Ford Ranger Thunder Pick-up
|Facts At A Glance|
ENGINES:2.5/3.0-litre TDCi diesels 141/154bhp
TOWING CAPACITY:[Braked] 3,000kg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Driver andpassenger airbags, seatbelt pretensioners, ABS.
FordRanger Thunder - STORM IN A PICK-UP
Atthe top of Ford’s Ranger line-up, the Thunder model needs to perform onwork and family duties.
Thepick-up is an intriguing breed of vehicle. Despite well-meaningattempts at domesticating it for use by company car user choosers andlifestyle-orientated family buyers, it remains stubbornlyunsophisticated and just a little agricultural. In a way, that’s allpart of its charm. Ford’s Ranger Thunder tags on all the bells,whistles and cosmetic refinements but it’s still a working vehicle atheart, just as it should be.
UKmarket pick-up trucks have come on leaps and bounds over the last fewyears. Partly because manufacturers realised the potential formarketing them as leisure vehicles to the kind of active individualswho could reduce a plush family 4x4 to an irreparably dog-eared family4x4 within a few months of ownership. The pick-up is made of sternerstuff than any Chelsea tractor thanks to its commercial vehicle remitand, being classified as a commercial vehicle, it’s also a veryaffordable option for company car users and businesses.
Somebuyers, of course, just want a pick-up for work duties and that’s whyvehicles like Ford’s Ranger will always be a slightly sub-optimalcompromise between comfort and durability, rugged mechanicals andon-road finesse. The top manufacturers alleviate this problem byoffering a range of pick-up products with good honest low spec, singlecab models at one extreme and show pony double cabs with plenty ofchrome and tons of equipment at the other. This Ford Ranger Thunderfalls into the later category.
Themodern crop of pick-ups have also been designed with more emphasisplaced on refinement and composure for on-road driving but Ford’sRanger hasn’t. It’s a modified version of the model that has been inservice since 1999. Don’t let that put you off, Ford’s far-reachingimprovements moved the Ranger up in class to the extent that it canhold its own against class leaders like the Hilux from Toyota andNissan’s Navara.
"Ifyou want understated, you don’t want a Ranger Thunder"
Wecould quite justifiably drop a shoulder and sidestep the issue ofstyling if this were any other kind of commercial vehicle but it’s not,were talking high-end pick-ups and looks matter. The Ranger Thunder’slarge rectangular grille is trisected by two thick horizontal bars andframed on each side by big rectangular headlamps. Below, the chunkybumper juts out from the bodywork with a wide central air intake anddeeply recessed fog lights. It’s a neat look that doesn’t go over thetop. The Thunder derivative is the set apart from lesser Rangers by its16" alloy wheels, chrome lower grille extension, chrome mirrors andchrome door handles. Oh yes, it also has the word ‘Thunder’ discreetlyplastered down its flank in four inch high lettering.
Ifyou want understated, you don’t want a Ranger Thunder but climb insideand you’ll find that the interior is a surprisingly classy piece ofwork. You sit low to the vehicle’s floor which makes for the kind ofdriving position you’d expect in a coupe but compounds the problem oflegroom in the back. The Ranger features sculpted front seatbacks tomaximise knee room in the rear but passengers in the six foot bracketwill still be forced to travel in something approaching the squatposition. On the plus side, headroom is plentiful while the Thunder’sleather seats are wide and firm.
Wheremost pick-ups are fairly lacklustre when it comes to storage space, theRanger is very generously equipped. A large hole carved into the fasciain front of the gearstick is ideal for CDs, there are three deep potsfor holding cups or oddments and a deep bin resides between the seatsready to swallow larger items through a disappointingly flimsy flip-toplid.
Thesilver control panel is the focal point of the interior and the chunky,solid-feeling controls are easy to fathom. The Thunder models also geta 6-disc CD stereo unit that integrates well with the rest of thedesign. Only the lever control for the ventilation system, that peepsapologetically from underneath the control panel, and the pull-outhandbrake hint at the Ranger platform’s advancing years. Othernoteworthy inclusions on the Thunder model are the rear parkingsensors, the air-conditioning and the dash top Multi-meter with itscompass, thermometer and displays showing the vehicle’s current pitchand roll angles.
Thedash-top roll angle display is an interesting inclusion, given thepick-up truck’s well-documented tendency for cornering like a teaclipper. It tends to highlight the dynamic shortcomings because as youlurch round a tight bend, there’s always the urge to glance across andcheck your reading. The Ranger is still some way behind the class bestin terms of body control but no pick-up is known for its finesse ontarmac and the general ride quality of this Ranger is superior to theprevious model. The problem is derived from the basic requirement for apick-up to carry around 1,000kg (the Ranger Thunder can manage a1,175kg maximum payload) and perform well off-road. A lofty rideheight, crude differentials and heavy duty suspension with leaf springsat the rear do not a flawless dynamic package make. On poorly-surfacedroads a family of four in a Ranger can sometimes look like they’ve hadgroup neck transplants from those parcel-shelf nodding dogs. It’sdefinitely bouncy but kids seem to absolutely love it.
Theengines in the Ranger Thunder will be a revelation to anyone who drovethe old model or indeed, any of the previous generation of pick-ups.Both are modern TDCi common-rail diesel units 2.5-litres and 3.0-litresin capacity. The power is more than adequate with 141bhp to call uponfrom the smaller unit and torque of 330Nm at only 1,800rpm makes forstrong acceleration where you want it. If you need more power, there’sa 154bhp 3.0-litre engine option that’s available as an automatic. Thedays when flooring the throttle in a pick-up led to a crescendo ofengine noise and little else are gone with the Ranger delivering fastand strong responses to right foot inputs. There’s still vibrationthrough the gear lever and some harshness at idle but the Thunder’srumble is largely well suppressed.
Thesteering is vague with a turn of the wheel resulting in the swollenbonnet wandering belatedly into line a second or so later but it kindof suites the Ranger’s relaxed character. It definitely doesn’tencourage you to drive quickly, especially in 2WD mode where the rearwheels are happy to break traction with very little provocation. Slipthe transfer box lever alongside the gearstick into 4WD and thehandling feels much more secure.
TheFord Ranger Thunder may not be the most modern package in the UKlifestyle pick-up market but Ford have successfully masked this. Theengine is as good as anything else out there and while the ride andhandling can’t quite compete with the very top contenders, no pick-upcan count on-road dynamics as a forte. The interior is very nicelydone, with a touch of class and good durability. The loadbay is largeand practical and the styling is bold enough to attract buyers lookingto make a statement. It’s a lifestyle pick-up that does what you’dexpect with a little extra flourish.