which makes highway cruising or going around corners much more predictable.
Ride quality and refinement is pretty impressive for a truck, where the Ranger is well known for this. There’s minimal wind and road noise when driving on the highway. The seats are superbly supportive and plush when driving on long distances which both my co-driver and I were still fresh and alert when we arrive at Kuantan after a near four-hour drive.
The Wildtrack gets new premium-car features like Ford’s Pre-Collision Assist feature using Inter-Urban Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Vehicle and Pedestrian Detection is available on the new Ranger. The system is designed to detect pedestrians as well as vehicles to bring the Ranger to a complete stop to help mitigate potential rear-end collisions and road-traffic collisions with pedestrians. The system functions at speeds above 3.6 km/h.
The First and only in-class Lane Departure Warning & Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Forward Collision Warning continues to be available. Then there’s a segment-first which is Semi-Automatic Parallel Parking (SAPP) which is available on the Wildtrak 4×4. SAPP makes parallel parking a lot easier and enjoy the convenience of the truck parking itself, just that the driver still needs to make the necessary gear changes and apply the brakes when needed.
Performance and pick-up trucks don’t exactly go hand in hand, but here at Motor Trader, we do it for science! Although we didn’t have the opportunity to do a 0-100 time, the new bi-turbo 2.0-litre engine definitely has more punch than the old 3.2-litre engine, especially with the sequential bi-turbo layout provides a linear power and torque band.
The difference between the single and bi-turbo engines is pretty obvious, especially when taking off from standstill or accelerating to overtake a slower vehicle, which the single-turbo version lacks in throttle response and power, but it’s still an improvement over the 3.2-litre Puma engine.
Handling wise, the Ranger is still and always will be a pick-up truck, where the torsional rigidity of a traditional body-on-frame isn’t exactly as solid as in a unibody vehicle. However, both the XLT+ and Wildtrack’s handling capabilities are pretty adequate when it comes to cornering spiritedly. It’s just that drivers will have to be mindful of the vehicle’s balance.
Still, the suspension provides compliance over uneven road surfaces and balanced towards understeer, which the Ranger can be forgiving when driven within its limits. Rollover Mitigation (ROM), Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Adaptive Load Control (ALC), including many of the active safety systems such as ABS and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) are available in all trim levels.
Both the XLT+ and Wildtrack trim levels are very much designed around the urbanite, with plenty of convenience features like the large 8-inch SYNC3 touchscreen infotainment system and many creature comforts which makes the transition from city to the outskirts seamlessly comfortably.
The new compact 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel engine is an example that downsizing isn’t a bad thing, not only that you’ll get to save a little more on the annual road tax, but also on fuel economy. As tested, the Ranger Wildtrack is able to do between 8.6- 11.8 l/100km that is pretty impressive for a vehicle of this size and weight. The new 10-speed automatic transmission complements the new engine’s power band, which contributes to an improved throttle response and fuel economy.
Ford Ranger XLT+ 4×4 High Rider and Wildtrack 4×4 High Rider
Price Msia: RM124,888 (XLT+ 4×4 HR) RM144,888 (Wildtrack 4×4 HR)
Engine: 1,996 CC Turbodiesel VGT (XLT+) Bi-turbo (Wildtrack)
Power: 173 hp (XLT+) 210 hp (Wildtrack)
Torque: 420 Nm (XLT+) 500 Nm (Wildtrack)
Fuel Economy: 8.6 – 11.8 l/100km (Tested)
Transmission: 10-Speed Automatic Transmission