The refreshed Ford Ranger Wildtrak takes on perennial ute-buyer favourite, the Toyota HiLux SR5 on the rutted, slippery and steep hills of Mount Walker, NSW.

WITH THE FORD Ranger name going back almost 20 years (although here it was known as the Courier), it might come as a surprise to learn that the all-new 2011 Ranger, designed and developed by a team headquartered in Australia, was the first time Ford had ever actually engineered the Ranger. Yep, before 2011, it had simply taken the Mazda B-Series ute and slapped its own badge on the thing… and now it’s the other way around, with the Mazda BT-50 a Ford Ranger twin-under-the-skin.

Until the new Ranger strolled into town, the Toyota HiLux had had the market all sewn up. Sure, Nissan’s Navara was its closest sales rival, but it was the Ranger that really gave the HiLux, and Toyota, the fright of its life. Toyota’s HiLux had been trading on borrowed time; sure it was tough, but it was woefully under equipped against newer rivals from both Ford and Volkswagen.

So, as the Ranger started eating away at Toyota’s sales lead and, indeed, beat it in the New Zealand market, the all-new HiLux couldn’t arrive soon enough. And then, late last year, it landed in Australia but at exactly the same time, so to did a refreshed Ford Ranger. Snap.

And that’s why we’ve brought these two rivals to Mount Walker, which lies just out of Lithgow in the NSW Central West, to see which one’s the better all-rounder. Will it be the show-off Ranger Wildtrak, or the lightly decorated HiLux SR5?

Ford Ranger Wildtrak

Pricing $60,090 (+ORC) Warranty three years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel Power/Torque 147kW/470Nm Transmission six-speed manual (standard); six-speed automatic (as tested) Body 5351mm long; 1850mm wide; 1848mm high Angles 29-degrees approach; 25-degrees breaker; 20-degrees departure (towbar) Weight 2200kg Fuel Tank 80 litres Thirst 9.6L/100km

VISUALLY, THE MOST significant change to the refreshed Ford Ranger is the new grille, head lights and front quarter panel, which now gets a side vent (which is a blank) and which can’t be retro-fitted to older Rangers. On the inside, the refreshed Ranger gets a new dashboard, soft-touch materials, more insulation for better cabin sound proofing and Ford’s SYNC2 in-car infotainment and communication system. Under the skin, one major change was the dumping of the older car’s hydraulic steering assistance in favour of electric power assistance, there was also some slight adjustments to traction and stability control software.

As far as the look of the thing is concerned, the Ranger Wildtrak definitely turns heads wherever it goes, and while you could argue against the practicality of all the contrasting bits of plastic tacked onto the thing, you can’t argue against how the Ranger looks.

Inside, the Ranger, like its virtual twin the Ford Everest, now feels more like the inside of a Falcon than ever before. And that’s not intended to be a criticism, rather I mean the Ranger, especially in Wildtrak trim, now blurs the line between work and play. And while some of the plastics feel hard and scratchy and maybe not so deserving of the $60k price tag, you’ve got to remember that this thing is, to all intents and purposes, designed for work first and play second.

The seats are broad but there’s plenty of side bolstering and lateral support and the electric adjustment (forwards, backwards and up and down) makes up for the lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel (it’s tilt only). The back seats will accommodate three adults on short journeys as the intrusive transmission tunnel means the middle-seat passenger will be sharing foot well space with the two outboard passengers.

Over in the tray, the size of which hasn’t changed, the Wildtrak gets a tub liner and a roller-style lockable tonneau cover. There’s also a light up in the plastic wrapped sports bar. The factory fitted towbar definitely eats into the departure angle, and it’s a shame that Ford didn’t take the opportunity to do some reengineering around this item for this refreshed model. The large side steps also get in the way when driving off-road.

