By Franky Johnson
Ford’s 4x4 Ranger pick-up, launched in South Africa back in November last year, got a fresh look and new engines for 2016.
The refreshed line-up comprises a massive of 33 models spanning Single Cab, Super Cab, Double Cab and Wildtrak, with the top of the range Wildtrak 3.2 double cab 4x4 automatic being the model we feature in this road test.
The new Ranger continues to be built at Ford's Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria with the Duratorq TDCi engines manufactured at the Struandale Engine Plant in Port Elizabeth.
Changes to the new Ranger begin with an updated exterior design, with a more muscular hood that flows into a strong new trapezoidal grille, which connects with the chiselled projector headlamps, to accentuate the new Ranger's width and strong stance.
Viewed from the side, the Ranger Double Cab Wildtrak Auto has twin aluminium roof rails, and rides on chunky 6-hole anthracite and alloy wheels which on the press vehicle were shod with Conti Cross contact 265/60R18 tyres.
Inside the leather covered padded dash, the black and tan leather upholstered seats enhanced by using saddle stitching, plus the addition of Wildtrak aluminium “kick-plates” as you open a door, add a touch of luxury to the Wildtrak interior, virtually matching that of a premium sedan.
Strong horizontal lines run across the width of the cab, giving a sense of spaciousness, creating a clear distinction between the upper and lower levels, and placing the focus on the central eight-inch touch-screen on the high-spec models.
Behind the steering wheel, a new dual-TFT instrument cluster provides drivers with information about the vehicle, as well as entertainment and cellphone features at a glance.
The driver’s seat is comfortable and easy to adjust, along with a generous amount of height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel. The double cab Wildtrak provides space in the back for two adults to sit comfortably, with plentiful head and leg room, although, the rear of the cabin feels rather more functional in quality than the front.
A host of cutting-edge technologies are available on the new Ford Ranger Wildtrak Double cab to help drivers stay connected and in control. SYNC®2 is the latest generation of Ford's in-car connectivity system. Using natural voice commands, like "temperature 20 degrees", "play AC/DC" or "call John", the driver can control the car's climate controls, entertainment system and phone functions more easily, while an eight-inch touch-screen places more controls at the driver's fingertips, with colour-coded corners for easy menu navigation.
For extra convenience, the new Ranger Wildtrak is fitted with a 240-volt power socket that can be used to power a laptop computer or mobile device anywhere, from a work site to a family road trip.
There is also an array of driver assist technologies which includes electronic driver aids such as Electronic Stability Program, ABS, Traction Control, Hill Launch Assist, Hill Descent Control, Adaptive Load Control and Trailer Sway Control, while ABS includes Emergency Brake Assistance and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution.
Also standard on the Wildtrak is the Lane Keeping Alert and Lane Keeping Aid, Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Alert, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Driver Impairment Monitor, as well as Front and Rear Parking sensors.
The new Ranger Wildtrak Double cab is powered by Ford's newly upgraded 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi five-cylinder diesel engine producing 147 kW at 3 000 rpm and 470 Nm of torque from 1 500 rpm and which Ford claim will help to improve fuel efficiency by up to 18 percent. Power is transferred to the road via a new 6-speed automatic transmission
For off-road excursions, the electronically controlled transfer case will allow the driver of the Wildtrak 4x4 to shift on the fly from 4x2 to 4x4 high via a knob on the centre console. For low-speed torque or additional downhill control, drivers can also engage low-range 4x4 gearing, while an electronic locking rear differential helps to improve traction in difficult conditions. These off-road strengths are matched to a towing capability of up to 3 500 kg and impressive payload capacity.
For extreme off road conditions, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak has an excellent water wading depth of 800 mm, a 230 mm ground clearance, a 28-degree approach angle and a 25-degree departure angle, so one should be quite confident to take on even very steep obstacles. Standing high off the road means one needs to use the “A” pillar grab handle to help climb into the cab, but entry and exit to the Wildtrak is made easy by having side steps.
Once seated in the cab, press the start button and the engine fires up immediately with the familiar diesel sound softly heard in the cabin. Slot the automatic gearbox into “drive” and in 4x2 mode sending power to the rear wheels, the Wildtrak pulls smoothly away.
In the 0 to 100 km acceleration tests, after a slight hesitation on take-off, the Wildtrak pulls strongly off the line and passes the 100 km/h mark in 4th gear in just on 11 seconds. The auto ’box shifts through its ratios smoothly and is keen to select higher ratios in search of better fuel efficiency at a cruise. Hefty throttle inputs never result in the engine sounding strained.
Travelling on the highway at a steady 120 km/h in 6th gear the motor turns at just 2 000 rpm The Ranger Wildtrak double cab is a big vehicle, but with its well weighted electric power steering and good turning circle for its size, it actually feels very car-like to drive and with its front and rear parking sensors, is light and manageable for low-speed manoeuvring, and is easy to park.
Ford engineers have done a great job with the suspension, and the Ranger has a better ride and even better handling than any other double cab I driven. Additionally, the new Ranger now comes with advanced sound-deadening materials and improved insulation to make it one of the quietest and most comfortable cabin interiors in its class.
In selecting 4x4H mode, the Ranger had no difficulty in clearing all the obstacles on our test track. Even large off-road ruts didn’t un-settle the Ranger.
The recommended retail selling price of the new Ford Ranger 3.2 double cab 4x4 Wildtrak auto is R597 900 as of July 2016 which includes a four-year/120 000 km comprehensive warranty, a five-year/100 000km service plan, three-year/unlimited km roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty, with service intervals every 20 000 km. Also included is a free 4x4 training course.