Ford Ranger Wildtrak First Drive
Ford’s Ranger Wildtrak sees the humble ute step into the world of the SUV, with good looks, ability and a comfortable interior, says Isaac Bober.
Ford is the latest car maker to add comfort to tough, refined to rugged, and style to workhorse. And this version, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, is the finishing touch to the Ranger line-up, taking it out to no less than 21 variants.
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak sits right at the top of the Ranger tree and is being marketed world-wide as being more of a car than a work-day truck. The Ranger is a product of the ‘One Ford’ strategy and its development was led by Australians with the project based here too. Having said that, Australian-delivered Rangers are built in Thailand, while South Africa and Argentina handle the build for the rest of the world – indeed Ranger is being exported to more than 180 countries.
Priced from $57,390 (+ORC) the Ford Ranger Wildtrak gets a long list of standard features, including Bluetooth and iPod connectivity with voice control, reversing camera, part-leather bucket seats, climate and cruise control, and sat-nav.
Under the bonnet there’s a 3.2-litre turbocharged five-cylinder diesel engine, making 147kW and 470Nm from 1500rpm and driving through a six-speed manual transmission. I tested the cost-optional six-speed automatic gearbox which comes off feeling jerky at around town speeds (it constantly tries to plump for a higher gear to save fuel) but smooths out as speed builds. The engine, and remember that this is to all intents and purposes a truck, isn’t as rough as you might expect from a 4×4 workhorse. And besides a small amount of clatter when you move away from a standstill, there’s no vibration or coarseness.
There’s enough torque to hide the Ranger’s considerable weight (2200kg) and in-gear acceleration, even with passengers on board and some weight in the tray, is strong. The auto is well matched to the engine and shifts are smooth and responsive to the slightest of throttle inputs.
Standing apart from the rest of the Ranger range with its blacked-out three-bar grille, and contrasting splitter, the front-end of the Ford Ranger Wildtrak is as menacing as Darth Vader. And the blacked-out sports bar, while not all that practical, looks great. There are also side steps, 18-inch alloys, plus Wildtrak badging and graphics. The tray offers a generous load space at 1549 x 1485mm (1139mm between the wheel arches), and at 835mm from the ground. Loading Ikea flat-packs into the Ranger is a cinch, for example.
There’s no escaping the large size of the Ford Ranger and you really do rely on those side steps to climb up and into it. But once inside, you’re greeted by a cabin with all the quality of Ford’s passenger cars. You get 23 cubby holes stashed about the cabin and a glovebox big enough to hold a 16-inch laptop.
Having been designed and engineered here in Australia, the Ranger rides and handles just the way we like it, offering good cornering composure, direct steering and bucket-loads of grip. Ford has done its darndest to make the Ranger as comfy without a load as it is with one. And it’s mostly succeeded, with only the bumpiest of roads causing this machine to lose its composure. Throw some weight in the back, though, and those heavy-duty cart springs settle right down.
If you’re planning to go off-road then you’ll love the standard-fit rear diff lock (it’s a cost option on a Toyota HiLux) and the rotary dial allowing easy switching from 2WD to 4WD High and 4WD Low (which runs at 3.73:1), meaning it’ll crawl up a hill with the merest whiff of throttle. The fact it’s got a class-leading 800mm fording depth, and decent approach, breakover and departure angles (29-degrees, 25-degrees and 20-degrees, respectively) makes it even more appealing as a weekend warrior. The 237mm of ground clearance doesn’t hurt either.
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS
All up, the Ranger Wildtrak looks the goods whether you’re running it around town or tackling your favourite track. It’s safe (with a 5-star ANCAP rating), and good to drive.