IT SEEMS EVERYBODY WANTS TO BUY A RANGER THESE DAYS, AND THE WILDTRAK IS THE ONE WITH THE LOT.
THE RANGER is Ford’s runaway success story. It’s currently Australia’s most popular 4x4, ending Hilux’s 12-year reign as the 4x4 sales champion. For Ford, the Ranger’s success is even better illustrated by how it sells against other Ford models. To the end of June 2017 Ford sold 21,638 Rangers, including 3075 4x2 models. Ford’s next-best seller was the Mustang with 5048 sales, followed by the Focus with 3243 sales, and it’s all downhill after that.
What makes the Ranger so popular? Well, a few things, starting with its engine.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
LIKE most Rangers, the Wildtrak is powered by a 3.2-litre fivecylinder diesel; although, there is a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel available in base-grade models. This five-cylinder engine does much to define the character of the Ranger and is certainly the key behind most of the things it does well.
This is a big, low-revving engine; the biggest here despite having less cylinders than the Amarok, and the one least willing to rev. Not that it needs to rev to get the job done, as it’s so strong from idle and in the mid-range. It also has a unique feel and sound, completely different from the two fours (which are also different from each other) and the Amarok’s V6. With an uneven number of cylinders you may think it wouldn’t be a smooth-running engine, but that’s far from the case. Aside from an initial lumpiness at idle it feels as smooth, if not smoother, than the two fours, which can be a bit buzzy in comparison at higher engine speeds.
The Ranger’s engine is backed by an agreeable six-speed ZF gearbox that generally does all you want and nothing you don’t want. The engine’s solid low-rpm torque and not overly tall final-drive gearing also means it holds sixth at touring speeds without question on undulating roads, and it even hangs on to the taller gears well in the hilly stuff.
If there’s one thing not to like about the Ranger’s powertrain it’s that it consistently uses around 10 per cent more fuel than most competitor utes; although, that may be more due to the fact the Ranger, along with the BT-50, is bigger and heavier than most of the opposition.
ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING
THE RANGER’S electric power steering (EPS) makes light work of manoeuvring what is the longest and one of the heaviest vehicles here, and it’s especially welcome in tight parking situations. Once under way, however, the Ranger’s steering firms up nicely to provide plenty of feel and feedback at open-road speeds.
Nicely sorted suspension, too, which helps give the Wildtrak an agreeable ride – even unladen – and reassuring stability on bumpy roads, something no doubt helped by the extra-long wheelbase. Where the Wildtrak is more than 3.2 metres, all the others are less than 3.1 metres.