The Ranger’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine makes 147kW and 470Nm of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic only. Fuel consumption is a claimed 9.6L/100km (combined). The engine is as strong as its numbers suggest and the six-speed automatic is as slick as you could hope for, offering smooth shifts up and down the ‘box as needed, although it’s default setting is to run to a high gear quickly for fuel consumption savings.

On road, the Ranger Wildtrak is nice and comfortable and, even without a load in the back, feels stable and competent at speeds you wouldn’t normally drive a ute at. Head onto loose dirt and the Ranger remains just as sure-footed with its traction and stability systems doing a good, subtle job of keeping you in a straight line.

However, as the speed drops and the terrain becomes tougher, and low-range is selected, the Ranger requires considerably more revs than you would normally employ, and thus allows more wheelspin before intervening. Indeed, in some cases, I backed off before the system cut in, instead engaging the rear differential lock to climb up and over an obstacle. If, however, I’d simply given he Ranger more revs, the clever Brake Traction Control would likely have got me out without needing the rear locker.

Select 4H and the ESC system will be slightly detuned, but not fully off. Then in 4L engine traction control and stability control are switched off and B-TCS is able to work on its own. One of the tweaks you’ll never even realise the Ranger has is a small bit of software in the throttle mapping that softens the throttle pedal when you select 4×4 Low. It means you won’t upset the throttle when crawling over bumpy ground, and we did do a lot of crawling over bumpy ground.

Watch our video of the Ranger Wildtrak off-road:

2016 Toyota HiLux SR5

Pricing $55,990 (+ORC) Warranty three-years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power/Torque 130kW/450Nm Transmission six-speed automatic (on test) Body 5330mm (long); 1855mm (wide); 1815mm (high) Weight 1775-2080kg (kerb) Angles 31-degrees (approach); 26-degrees (departure) Fuel Tank 80 litres Thirst 8.5L/100km combined

THE EIGHTH-GENERATION Toyota HiLux launched here in September last year, which was a staggering 10 years after the launch of the seventh-generation HiLux. While the new-look nose and the improved cabin are the most noticeable visual changes, it’s the changes that took place beneath the skin that are most significant.

Toyota has made everything tougher, starting with the frame which is now thicker (offering 20% more torsional rigidity), the body, which is stiffer thanks to higher-strength steels and a 45% increase in weld spots. The underbody protection has also been beefed up and is both 40% thicker and 30% larger to make it more resistant to damage in off-road situations.

Ground clearance for 4×4 variants is 225mm while approach (31-degrees), departure (26-degrees) and wheel articulation (520mm on both sides) are all improvements over the seventh-generation model.

As far as the looks are concerned, the HiLux doesn’t have quite the same street presence as the Ranger Wildtrak. But, looked at in isolation, and in SR5 trim, it’s actually a pretty good looking thing. And the design is meant to be practical, too. For instance, the turned up corners of the snout mean greater clearance and thus less likelihood of damaging the thing when driving off-road.

The interior of the new HiLux looks to have taken inspiration from the Corolla, and runs a large seven-inch colour touch screen to control the infotainment and communications system. Some people I showed the HiLux to thought it looked like an afterthought, but I don’t agree. The dashboard controls are all easy to use and well laid out, but the quality of the interior plastics is way behind the Ranger Wildtrak, betraying this things utilitarian function.

The seats aren’t quite as supportive as those in the Ranger but they do offer plenty of adjustment and the steering has reach and rake adjustment, meaning it’s pretty easy to find the right driving position. The back seats are easy to get in and out of, and there’s a stowable arm rest; you’ll get three adults in the back as the transmission tunnel is much less intrusive.

The tray is a little bigger in the new-generation HiLux, measuring 1569mm long (up 19mm), by 1645mm (up 79mm) at its widest point and 1100mm between the wheel arches. Side panel height is 481mm which is up 20mm. The loading height has been reduced by only 4mm to 861mm.

Under the bonnet of the HiLux SR5 is a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel which offers more more torque, uses less fuel and is quieter inside the cabin and with less vibration thanks to more insulation and a 50% bigger dash silencer. That said, it doesn’t feel quite as refined inside as the Ranger.

