MODEL TESTED: Ford Ranger 3.2 TDCI Dou­ble Cab Wild­trak 200PS Auto

PRICE: £35,205 EN­GINE: 3.2-litre 5cyl, 197bhp

Auto Express - - Road Tests -

THE rugged Ford Ranger comes as a reg­u­lar, su­per and dou­ble-cab model, and we’re driv­ing the lat­ter to match its two ri­vals. We test a top-spec Wild­trak, which costs from £35,205 with an auto box (although the model in our pic­tures is a Limited).

DE­SIGN & ENGI­NEER­ING

ALTHOUGH the Ford Ranger Wild­trak comes as stan­dard with a se­lectable four-wheel-drive sys­tem, which lets you change be­tween rear and 4WD us­ing a dial on the cen­tre con­sole, you’ll have to pay an ex­tra £360 for the off-road pack if you want a lock­ing rear dif­fer­en­tial. That pack does also add more un­der­body pro­tec­tion for peace of mind on rough ter­rain.

Chunky all-sea­son mud and snow tyres are fit­ted as stan­dard, too, and th­ese bol­ster the Ranger’s off-road abil­ity. As with its ri­vals, the Ford uses tra­di­tional leaf-sprung rear sus­pen­sion, which al­lows a pay­load ca­pac­ity of 1,059kg.

The Ford’s in­te­rior feels ro­bust, and while it seems nei­ther as up­mar­ket as the Amarok’s nor as hard wear­ing as the L200’s, it strikes a very good bal­ance be­tween the two. It’s helped in Wild­trak form by the long list of stan­dard equip­ment, in­clud­ing leather seats and an im­pres­sive eight-inch in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, which in­cor­po­rates a good level of smart­phone tech.

Wild­trak mod­els also come with some ex­te­rior fea­tures such as a spe­cial roll bar, chrome grille and alu­minium-fin­ish roof rails. They give the truck a pur­pose­ful look, while a rear-view cam­era is stan­dard, too. It’s the best-equipped pick-up here.

DRIV­ING

NONE of our pick-up ri­vals is great to drive, but although the Ford has a brawny feel thanks to its torque-rich 3.2-litre five-cylin­der tur­bod­iesel, it feels ev­ery bit of its 2,211kg kerb­weight. It can’t match the Amarok when it comes to agility or precision on the move – even though this is all rel­a­tive.

While the 470Nm torque fig­ure is strong, the Ford’s weight and some­times slow-wit­ted au­to­matic gear­box mean it falls be­hind its ri­vals when it comes to per­for­mance. Our in-gear tri­als found it lack­ing com­pared with the Amarok and L200, es­pe­cially at high speeds.

In our 50-70mph test, the Ranger recorded a time of 8.1 sec­onds in fifth gear, while the L200 man­aged seven sec­onds flat and the Amarok just 4.7 sec­onds. The Ranger was slow­est from 0-60mph as well, tak­ing 10.8 sec­onds. Still, it doesn’t feel like it’s lack­ing pace, mainly be­cause the torque en­sures the truck makes re­laxed and ad­e­quate progress. The Ford isn’t quite as com­fort­able as the L200 or Amarok on the mo­tor­way, although it is a lit­tle qui­eter than the Volk­swa­gen at high speed.

Gen­er­ous ground clear­ance of 229mm and four-wheel-drive trac­tion helped the Wild­trak per­form well in our off-road tests, and the 800mm wad­ing depth means there’s more scope for deep­wa­ter ex­cur­sions in the Ranger than in ei­ther ri­val.

By com­par­i­son, the off-road set­tings for the Amarok’s per­ma­nent four-wheel-drive sys­tem are more limited, but all three trucks are ver­sa­tile off the tar­mac and should of­fer enough trac­tion when the go­ing gets tough.

PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

EVEN though the Ranger’s load bay isn’t quite as spa­cious as the Amarok’s, it’s still gen­er­ous, at 1.55m by 1.56m. It’s wider be­tween the whee­larches than the L200’s, too, at 1,139mm, but the Amarok’s bed is more spa­cious still at 1,222mm. This means a Euro pal­let fits both ways in the Volk­swa­gen.

The load­ing height for the Ranger is 835mm, which puts it in be­tween the L200’s 850mm and the Amarok’s 780mm. Sim­i­larly, the Ranger’s 12.4m turn­ing cir­cle sits in be­tween its ri­vals’. How­ever, the Ranger’s bulkier body means it feels the largest of the three on the move, and at 5.4m in length the Ford still re­quires a lot of ma­noeu­vring. It’s the long­est model in this test, although not by much; all three trucks feel big and cum­ber­some in tight spots.

OWN­ER­SHIP

A Five-star Euro NCAP rat­ing means safety is ac­cept­able for a pick-up. Yet this dates from 2012, when the test wasn’t as strin­gent. Ford fin­ished lower down the maker’s chart of our Driver Power 2017 cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion sur­vey, in 19th place over­all, which was just be­hind VW’S 14th place. Mit­subishi didn’t fea­ture this year.

How­ever, th­ese re­sults were based mostly on the brands’ pas­sen­ger cars, so the ex­tra engi­neer­ing that’s gone into th­ese trucks means they should all be de­pend­able work­ing ve­hi­cles.

RUN­NING COSTS

WHILE the Ford is the most ex­pen­sive con­tender here to buy for cash (and re­mem­ber, if you’ll be us­ing any of th­ese three pick-ups as a busi­ness ve­hi­cle and are VAT reg­is­tered, you’ll be able to claim this back), it’s bet­ter equipped than ei­ther ri­val. It’s slightly cheaper than the Amarok on our ex­am­ple con­trac­thire deals, too (see Through the Range, op­po­site).

Pick-up buy­ers tend to cus­tomise their ve­hi­cles with ex­tras to make work­ing life eas­ier; the Ford’s op­tions are rel­a­tively well priced, with a tow bar at £300, which is cheaper than £405 for the L200 and £360 for the Amarok. Sim­i­larly, load-bay pro­tec­tion costs £300 in the Ford, but it’s £786 in the Amarok. It’s £244 in the Mit­subishi, though, and the Ranger’s £2,400 hard-top op­tion is a lot pricier than the L200’s £1,651 ver­sion. A ‘truck­man’ body isn’t avail­able on the VW.

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