Ford Ranger review

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Fed up with EVs? Ford offers an antidote with this gutsy fourth generation Ranger pick-up. Surf shack seekers should form an orderly queue, reckons Jonathan Crouch

Ten Second Review

Ford has re-invented its Ranger pick-up in this fourth generation form with extra attitude and an activity-orientated vibe that really suits it. It's more car-like where it counts - inside - but a proper pick-up in terms of cargo capacity, torque and traction. Want a truck? We think you'll want one of these.

Background

Think of a pick-up and Ford is a name you just can't ignore, the company represented in this growing segment since the turn of the century by this tough, versatile Ranger model. This fourth generation design targets the growing lifestyle part of the pick-up market more directly than ever before, while still keeping the tough capability that will appeal to business operators.

It's shares its design with the second generation Volkswagen Amarok, though Ford has led the engineering of this latest model; this is, after all, a key model for the Blue Oval brand - the Ranger accounts for nearly 40% of the European pick-up market. But it's very much a global product, designed and engineered in Australia, built in South Africa and Thailand and featuring a new 3.0-litre turbo diesel assembled in Dagenham, part of a design versatile enough for export to over 180 countries. Perfect in principle not only for core pick-up customers like farmers, plumbers and jobbing builders but also for the self-employed private people increasingly wanting a vehicle like this as a lifestyle accessory. Let's take a closer look.

Driving Experience

Power for mainstream Rangers comes from much the same 2.0-litre diesel that was found in the previous generation model, though a few modifications for cooling have been made. There's a choice of two single-turbocharged versions and a twin turbo powerplant. Later in production, we'll see a petrol Plug-in hybrid derivative too. At the top of the range is a new 3.0-litre diesel V6, offered in its most potent form in the performance Raptor variant, which puts out 284hp, 74bhp more than before.

The Raptor features an anti-lag system similar to that found on the Focus ST hot hatch, which keeps the turbo spinning three seconds after lift-off, allowing the driver to get back on the power sooner after exiting a corner. Plus the chassis has been substantially revised to improve durability and off road prowess, with reinforcements and fresh mounts, plus extended-travel suspension and special Fox dampers. The Raptor also features an electronically controlled 2-speed transfer case, as well as locking differentials both at the front and rear - and a total of seven different driving modes, three of them for the road and four for rough trail work. Even ordinary Ranger models now get six driving modes.

Depending on the engine you choose, your transmission choices range between a 6-speed manual, a 6-speed automatic or, as in the case of the Raptor, a 10-speed automatic. If you're a typical Ranger owner, you'll want to be putting its all-terrain capability to the test on a pretty regular basis. There's a choice of a couple of different four-wheel-drive systems - switchable and permanent - and Ford claims this MK4 model will be better off road. To that end, there have been design changes to the ladder frame chassis, which include moving the front wheels 50mm further forwards, which extends the wheelbase and has improved the approach angle. Placing the rear dampers outboard of the frame rails has increased articulation too.

Design and Build

This fourth generation Ranger gets a bluff American vibe that customers will like, styling cues borrowed from the brand's US market Bronco SUV and F-150 large pick-up. And bulk quite intimidating enough to frighten away fast lane dawdlers. The broader stance helps too - it's 50mm wider. And there's a bigger radiator grille with a horizontal bar emblazoned with the Ford badge and extending into the eye-catching 'C-clamp' daytime running lamps. LED lights are available at both ends for the first time, the profile features more pronounced wheel arches and the tailgate design has the Ranger name embossed into the metal. As before, the line-up primarily built around a double cab body style. The Raptor version gets a bespoke grille and specially flared wheel arches housing 17-inch alloy wheels shod with chunky all-terrain tyres.

Inside across the Ranger line-up, as you'd expect, it's much more car-like, with more up-market soft touch materials and a fully digital 12.4-inch instrument cluster that adapts its display around the six available driving modes. The centre infotainment monitor is bigger too - 10 or 12-inches, depending on spec. This display has a dedicated screen view for off-roading, providing information on steering angle, vehicle pitch, driveline and roll angles. The gearstick's been changed for a short-throw 'e-shifter': and there's now an electronic parking brake too. The Raptor model features 'jet fighter-inspired' seats, orange trim accents and stitching and paddle shifters fashioned from magnesium.

Market and Model

You can expect similar trim level designations to the previous generation model, which would see 'XT', 'XLT', 'Limited' and 'Wildtrack' variants in the standard range, with the high performance 'Raptor' model at the top of the line-up. Pricing is much as before but of course the top 'Raptor' variant is vastly more expensive; Ford has announced it priced at £57,340.

Across the range, higher tech features are standard or can be added in. Ranger customers can now specify Matrix LED headlights and the included Wi-Fi allows for over-the-air updates. Lesser variants can also add in an optional digital dial pack for the instrument binnacle. Over hundred and 50 accessories are available stop. The top 'Raptor' features a 'Splash Decal Pack' and an exterior 'Raptor Pack', which includes a cab roll-over bar and power roll-top tonneau cover. You can also have your 'Raptor' with bright 'New Code Orange' premium paint.

Customers can create their Ranger using the brand's online configurator, choosing from a wide range of colours; on the Raptor, these include 'Arctic White', 'Blue Lightning' and 'Code Orange'. Plus there's a Raptor Exterior Dress-Up pack and a 'Splash Decal' package. All Rangers can be specified with functional load bars and roller shutters.

Practicalities and Costs

Existing Ranger owners should find this version more practical than its predecessor. Thanks to the 50mm increase in track, the cargo area will now take a full-sized pallet and you can load in a ply sheet flat. There are slots moulded into the bed liner which allow you to make your own load dividers. And Ford continues to offer its 'Cargo Management' system. Removable protective capping prevents excess damage to the tailgate when lifting bikes in and out.

There are some clever touches too. Dual-battery capability allows owners to add a leisure battery under the bonnet for camping trips - and for power tools, which can be connected via a 400w inverter with an AC outlet in the load bed. And there's a neat Zone Lighting System that allows you to turn on individual exterior lights for night activities. The tailgate can be converted into a workbench which has a built in ruler and onto which there's a facility for clamping planks of wood.

There's no sign of efficiency gains through electrification, which is a little disappointing, but a Plug-in Hybrid's promised and the turbo diesel units are class-competitive in their running costs.

Summary

You can't deny that this fourth generation Ranger is a thoroughly engineered product. But is it the first Ford pick-up to truly approach market leadership? We think it might be. It's safe, spacious, clever, able to carry large loads and has engines that get the job done. Whether the need is for active family weekends, or simply to carry workmates with their kit and tools, this rugged do-almost-anything automotive swiss army knife seems to have it covered.

From the back streets of Bangkok to the logging trails of Liberia, you'll find Rangers earning their keep, but the step forward here isn't really a rugged one: this Ford was always tough to break. It's in packaging, design and aesthetics. True, maybe the cabin isn't as car-like as the Blue Oval would like us to think, but it's a big step forward for a vehicle of this kind, aided by technology that'll see Japanese competitors having to play catch-up. When it all comes down to it, the right tool can make child's play of men's work. And if you're looking for the best all-round contender in the pick-up sector right now, then this is the right tool. Job done.

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