The new engine makes 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm of torque between 1600-2400rpm. In our test car, this engine was mated to a six-speed automatic, but a six-speed manual is standard. Combined fuel consumption is a claimed 8.5L/100km which is one litre per 100km better than the Ranger, but there’s less power and torque on offer too. The engine is strong enough but the throttle pedal feels dull and lifeless and it takes awhile to get used to not overpressing it and then having to back off like a taxi driver.

The HiLux is only a part-time 4×4 and, so, pushing it on wet roads with no load in the back will see back end break traction quite easily but, then, so do all utes and particularly so when unladen. The suspension, even without a load, does a pretty good job of ironing out bumps and ruts in the road without trying to bump steer or shake loose your fillings. Indeed, my old man, who drives a Range Rover everyday thought the ride was “very impressive”, but he’s getting on a bit and I wouldn’t quite go that far. It’s good and much better than the previous generation, but it’s not the best-riding 4×4 ute on-road on the market; that title goes to both the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok.

Across rougher surfaces the suspension remains quiet and unfazed, and the additional insulation, 100mm longer leaf springs which now have revised attachment points, and the fact the dampers have been tuned to maintain a flat(ter) ride and dial out all of a sudden impact harshness, mean the HiLux is a pretty comfortable place to be across broken and corrugated surfaces.

And as the speed slowed and the terrain became rougher the HiLux shone even brighter. The equal articulation rates at the back (it was uneven on the old model HiLux) meant the HiLux kept contact with the ground in places where the Ranger picked up a wheel.

The HiLux’s Active Traction Control (A-TRC) which is different to stability control is a stand-out in the segment. As proof, one hill we drove up which had required 4×4 Low on the Ranger, and then, in one place the rear differential lock to be engaged, the HiLux which followed the same line as the “other’ vehicle had been accidentally left in 4×4 High and it crawled up beautifully. And that’s the genius of A-TRC which works by detecting wheelspin and then braking that individual wheel to maintain forward momentum and, in most cases it will negate the need to engage the rear differential lock, so, whatever you do don’t disengage it… but, if you do engage the rear differential lock, just be aware that it disengages A-TRC.

As mentioned in our piece about the Ranger, though, the problem isn’t that the HiLux’s system is so much better than the Ranger’s, just that it requires less revs to work and so you’re less likely to pull out of a situation earlier than you might if you were driving the Ranger.

Watch our video of the Toyota HiLux SR5 off-road:

2016 Ford Ranger Wildtrak Vs. 2016 Toyota HiLux – The Verdict:

SO, FORD RANGER WILDTRAK OR TOYOTA HILUX SR5? Well, the answer to that question comes down to where you live, how much money you’ve got in your pocket and just what you plan to do with your ute. See, the Ranger Wildtrak, once you add on-road costs to the equation is going to cost more than the HiLux SR5, but it’s also better equipped and a more attractive vehicle, so, maybe the dollar argument becomes moot.

If you’re specifically looking for a dual-cab ute than can double as a family car then, out of these two, the Ranger Wildtrak is the pick. It’s more comfortable inside, gets a more sophisticated infotainment and communications system and generally features a nicer fit and finish with better quality materials.

The Ranger Wildtrak also offers a better ride on-road and its engine is grungier and its gearbox smoother and is just generally a more refined package. That’s not to say the new HiLux is a let down, because it isn’t, indeed, it’s easily the most comfortable and refined HiLux ever. But, in the end that’s just not good enough, and across key criteria it’s just very slightly behind the Ranger Wildtrak and so, in this case, it’s the Ranger Wildtrak that gets the nod over the very impressive Toyota HiLux SR5. But, hey, if you choose the HiLux over the Ranger, I won’t hold it against you because, as I said, it’s still a very good vehicle. And, if you’ve always been a HiLux fan then, no matter how good the Ranger is, you’ll always choose the HiLux.


