Just like one of the fam­ily

Mums and dads are help­ing to make the hi-tech Ranger the top-selling Ford in Aus­tralia, JOSH DOWL­ING says.

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE -

MEET the new Aussie car. It’s a four-door, four-wheel-drive ute that can be used as a work­horse dur­ing the week and as fam­ily trans­port on week­ends and hol­i­days.

The new Ford Ranger was de­signed and en­gi­neered from the ground up in Aus­tralia — and we can’t buy enough of them.

The Ranger is the top-selling Ford in Aus­tralia (and has been for the past 2½ years), selling at five times the rate of the lo­cally made Fal­con sedan and triple the rate of the Ter­ri­tory SUV.

Mar­ket­ing ex­perts reckon part of the rea­son be­hind the suc­cess of these new­gen­er­a­tion utes is that mums and dads got tired of kids’ bikes, boo­gie boards and the like ru­in­ing the in­te­rior and the roof lin­ing of their SUVs.

The new fo­cus on fam­i­lies is one of the rea­sons the new Ford Ranger is the most tech­ni­cally ad­vanced ute among its peers.

Tech­nol­ogy that was re­cently only ac­ces­si­ble on lux­ury cars is now avail­able on the up­dated Ford Ranger, such as lane de­par­ture warn­ing, lane-keep­ing as­sis­tance (it will cor­rect the steer­ing to stop you drift­ing from the lane) and radar cruise con­trol that main­tains a gap with the car ahead.

There is just one catch: the tech­nol­ogy pack that gives the new Ford Ranger brag­ging rights is op­tional. Even on the two most ex­pen­sive mod­els, which range from $55,000 to $60,000, it costs be­tween $600 and $1100. And a rear cam­era is still only stan­dard on one of the 37 vari­ants of the new Ford Ranger.

The new Ranger is not ex­actly cheap as it stands. Prices have risen across the board, by be­tween $700 and $3700 depend­ing on the model.

But it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how long Ford can main­tain its price pre­mium amid a horde of newer mod­els.

New Ford Ranger is only new from the wind­screen for­ward.

It also gets a new dash­board, steer­ing wheel, in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem and a few other mod cons, in­clud­ing au­to­matic emer­gency 000 di­alling if the airbags are de­ployed in a crash.

Though this gen­er­a­tion of Ranger was re­leased in Oc­to­ber 2011 and the ve­hi­cle is now at or just past the half­way mark in its life cy­cle, there are some note­wor­thy changes un­der the skin.

The first thing you’ll no­tice if you’re up­dat­ing from the cur­rent Ranger is the steer­ing is much lighter.

Ford has joined the grow­ing num­ber of car­mak­ers mov­ing to elec­tric power steer­ing (rather than hy­draulic).

The cabin of the dearer mod­els looks great but the ba­sic mod­els are a step back­wards.

At least all mod­els are func­tional, with two 12V sock­ets, one USB port and a 230V house­hold socket across the dou­ble-cab and su­per-cab vari­ants.

The 3.2-litre diesel five­cylin­der en­gine has new, qui­eter in­jec­tors. The 2.2-litre four-cylin­der diesel doesn’t get the qui­eter in­jec­tors, un­for­tu­nately, but it’s still rel­a­tively perky — un­til you add a de­cent load.

On the road, the Ranger feels the same as be­fore (no changes were made to the sus­pen­sion).

It is still one of the most sure­footed to drive, sec­ond only to the Volk­swa­gen Amarok.

The sus­pen­sion can feel a lit­tle firm on some sur­faces, but that’s be­cause the heavy-duty springs in the rear won’t sag when you’re tow­ing or car­ry­ing a heavy load.

The Ford Ranger is still one of the best utes on the mar­ket, but has blot­ted its copy­book with most mod­els lack­ing a rear-view cam­era.

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