THE FORD RANGER IS AUSTRALIA’S SECOND-BEST-SELLING 4X4, AND IT’S CLOSING IN ON THE EVER-POPULAR HILUX.
THE Ford Ranger PX first appeared in late 2011, and despite carrying over the name of its predecessor it was in fact an all-new ute. Most significantly, its design and development was headquartered here in Australia. The Ranger underwent a major facelift in mid-2015, with revised front-end styling and interior changes including a new dashboard and larger multi-function touchscreen. More significant were the mechanical upgrades, including a more efficient turbo for faster spool-up, new fuel injectors, changes to the cylinder head, and various other measures to improve engine performance and NVH. Electric power steering also replaced the previous hydraulically assisted unit, while the electronic control of the 4x4 system was significantly enhanced. For example, when you engage the rear locker the electronic traction control remains active on the front axle, whereas before it was cancelled both front and rear.
Interestingly, none of these changes were made to the Mazda BT-50. Initially the BT-50 was a near identical twin to the Ford Ranger, but it’s now notably different and not as good.
Ford also successfully addressed the crook shift action of the six-speed manual with the 2015 upgrade, but our choice is still the sixspeed automatic. For spec level we would then go for the XLT, as it brings sat-nav, a bigger eight-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate, a centre-console cooler, rear parking sensors, auto wipers, sports bar and a 12-volt outlet in the tub.
The most notable thing about the Ranger is that it’s a big ute in just about every sense. Along with the BT-50 it has the longest wheelbase, the longest cabin and the biggest engine: a 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel where smaller four-cylinder turbo-diesels are the class norm. It also has a class-leading GVM and tow rating.
On the road the engine delivers effortless performance without having to rev hard, and it has a particularly relaxed and smooth gait at highway speeds. The engine mates nicely to the six-speed auto.
By ute standards the Ranger handles and rides well on-road, while the new electric power steering makes for much easier lowspeed manoeuvring both in car parks and in tight off-road situations.
The Ranger is right up there at the pointy end of the field when off-road, thanks in part to its recent revisions. If you want a big ute that can do it all, it’s hard to go past the Ranger XLT auto.