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  1. Is it an odd camera angle or is the Ranger really that much bigger than the Hilux in the very first side by side photo?

    1. Have a good look at the first picture, the hilux is not on the same level ground with the ranger to make the toyota appear much smaller. Did you also noticed the pictures taken inside both cars: Ranger gets better quality pictures compared to the hilux. Well thats clever 🙂

      1. Larger and more comfortable place to be in the Ranger. Hilux is pinchy for shoulder room for grown ups in the back seat – Ranger seems a better and more roomy area.

      2. lol nice pick, the tray in the Hilux is actually dirty as well but crystal clear in the wild track lol

  2. I own a 2014 Ranger XLT and IMHO, the Ranger is best of class for mid size truck. I know when the new Ranger hit Fiji it destroyed Hilux. It was allot more truck for less money. Toyota milked the old platform far too long. The old generation seemed like a compact next the the Ranger. I have not driven the new Hilux yet. But to me it’s Toyota copying the design rather then trying to innovate. Buy the real deal, the original (Ford). The 3.2L 5 cylinder diesel in the Ford is class leading for power and torque.

      1. Unfortunately I’m not in Fiji most of the time and my wife gets to drive the truck more then I do in Fiji. Don’t have any action pics. The first picture taken in Raki Raki and on top of a tall hill with a really bad road if you can even call it that. It’s takes a good truck to clear it. It also can drive into 900 mm of water, or almost a meter without hurting the engine. It’s a beast.

        the color is gunmetal. I had them install the front/back bars which are popular accessories in Fiji. Was not cheap. At the time was 86K Fiji dollars. In USD cut that number in half. Pretty loaded XLT with the 3.2L diesel. But Fiji also has some heavy VAT taxes so hopefully when they bring it to the US it won’t be that expensive.. But it probably will. Trucks are always expensive and this will be a hotcake when they finally bring it to the states.

  3. Rangers have taken over our workplace, most people who used to drive a Hilux, now drive a Ranger.
    Although I have a Ranger too, I have noticed build quality and design issues with the 2013 to current models.
    Put genuinely to work in forest roads and firefighting use our vehicles are subjected to reasonable workloads every day. I have to say the Ford is a nicer place to sit, at least for about 50,000km before the difference in build becomes apparent. Over the same distance the Hilux has less rattles inside and from underneath. Over the long run the Toyota copes better with work demands. If it’s a family/lightly worked ute go the Ford, for hard work go the Toyota.

    1. Very true. I run a company that sells both of these vehicles. The Ranger isn’t anywhere near as well built as the Hilux. Unfortunately, reliability and build quality are never used in reviews. In my opinion, the single biggest flaw with all motoring journalists.

      1. It’s hard when reviewing a car to test reliability when you’ve only got the thing for a week… Sure, you can make an assumption if you’re at the end of the vehicle’s fleet lifecycle, but then you don’t know how hard the thing has been worked by the journalists before you. And, build quality is another grey area, although we will make sure that, going forward, PM reviews point out poor quality workmanship. – Isaac

        1. Have you tried using the JD Power indexes? Maybe not as detailed as per model, but certainly a great way of generalising how well a brand performs?

      2. These car comparison people like car advice , wheels magazine are very biast on everything they talk about, let’s face it, they seem to give everything that’s cheap and nasty, like Hyundai and Kia, awards for so called quality, ask any mechanic, they will tell you otherwise

  4. Let’s not forget the class leading safety features of the Ranger that are absent from the Hilux. Lane keep Assist, collision warning, radar cruise control etc. all these make the Ranger a safer option for a ute that also does family hauling duties

    1. Ranger doesn’t come with a standard reversing camera. Hilux does. Other than that, yes the Ranger has more gear in it. Although the Hilux is far more focused on the tradesman and 4WD market – Ranger focused on the urban cowboy market.

