During the early 1970’s on Australia’s ABC television network, there was a program called “Aunty Jack”. The theme song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnEOr1MgwTM) featured a line that went “…you’re big, bold and tough….”. This more than describes Ford’s 3.2 litre, five cylinder diesel Ranger Wildtrak, one of 21 variations on the Ranger theme. Longer than the USS Enterprise, taller than Everest and gruntier than Godzilla, it wasn’t merely parked in A Wheel Thing’s garage, it dominated the landscape, created its own weather and was given its own postcode. But with that brawn comes a measure of finesse and a dash of style mixed with a lack of stress.
At a mammoth 5351 mm long, with a turning circle just shy of 13 metres, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a slug, in both speed and handling. Nay not so, good people. There’s a Batman stopping 470 Nm on tap from a subterranean 1500 rpm, topping out at 2750 while the ponies are 147kW at 3000 rpm. These two conspire to give the Ranger a healthy kick in its backside when the loud pedal is pressed, thanks to a variable geometry turbo. And, yes, with such a large engine, it’s somewhat trucklike audibly when pressed. Does it boogie though? Indeedy. It brings back that horrible sense of diesel rattle under load but inspires with the sense of urgency that torque can bring. Refinement and noise insulation will do wonders, however, as it’s such a wonderfully relaxed powerplant, everyday and hard bush driving leave the driver feeling as if that effort hasn’t been as hard as it sounded.
Plush, comfortable, well supported leather clad seats, highlighted with red piping and mesh inserts, are part of the story; a less than expected jiggly ride and quietness on the highway ease the mental and physical load. Electric adjustment, side mounted airbags, a clean looking interior and logically laid out dash ease the burden on the driver. A simple and classy design ethic go a long way to reducing the truck like impression; switch gear is easy, ergonomic and untroubling to use, the switchable four wheel drive system knob has a soft touch feel. There’s three 12V power sources, rain sensing wipers, USB/Bluetooth, even heated front seats next to a cooling centre console. A five inch colour screen shows navigation, radio with audio of good quality whilst the central console is easily read. Interior room is huge, with over 1400 mm of shoulder room while rear seat passengers enjoy 900 mm of legroom. The exterior is handsome enough for the kind of vehicle it is; a smooth though bluff front flowing through to a tray that could double as an Olympic swimming pool; complete with tub lining it’d also make a great super sized esky. An aluminuim roller cover completes the setup.
On the road the Ranger is solid, well planted and quiet at freeway speed, with the low revs and six speed auto emitting barely a thrum. The leaf sprung rear end does get unsettled and noticeably so when faced with short, sharp bumps or uneven roads. A Wheel Thing took the Ranger Wildtrak to a bush road north east of Lithgow, on the western fringe of the Blue Mountains in Sydney’s west. Mostly composed on a mud and gravel road, there was some slippage and skipping when a good sized hump came into play. Steering is light enough, direct and with a good amount of talkback through the tiller from the tyres fitted to the 18 inch alloys, the Ranger keeps the driver informed. Safety is on board with Stability Control, Hill Launch Assist and Descent Control whilst offroad ability is kept sensible with a wading depth of 800mm and close to 30 degrees for approach and departure for slopes.
At 2200 kilos, the Ranger Wildtrak is no lightweight. Whilst a battleship has a tighter turning circle, there’s plenty of room. While noisy when pressed, it’s quiet enough for Chinese Whispers when in cruise mode.
With an earth rotational stopping torque figure and a solid ladder bar chassis offering up to 3500 kg towing, it’s family and business friendly, plus, priced at just over $57k it value packs tech and brawn into its larger than life frame. With the additional benefit of capped price servicing (near $400 at 15000km), the dollars are easily forgotten while the enjoyment lasts.