Saturday, 2 March 2013

REVIEW - Ford Ranger Wildtrak

I must confess that I do like pickups. There’s a certain element of masculinity associated with driving such a large vehicle, and also a sense of ownership of whichever road you venture on. So as you would imagine I jumped at the change to get behind the wheel of the latest Ford Ranger. What’s more, this one was a ‘Wildtrak’ which is the most bad-ass of the Ranger model line-up. But how would it cope against my high expectations? Read on to find out…

Looks - 10/10

The biggest plus point of the Ranger to me was in the looks department. On the outside the shape is big- and bold- thanks to the almost 'straight-cut' styling. Ordinarily this is not a good recipe for a car designer but when you have a vehicle with such vastness as a Ranger it does add a sense of toughness that pays dividends. When I say big I mean big- the wheels are in fact 18" alloys but look minuscule in comparison to the rest of the body. I loved the Wildtrak Orange paint as well. It added massively to the identity of the car and really gave off the impression of a complete styling package. Standing at the front of the car the bonnet was almost shoulder high which can help you to understand how imposing this car looks; a small car driver could soon have their rear-view mirror filled up with Ranger!

On the inside the orange theme continues. The steering wheel has orange stitching, as do the seats (as well as an orange stripe for good measure). There is Wildtrak branding in several places- most notably stitched into the front headrests- as well as some nice-to-touch materials. Although this is technically a commercial vehicle, you could be forgiven for forgetting this once you step inside. The Ranger feels like a luxury car and is equipped like one too. You get nice leather door cards, and the dashboard (although not the most exotic of materials) is not the usual commercial plastics. In the back the style party continues with more orange stripes and privacy glass to add yet more luxury for the rear passengers.

Handling/Performance - 8/10

The engine which lies beneath the rather heavy bonnet is, as you can see from the picture, a large one. The powerplant is a 3.2-litre diesel unit which produces 200PS and an impressive 470Nm of torque. That's about a lot, and is more important than the power figure in a vehicle like the Ranger. What are also irrelevant are the 0-62mph time of 10.4 seconds and top speed of 109mph, because realistically you will never do either of these. The model I tested came fitted with a 6-speed automatic gearbox (a 6-speed manual is standard fit) and this was rather lovely. The 6th gear made all the difference, for two reasons. Firstly, it meant you could always be on the torque (2000-3000rpm) and also that you can cruise at lower revs on the motorway. The power delivery is smooth, although get above 3000rpm and the engine becomes more noise than go.

As for the handling, this is where you notice that the Ranger's size and commercial characteristics. The steering is slightly lower geared meaning that you have to work is about around tighter bends. The height of the Ranger means that cornering at speed is not something that is recommended; it feels unnatural. There isn't a huge amount of lean as such, but there is enough to make you realise just what you are driving. The other downside to a commercial vehicle is the rear suspension. Due to it being set up to take large payloads the rear bed sits on leaf springs, with a harder setup to cope under load. When the bed is empty this translates into a sort of bouncy setup and you can really feel this over bumps. This is common among pickups and is just the price you pay for having the carrying capacity that they do.

Economy - 7/10

Being the automatic model, my test Wildtrak was hardly going to save the planet. It doesn't do too badly considering it has a whopping 3.2-litre engine and weighs about the same as an average village. CO2 emissions are 274g/km (a lot) but this doesn't affect tax because the rate on a Light Commercial Vehicle, or LCV, is fixed. Currently this is at £215 for 12 months which isn't too bad at all. On a combined cycle the auto version will offer you 27.2mpg which is about what you would expect from an automatic pickup. Having the 6-speed box does help though meaning you don't chew as much fuel on the motorway.

Practicality - 10/10

Yes, another 10 here for the Wildtrak because there is nothing to fault on the practicality side. The rear bed can fit a few houses in it, and the cabin will house 5 adults comfortably. You have creature comforts such as a sat-nav, electrically-adjusted drivers seat, parking sensors, bluetooth and cruise control all as standard. This more than equips you to deal with everyday life with ease. My favourite gadget is the reversing camera, which appears at one side of the rear-view mirror when you select reverse. There is also an electronic 4WD system which has 2H, 4H and 4L settings. This came in handy as it snowed whilst I had the Ranger. I must confess it was with a lot of smugness I was passing stranded motorists without drama. Although it is the size of an aircraft carrier, the Ranger is really easy to drive, and more importantly judge. You soon learn to park it (and the camera helps in this sense) as well as fit through the narrow streets. There were a few 'breathe in' moments but that's to be expected when you captain the H.M.S. Wildtrak.

Fun - 8/10

The Ranger Wildtrak was heaps of fun in the week I had it. I enjoyed being able to get around even as the conditions became typically British. I loved having an endless supply of gadgetry to keep me amused on any drive, as well as the simpler things like having easy iPod control allowing me to have the perfect soundtrack every time. The stereo, it is worth pointing out, is a good one too. I loved the complete Wildtrak image, from the colour to the branded headrests, and this made me feel like I was in a fun car whenever I caught my reflection in a shop window. I know I was not alone in thinking this, because there were a few glancing looks from other motorists, and I was asked about it in several car parks. Granted this may have been because I had parked on top of a small hatchback, but you simply don't notice them.

Concluding Remarks

I really fell in love with the big orange Ranger, and didn't want to give it back to Ford. The Wildtrak model is around £30,000 and whilst that may seem expensive, everything is standard kit. You pay a few hundred pounds for the Wildtrak Orange paint, and it is worth every penny. You may also wish to invest in a cover for the rear bed to make it more usable in everyday situations, and also to stop the bed from turning into a swimming pool. Getting a load cover also means your shopping doesn't end up in the back on your passengers laps. If you want more information or to configure your very own Ranger, head over to Ford's website or pop in to a dealership. To sum up, if you like big, bold statements, then the Wildtrak will suit you down to a tee.

Total Score - 43/50

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