4 x 4 Australia - - Front Page - WORDS PHILIP LORD PHO­TOS PHIL COOPER

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.

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