Ford‘s big and (in 4wd configuration) off road capable ute, the Ranger, comes in many forms. There’s two doors, four doors, cab chassis, trayback style, petrol diesel, maual and auto. It’s been a big success and has spawned the Everest SUV. A Wheel Thing takes on an old favourite, (2012 Ford Ranger Wildtrak) the Wildtrak 3.2L diesel with six speed auto.There’s plenty of grunt from the five cylinder engine, with a whopping 470 Nm of torque between 1750 and 2500 rpm. There’s 280 torques already on tap at just over 1000 rpm. Peak power, 147 kW, arrives at 3000, meaning that it’s a low stress engine at the best of times. The easy natured auto slurs its way through the ratios without fuss and without noticeable changes, even when pushed hard.
As the dash features two electronic screens either side of the analogue speedo, you have a choice of information available, including a digital tacho, which is generally the only time you’ll see something indicate a gear change. There’s an audible change, but under light acceleration barely noticeable. Economy? Ford quotes 9.0L/100 kilometres for the combined cycle.
Staying with the utalitarian idealism of the Ranger, there’s no paddle shifts to complement the sports shift mode. There’s also no push button Start/Stop, no window blinds and no rear aircon vents from the centre console. A sunroof is conspicuous by its absence…USB and Auxiliary ports are located in a low set compartment ahead of the gear selector but none in the console storage locker.
There are two 12V sockets in the front, one in the rear and a 230V socket as well, handy for a car fridge or other eletrical items whilst on the go. Glovebox wise, it’s big, deep, with enough room to hold a laptop. The ergonomics of the dash, where the aircon controls are (set low down well out of a safe eyeline), initially seemed out of whack, until you realise that there’s the touchscreen holding more controls.
Fan speed, temperature, seat heating, dual or single zone, they’re all controled from here, as are audio, phone and navigation, including real time traffic alerts. There’s even the ability to partner a smartphone to create a local wifi hotspot. There’s Ford’s Sync system, which allows Bluetooth music streaming and voice activation for controls. Downside? The screen is a fingerprint magnet.
The aforementioned screens give you a list of Navigation, Entertainment on the left and a range of stylish looks such as a rotary dial for the tacho, engine temperature, distance to empty, trip metre, consumption etc on the right. The screens are in full colour but the plastic reflects light at certain angles, making them hard to read.
The interior is a decent place, with the Wildtrak logo on display in the seat’s cloth, with the trim a somewhat lairy orange hue compared to the sea grey and charcoal plastics, with orange stitching on the dash. Supportive, confortable, easily adjustable in the front (Wildtrak is the only Ranger variant to get electric seating) and a reasonable amount of legroom and shoulder room in the rear (902 mm, 1430 mm), they suit the Ranger’s driving characteristics nicely.
On tarmac it’s a touch uncomfortable in its sponginess. High sidewall Bridgestone Dueller tyres at the recommended 32 PSI contributed to this, with an increase to 36 dialling out some of the bounce. Although ostensibly a “tradie’s ute” it’s also a superb off roader. Yup, there’s a proper transfer case in this big lummox, with the ability to take that 470 torques and twist the the near 2.3 tonne behemoth along a gravel or dirt or muddy or stone road (or a combination thereof) without blinking. Yes, it is that good for a “tradie’s ute”.
The lightweight yet talkative steering is ideal for off roading; a gentle grip on the wheel, enough to stop or slide as required and the Wildtrak tells you where the front is and what the chunky rubber is doing. In 4WD high range, available “on the fly” via a rotary dial, along with a lockable rear diff (there’s hill descent control to play with as well), the Wildtrak will crawl through and or over most obstacles the average four wheel driver will see. The tiller moves of its own accord as the front seeks out the ideal path, allowing the driver to get a real sense of the terrain as it works back and forth.She’s a big ‘un, the Ranger, with a total length of 5355 mm. It towers over most, at 1848 mm, and takes up some acreage on the road at 2163 mm wide (including mirrors) with the stability on road helped alomg with a massive 3120 mm wheelbase. There’s 18 x 8 alloys, with 265 width tyres to roll on.
Back to the tarmac; the steering response, as mentioned, is fantastic, as is the grip level from the tyres. Sure, there’s squealing at times but at no time is there an indication of lack of adhesion. The suspension is, by neccessity, a long travel setup, bolted to a ladder chassis, to give the driver room to move off road (800 mm wading, 29 degree approach and 21 degree departure angle tickle your fancy?) with a 237 mm ride height. Run the Wildtrak hard into a series of dips and rises on a freeway and it will settle nicely, quickly, effectively. There’s no ongoing wallowing or pogoing, but the nose will dip under braking. And those brakes…
Press the pedal and….nothing. There’s something close to an inch of travel before any bite is felt and before there’s any sense of retardation. The pucker factor is high with this one; city traffic became an exercise in forward planning, needing to consider the lack of stoppage of forward motion when dealing with those that found a sudden sideways movement into the two centimetres of space ahead an urgency or coming to traffic lights whilst the demonic gleam from the eyes of the driver behind shone bright in the rear vision mirror. Better brake feel is needed in the Ranger Wildtrak, given its ability to carry up to 1450 kilos in the plastic lined tray.
Those in front, though, would have their mirrors full of the redesigned front end. The slim line headlights replace the squarish, broader design, the American influence stands out with the hexagonal grille but to see the Ranger from any other angle would neccessitate a head scratch and a good think about what’s new. In profile and from the rear, only an “anorak” would be able to pint out the differences between the 2015 and 2013 Ranger Wildtrack. Colour wise, the test car came clad in a bright, don’t lose it in the carpark, Pride Orange.
There’s the same bluff rear end, same tail lights, same pull the strap aluminuim hard cover for the tray, with the rear lights still globe lit, not LED. But if Sir wishes to tow, there’s now 3.5 tonnes Sir can have tag along with trailer sway mitigation built in. The rear tray does, however, now gets downlights in the rollbar to assist with night work.
For peace of mind, there’s Ford’s 3 year/100,000 kilometre warranty with service intervals of 15,000 k’s or 12 months. Get a scratch or two and there’s a five year perforation warranty. Something awry happen? You’ll also get a 12 month roadside assist package via your local auto club.
Safety levels are amped to eleven; you’ve got adaptive cruise contyrol, forward collision alert, parking sensors front and rear plus reverse camera, lane keeping alert, blind spot alerts, auto headlights and rain sensing wipers, roll over mitigation, emergency brake assist, hill launch assist, plus the usual suite of airbags and electronic driver aids.
There’s a more purposeful look at the front end but the rear needs a tickle up. Even the front guard inserts are the same as the previous model. Interior ergonomics are ok but if you’re old school and like using buttons and not a touchscreen, then the location of the aircon controls aren’t ideal.
Ride quality is fine but the brakes arent. Thinking twoing and payload and needing to push the brakes hard to get a reaction. There’s heaps of room though, interior comfort, enough tech to play with but for A Wheel Thing it’s the off road ability, that probably will be barely though about by most, that sells the Ranger Wildtrak.
That’s an ask though, as at the time of writing there’s a near as dammit $63K price being asked for the Wildtrak. 2015 Ford Ranger range will help you decide.
For A Wheel Thing TV: A Wheel Thing TV 2015 Ford Ranger Wildtrak