Ford Ranger Pick-up
|Facts At A Glance|
ENGINE:2.5-litre TDCi diesel 141bhp / 3.0-litre TDCi diesel 154bhp
TOWING CAPACITY:[Braked] 3000kg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Driver andpassenger airbags, seatbelt pretensioners, ABS.
FordRanger Pick-Up Range - CLEAR ANDPRESENT RANGER
Hasthe latest Ford Ranger got the wherewithal to challenge for top honoursin a competitive Pick-Up sector?
America;the land of the free and the home of the pick-up truck. Over there, thepick-up is the single most popular type of vehicle, racking up annualsales equivalent to those of the entire UK car market combined. Lowfuel prices, a surplus of road space and a countrywide adherence to theold ‘bigger is better’ maxim have seen pick-ups grow in size andsuperfluity largely unchecked. Japan could hardly be more different.Wide open space is at a distinct premium and a national obsession withminiaturisation means huge pick-up trucks are hardly de rigueur.
Sowhy is it that in the UK we buy so many of our pick-ups from Japanesemarques while Ford’s Ranger is the solitary mainstream USrepresentative?
Iguess that’s the globalised automotive industry for you and besides,the Ford Ranger is hardly an all-American thoroughbred in any case –it’s manufactured in Thailand. The latest model looks to bemanufactured to an impressively high standard as well. The previousgeneration Ranger was never that close to the cutting edge, even in therelatively low tech environment of the UK pick-up market. The Japanesecontingent, represented most prominently by Mitsubishi’s L200 andNissan’s Pick-Up, always felt more polished than the Ford, althoughthey weren’t necessarily any more capable. Then came the big shake-up.Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi all unveiled new pick-up products whichmoved the game forward significantly. The old Ranger couldn’t hope tocompete on equal terms and the result is the latest model, the one weexamine here.
Onereason why we don’t get too many American market pick-up trucks onthese shores is that they are almost totally unworkable. Ford’sF-Series truck is the top seller stateside but it’s over half a meterlonger than a Ranger and 20cm wider. Suffice to say it’s not ideallysuited to narrow country lanes and even a dual carriageway can feel alittle tight when you’re perched up there behind the wheel. Thesmallest, most fuel efficient engine you can get in an F-Series is a4.2-litre petrol V6 which would incur taxation and running costs togive most UK businesses serious second thoughts. In the UK, we like ourpick-ups on a more rational scale and the Ranger is much better suitedto our needs and sensibilities.
"Fordhaven’t done things by halves with this Ranger"
Today’sRanger is instantly distinguishable from its predecessor. The largerectangular grille is trisected by two thick horizontal bars and framedon each side by big rectangular headlamps. Below, the chunky bumperjuts out from the bodywork with a wide central air intake and deeplyrecessed fog lights. Mitsubishi’s L200 has been credited with addingcurves to the UK pick-up design language but the Ranger remains allstraight lines and angles. Only the bulging wheelarches deviate fromthis setsquare theme and the high window line adds to what is a highlypurposeful look.
Powerfor entry-level models is supplied by a 2.5-litre common-rail injectionengine that is streets ahead of the 2.5-litre direct injection unitfrom the old Ranger. It’s up on power for a start, producing 141bhp asopposed to 108bhp and doing so at a usefully low 2,000rpm. Manyoperators will be more enamoured with the 22% improvement in fueleconomy, however. Torque of 330Nm at 1,800rpm puts the Ranger’spowerplant amongst the best in the class and promises muscularperformance for towing duties and offroad work. The engine features aDual Mass Flywheel which sharpens responses while also reducingvibration and a variable geometry turbocharger is employed to cut turbolag and extend the torque band. If you need more power, there’s a154bhp 3.0-litre engine option available with the higherspec-derivatives and this unit is available with an automatic gearbox.
Thecommon-rail architecture of the Ranger’s engines has intrinsic benefitswhen it comes to the pick-up truck’s old adversaries, noise, vibrationand harshness (NVH) but Ford have also taken additional preventativemeasures. This Ranger is stiffer all round with revised engine and bodymounts to control vibrations being transmitted through the vehicle. Thechassis frame is stronger too with door seals and upgraded insulationalso acting to muffle road noise.
TheRanger’s driving experience has never been of a standard that wasin-keeping with the Blue Oval’s passenger cars. Where the Focus andMondeo lead their respective classes on grounds of steering sharpnessand chassis balance, Ford’s pick-up was always a bit of a blancmange bycomparison. Larger suspension control arms, shock absorbers and springbushes combine with bigger wheels to enhance the ride quality in thelatest version. The spring and damper settings have been speciallytuned to give optimum handling whether the vehicle is laden or unladenand a revised rear stabiliser has been introduced along with animproved hydraulic braking system with ABS on all four wheels. Foroffroad jaunts, ramp and departure angles have been maximised and the4x4 system can be electronically engaged while on the move.
TheRanger’s interior reflects the growing popularity of pick-up trucks asbusiness vehicles that can also double as family transport on weekends.The workmanlike decor in the old Ranger and other previous generationpick-ups can no longer cut it. Angular styling themes are carried overfrom the exterior with chrome detailing very much in evidence. Muchthought has been given to the provision of storage space, there are nofewer than five cup holders, a pull-out tray in the instrument paneland two deep storage bins in the centre console to keep your odds andends in check.
Fordoffer the popular Thunder and Wildtrack high-spec derivatives forbuyers who really want to push the ‘lifestyle’ boat out. Both are wellequipped. The Thunder, for example, features a tubular sports bar tobeef-up the front end, chrome side sills, leather seats, a six CDstereo and air-conditioning, amongst other things. All Ranger modelsget twin front airbags and seatbelt pretensioners with further safetyequipment available from the options list.
Fordhaven’t done things by halves with this Ranger, testing the vehiclerigorously throughout a development process which took engineers toNorthern Thailand, the Nepalese Himalayas, the jungles of Borneo, SouthAfrica’s Kruger National Park, the Australian Outback and the desertsof the United Arab Emirates. It sounds like one long adventure holidaybut we’re assured that plenty of serious testing was done in betweensightseeing and cocktails. You’d hope, therefore, that the Ranger willbe well up to the toughest treatment that the average UK operator isliable to dish out.