TOW TEST: FORD RANGER WILDTRAK
We strap a 2.5-tonne caravan to the back of a Ford Ranger and send it to the hills south of Sydney.
FORD’S Ranger Wildtrak is a handy on- and off-road mauler, but can it cope with two sandbags in the tray and more than 2.5-tonnes of caravan strapped to its towball? And not just any caravan, but a class-leading Avida Topaz 7052SL 50th Anniversary edition.
To find out, 4X4 Australia sent it on a 200km loop south out of Sydney on varied roads including inner-city roadblocks, two-lane highways and freeways, winding secondary roads, and plenty of steep climbs and descents.
The Ranger got down to business with its oodles of power and torque (147kw/470nm) making relatively light work of the caravan. On the road, the Ranger is relaxed and quiet at a steady cruise, although the inline-five lets you know when it’s working hard. The six-speed transmission seems to have a big ratio gap between the crucial second and third gearchange, and it takes a while to up-shift after hillclimbs level onto flat terrain.
Using Sport mode makes the Ranger more eager to downshift, but it also holds gears for longer. Manual mode works best, especially for engine braking – the transmission has a predictive mode that downshifts when it senses it is necessary (which works well when not towing), but it doesn’t downshift enough when there’s something weighty on the towball.
The Ford has a wheelbase of 3220mm and a rear axle-totowball stretch of 1330mm to provide a good foundation for stable towing. Also encouraging is the lack of front body rise (just 10mm). Rear suspension compression is more significant (a droop of 80mm).
The Ford is only marginally affected by crosswinds, large trucks (with their destabilising bow wave of air) or yaw (sway) when changing direction or braking. Body pitching is minimal and the Ranger rides smoothly with the big box on its tail.
The Ranger’s reversing camera screen incorporates a centreline marker to help line up the towball, and it works really well. Helping ease sway anxiety is the Ranger’s standard trailer sway control, although we never needed to rely on its help.
Making life easier for those who need to power accessories in their caravan, the Ranger comes standard with a 12-pin plug.
The Ranger’s side mirror casings have a lot of flex in them around the lip where the towing mirror brackets are secured. This meant the towing mirrors vibrated a lot, making them hard to use at speed. Permanent-fit, truck-style towing mirrors would fix this.
The 147kw/470nm Ranger makes light work of the 2.5t Topaz.