TRUE BLUE

THE FORD RANGER IS AUS­TRALIA’S SEC­OND-BEST-SELL­ING 4X4, AND IT’S CLOS­ING IN ON THE EVER-POP­U­LAR HILUX.

4 x 4 Australia - - Driven -

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.

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