      1. Sorry, but the comparison was Wildtrak vs SR5 – reversing camera standard.

        That all changes in September in any case with cameras on all.

        Even the XLT has more kit than the Hilux.

  5. I can understand why people have been buying the Ranger. Great looking vehicle. Great package off the showroom floor. But don’t be fooled into thinking the Ranger built by Ford will deliver the reliability of the Toyota Hilux. The new Hilux deserves far more credit than it gets. I have driven both of these vehicles and the Hilux is far more refined. The Ranger is going back to dealers for a myriad of reliability issues. If you want to own a Ranger be careful outside the warranty period, If you turn your vehicles over every 100,000kms then thats fine, if you intend to keep your vehicle then the Hilux is by far the better engineered product. The Toyota engineers build the car to last forever where the Ranger will not stand the test of time. That’s how the comparison should be pitched.

    1. Why is it im seeing more than the odd previous gen hilux broken down on the side of the road?

      Could it be the d4d injector issues that sees too many engines being binned?

      1. Surely you haven’t seen as many Hilux’s as i’ve seen Ford Everest’s out in Central NSW being towed to the local ford dealers. No problem for city folk, but if you travel this great land I wouldn’t be going near the Ford.
        Having said that, unfortunately the Hilux rode like a pogo stick compared to the Ranger.

    2. Do you work at Toyota Dean. My Wildtrack is thre years old and only time it has been to the dealer is for 12 monthly service. It tows the pants of the gutless Hilux

      1. Ray, AHG own many dealerships including Ford and Toyota. This was feedback from them. The Ranger is a great vehicle but at the end of the day it will never be as reliable as the Hilux. I am not against the Ranger? Enjoy the car

        1. Not sure that’s a safe claim, Dean, as Ford’s Falcon, a very basic car indeed and not one I have ever liked, lasts forever – quite possibly every bit as long as any Toyota Camry

      2. Well said
        Mine is 4 yrs old and only been to dealer for servicing. Towed 20ft van around Australia, been to the Cape. Can not fault it.

      3. Have towed 3.5tonne of caravan with 2014 Ranger for 60,000kms over 2 1/2 years in all states though Desert and black top steep hills and windy roads thru lakes in Tas and used less fuel than Landcruisers doing same routes.and averaged 5.5km to litre for trip.The Ranger will pull till the dogs come home and with comfort.
        The ranger also had 165 Kilos of fuel and generator in the tub and 135 litre fuel in tank.

  6. Although there are many that say the toyota has a better build quality i have to disagree. The toyota which is an extremely tough car, and i have had hiluxes before, the ranger has stood up in the toughest conditions possible. Where toyota lacks proffesional build quality, i find the ranger delivers. Where i go 4wd which is the toughest places in australia, the rangers cope fine. Any ute will eventually get a few rattles if you drive them hard. And i have never had a mechanical issue with a ranger, yet all the tradies on the building sites are always taking there hiluxes in to replace injectors. So i do have to say the ranger is superior. But the hilux is still a good truck.

  7. One main thing before buying any vehicle is realiabilty of spare parts when travelling remotely in Australia

    Given any remote town around Australia especially the Top End will have 98% Toyota parts to get you back on the road

  8. I know which one I’d rather have when it comes to resale after 5 years. Taking running costs into account further reinforces my belief that the HiLux will prove superior and less costly to own.

  9. The proof will be in the sales figures,,over the long term,,,These test runs prove very little,they are more of a brief gallop in a factory prepared unit and usually top of the line models….
    the real test is how the vehicle stands up over 5-10 years.
    Mining companies buy Toyotas in big numbers. Why? Because they don’t give trouble and any issue can be resolved quickly and in a cost effective way.
    ( I recently drove a 2 yr old 20k km Colorado dual cab diesel auto for 2 days,it was noisy bumpy heavy and very easy to dislike )

    1. Hahahaha that’s because the Colorado was a Mazda B series that had been rebadged by ford. The same as the Nissan Nivarra was rebadged as a Ford Mavericj

      1. Wrong Mark,,,,the Colorado was NEVER a Mazda B series ,,,geeeezus ,,it is a
        re badged ISUZU,,,sometimes it pays to check the facts before making a statement,,,

      2. Colorado is a Isuzu, rebadged by Holden. Ford rebadged a Patrol into a Maverick (not Navara).

        BT-50 is currently an older Ranger, and soon to join Colorado in the Isuzu stable.

