Ford Ranger

FORD RANGER With its ‘big’ 3.2 five-cylin­der en­gine, the Ford Ranger looks to have a head­start when it comes to car­ry­ing and tow­ing

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

LOAD TEST

The Ranger comes into the con­test from its 2015 mid-gen­er­a­tion re­fresh that saw sev­eral sig­nif­i­cant me­chan­i­cal changes, all of which made it a bet­ter ve­hi­cle. What hasn’t changed is that, along with the Mazda, it has the big­gest en­gine, the most num­ber of cylin­ders, the long­est wheel­base and the high­est GVM and GCM.

The Ranger has six de­cent-sized tie-down hooks in the tub, which made it easy to se­cure our 800kg pal­let. All the oth­ers bar the Mazda have four tie-down eyes, and some aren’t as ac­com­mo­dat­ing as oth­ers for larger strap hooks.

With that load on, the Ranger’s rear ride height dropped 60mm, which is an equal ‘best’ re­sult of the seven utes.

Tak­ing into ac­count the weight of driver, ob­server and tow­bar (170kg in to­tal), the 970kg pay­load is just 30kg shy of the top-spec Wild­trak’s max and around 160kg short of the XL, the light­est of the Ranger 4x4 dual-cab pick-ups.

The Ranger’s en­gine dealt with the 800kg in the tub as good, if not bet­ter, than any­thing else. In fact, it was hardly trou­bled up the hill and didn’t need to hold on to the lower gears ex­ces­sively, nor rev too high, to get the job done.

The fact that, along with the Mazda, it has the largest ca­pac­ity en­gine in this Ute Tow Test and the most num­ber of cylin­ders gives it a head start.

It also feels stronger than the Mazda thanks to the 2015 up­date that in­cluded a new low-in­er­tia turbo and changes to the fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem, both of which were aimed at im­prov­ing the en­gine’s low rpm re­sponse.

Un­for­tu­nately, Mazda didn’t in­sti­gate th­ese changes to its oth­er­wise me­chan­i­cally sim­i­lar BT-50.

Those same changes also bought a qui­eter en­gine, an­other area where the Ranger gen­er­ally stands out in this com­pany.

The fact that the Ranger doesn’t need to rev as hard as some of the oth­ers when car­ry­ing a load also helps in mak­ing it qui­eter and more re­laxed.

For its part, the six-speed au­to­matic is also un­fussed by the ex­tra weight – al­though, on the hill, de­scent was re­luc­tant to au­to­mat­i­cally down­shift even with brake prompt­ing, and needed in­ter­ven­tion via the ‘man­ual’ tip-shift.

The Ranger’s chas­sis also coped as well, if not bet­ter than, any here. As men­tioned, there was min­i­mum droop at the rear, so the ride at­ti­tude wasn’t no­tice­ably ‘nose-up’, and at no stage over the bumps did the rear sus­pen­sion feel to bot­tom out.

Notable here is the Ranger’s elec­tric power steer­ing which was part of the 2015 up­date and, again, some­thing not adopted by Mazda for the BT-50. With the ex­tra weight on board, the next-tono steer­ing ef­fort at park­ing speeds is a def­i­nite bonus.

TOW TEST

The Ranger is al­most sin­gle-hand­edly re­spon­si­ble for the tow ca­pac­ity arms race. The cur­rent plat­form lobbed with big power, big torque and good looks. It took the segment by storm and sent some of the com­pe­ti­tion scur­ry­ing back to the draw­ing board.

The Ranger feels like a big truck even when empty. This in­spires some con­fi­dence when it comes to putting a big load on its hitch. Our test trailer dragged the bum of the XLT earth­wards slightly, but noth­ing star­tling.

The 3.2-litre five-pot sur­prised with a burly note as we idled onto our hill climb cir­cuit. It’s the first time I’d re­ally heard a hairy chested bur­ble from the diesel donk.

Plant­ing the foot re­ally saw the Ranger hun­ker down and haul. The last up­date for the Ranger saw a new turbo and in­jec­tion sys­tem plumbed into the en­gine bay. That 470Nm is on tap ear­lier, and the Ford does an ex­cel­lent job of get­ting power to the ground in good time.

The leaf spring rear end of the Ranger holds up well with­out too much shimmy and shake. It feels planted and sta­ble on the road. While I’m guilty of not be­ing a huge fan of the Ford’s elec­tric power steer­ing in the bush, it cer­tainly makes the busi­ness of hold­ing a heavy trailer steady a hell of a lot eas­ier.

The six-speed auto needs to be prompted to down­shift on loaded de­scents, but the ex­tra cubes of the big oiler come in handy for ex­tra en­gine brak­ing ef­fect.

Drop-down tail­gates make load­ing by fork­lift tougher

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