Reviews

Ford Ranger ute

Ford’s Ranger XLT 4x4 is very easy to live with, competent off-road, and well-up to some serious hard graft as a working ute

  • Refined, torquey 3.0-litre turbo-diesel
  • Class leading towing-capacity
  • Useful behind-seats space (and extra seating) in Double Cab
  • Nicely designed interior, appealing trims
  • Stiff, robust chassis

Engineering and appearance

The Ranger comes in 2WD and 4WD with 17 different model variants and three levels for the 4x4s; XL, XLT and the uber-ute, the Wildtrack. The XLT Double Cab Wellside TDCi 3.0-litre diesel is mated to the five-speed auto and class-leading towing capacity (2500kg braked).

Ford’s TDCi 3.0-litre DOHC in-line four-cylinder Duratorq diesel in the XLT is a beauty. With four valves per cylinder, common-rail electronic injection, and turbo with intercooler, it’s strong, spins freely, and, when warm, is the smoothest in the business.

Both the 3.0 litre and 2.5 litre turbo TDCi Duratorq diesels (the smaller unit in the 4×2 part of the range) come with variable-geometry turbo technology. The 3.0 litre, with 380Nm at a very accessible 1800rpm, is particularly lively. When in 2WD mode it can be a little too lively, lighting up the rear tyres easily off the lights and a bit too easily in the wet.

Dulling the output a little for the test vehicle was Ford’s five-speed auto transmission. While more work-minded users might prefer manual, the transmission in the Ranger is easy enough to live with.

Off road, the Ranger has ample torque underfoot for picking a path up a steep pinch and the five-speed auto also comes with ‘shift-on-the-fly’ capability between 2WD, 4WD-high and 4WD-low.

Helping things off-road is a torque-sensing limited slip differential in the rear axle. Keeping things pinned to terra firma are independent double wishbones up front, with torsion-bar, 32mm gas shocks and stabiliser bar. At the rear is a semi-floating axle with multi-leaf springs, 32mm gas shocks and stabiliser bar.

Brakes for 4×4 models are disc front and drum rear: 289mm discs with dual opposed piston calipers, and 295mm rear drums. XLT and Wildtrack models come with ABS as standard with them as an option on XL models.

Having stuck to the same format year in and year out, its safe to say that the Ranger’s age is starting to show. It looks narrower and the internals are more dated than some of the others in its class. It also feels smaller at the wheel.

That said, there is nothing wrong with the Ranger’s style and the ute overall looks better in the metal.

There are enlarged side mirrors (that can be folded into the body), chrome door handles, 16-inch alloys (standard on the XLT), clear tail-lights and over-fender arches with integrated mud-flaps.

Importantly, at 1530mm x 1459mm, the rear tub of the Double Cab is a good size for all your tools and construction equipment or for carrying the trail-bikes or ATV out to the off-road park in the weekends.

The interior

The materials are good, controls are logical and well-placed for easy use – it’s neat, logical and understated.

The front seats are a bit shapeless, but comfortable enough with hard-wearing fabrics and reasonable support.

In the XLT Double Cab, the rear seats are too small and cramped for adults if travelling any distance. That said, the large space back there is ideal for carrying tool boxes, work gear or the kit for trail bikes. It is also easy to access thanks to those rear doors.

The handbrake, an under-dash umbrella-type, is a little out of place and not ideal for use off road with the manual. (It’s not such an issue with the auto we were driving.)

The XLT (and Wildtrack) comes with side airbags as standard in addition to driver and passenger airbags; cruise control is also standard. The audio system, with CD and radio, also comes with an aux-in plug for iPod/MP3 players across the range.

Performance and handling

The Ford Ranger is one of the more refined working utes and keeps road roar and wind-noise at bay.

There is oodles of power for overtaking, the steering doesn’t ‘track’ and tug at the wheel on dodgy roads, and, although firm, only a really dodgy road will have you bouncing about.

The suspension lacks a little travel and articulation for dealing with deep ruts and wash-outs. It will hang a wheel up when the track starts to get seriously out of shape.

I also discovered the standard-issue dual-purpose tyres are not up to a wet bush track. The tight tread pattern fills almost immediately with mud and will leave you spinning despite the standard limited-slip diff. And also not too flash on wet tarmac either; coupled with a heavy foot and a twisty road the back will step out every time.

For shifting a fridge, transporting a load of feed or picking up an ATV, the deep bed of the Ranger with convenient tie-down hooks and tub-liner, is ideal.

With a load like this in the back, the diesel engine hardly notices, but the suspension and ride is transformed.

Lastly, with a combination of motorway work, off-road and some suburban haulage, I managed a healthy 10.6 litres/100km for the combined cycle.

 

To read in-depth farm machinery and vehicle reviews, see the latest issue of Farm Trader magazine, on sale now.

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Specifications

Engine type 4cyl Turbo Diesel DOHC 16 Valve
Displacement 2953cc
Gearbox Five-speed Auto
Max power 115kW@3200rpm
Max torque 380Nm@1800rpm
Suspension front Double Wishbone
Suspension rear Leaf
Brakes front Ventilated Disc, ABS
Brakes rear Drum, ABS
Tyres front / rear 245/70/16
Turning circle 12.6m
Wheelbase 3000
Ground clearance 214 (4×4)
Dimensions 5173 L x 1788W x 1762 H

 

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