  10. When buying a car it’s all about pedigree, how many good diesel motors have ford ever put in a vehicle. The Rangers a good looking truck but cracks are already starting to appear, rear springs, automatic gearboxes, dash rattles etc look underneath at the chassis of a ranger then a hilux it just might shock u with the difference.

  11. I cannot believe the mega bucks people spend on these things. Not only are they expensive to buy they are seriously expensive to keep on the road. Owner tradesmen must work at least 3 days a month just to pay for the things. Just goes to show we are an impressionable lot.

  12. For people that don’t need one if these, it’s purely a status thing. Peer group pressure at work. Suckers.

  13. I’m curious that you would put the SR5 against the Wildtrak and not option leather. On features, the XLT is the better fit, and beats the Toyota on both price and features.

    You also referred to what the Wildtrak “required” for some terrain, but the report suggested a choice rather than need.

    Toyota dropped the ball and the new car just doesn’t seem to do enough to get back on terms.

  14. How many KM’s were on the Hilux in this review? When I test drove a new SR at the dealership i thought the ride was woeful, very firm and rigid. I drove the Ranger, and was blown away. I didn’t take notice of the difference in KM’s, I am told the more it has the softer it gets?

  15. What a joke of a review. He said the hilux was the dominant off-roader and then made his opinion that the Ranger is more refined so therefore worth the 10% extra money. You can see straight through this guy, 9 out of 10 reviewers have said the hilux has the better interior, this guy obviously has it in for hiluxes. So many reviewers do because they chose different brands and in justifying their buy they send hate on the biggest seller.
    The reason they sell so well is reliability. Seven times more ranger owners use their warranty and don’t even get me started on the Amerock. So many issues it’s a joke.
    No doubt what I have written will make them hate more.

    1. Hi Tones, thanks for that. A “joke” moi, never. The HiLux doesn’t have the better interior and I don’t have it in for HiLuxes. If you read the review objectively you’ll see that the end result is that it’s a case of horses for courses. If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the rough, then go for the HiLux, but if you’re going to be mainly on bitumen then go for the Ranger. – Isaac.

      1. “”horses for courses. If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the rough, then go for the HiLux, but if you’re going to be mainly on bitumen then go for the Ranger. “”
        You didn’t say that though, did you?..
        You spent most of the conclusion talking about why the Ranger was the better pick.
        “The Ranger Wildtrak also offers a better ride on-road and its engine is grungier and its gearbox smoother and is just generally a more refined package.”

        “in the end that’s just not good enough, and across key criteria it’s just very slightly behind the Ranger Wildtrak and so, in this case, it’s the Ranger Wildtrak that gets the nod”

        Jokingly stating that if someone buys the Hilux you won’t hold it against them. Finishing off with this gem,
        “And, if you’ve always been a HiLux fan then, no matter how good the Ranger is, you’ll always choose the HiLux.”
        Indeed… No bias whatsoever…

  16. One year on since this thred was writen and i can tell you without any doubts the rangers are breaking down at twice the rate of the Hilux why do I know this? Because i have to drag the bloody things back to the shops for repairs. PS i dont even drive a ute but figured i would put the truth out for all you lot to continue arguments about. 😎

  17. I’m a hilux man. But am now towing a 2 tonne trailer up the Sydney ranges.
    I know new model Rangers have more towing capacity (3.5t) but can anyone tell me if the modern hilux (3t) can cope just as well without going backwards up the Sydney ranges?

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