Not so wild Ranger from Ford

When Ford’s new Ford Ranger Wildtrak arrived for testing, I had thought it would be a rather unique sight on PE’s roads. A double-cab with a price tag knocking on the door of R700 000 is going to be a rare beast.

Except … it isn’t.

No, I didn’t see thousands of them running about the place, but I bumped into more than a handful over the week I spent with the Saber-coloured 10-speed auto 4X4.

Yup, you read that right. A 10-speed automatic ‘box is mated to the 2.0 bi-turbo diesel engine. That’s definitely not a choice you want to make in a manual! You know what that combination is good for? How about 157kW at 3750rpm and 500Nm of torque from 1500 to 2000rpm. That’s just enough power in case you want to relocate but decide you like your existing house and want to take it with you.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak interior
The Ford tradition for covering every available surface with buttons continues in the Wildtrak – but then there is a great deal of technology at your disposal.

The bakkie has long been a staple of South African life and there are plenty on offer, from your choice of manufacturer. Just the Ford pricelist for the Ranger alone lists 34 models! The Wildtrak itself offers three choices. You can have a 3.2 litre 4X2 (6-speed auto), a 2.0 litre bi-turbo 4X2 (10-speed auto) or a 2.0 litre bi-turbo 4X4 (10-speed auto) with pricing starting at R623 100.

Of all the choices and all the brands available, why the Ranger? What makes it the compelling choice in a market saturated with vehicles that are high off the ground, have a loadbay in the back and offer seating for as many as five people? For that, you need to look a bit further than price or features.

Let’s take a trip back in time, not too far though so we won’t need Doc Brown and his DeLorean.

Visit the Euroncap.com website where you can find safety ratings for all sorts of vehicles and do a Ranger search. The 2008 rating for this bakkie was two stars – not encouraging and really not very different for any other bakkie of its type either. So two out of five isn’t going to instil much in the way of confidence.

Ford Ranger on mountain path
For South Africa the Ranger is more than just another vehicle on the road. With growing export numbers, it provides jobs important to the economy.

Jump forward a bit and you’ll see the rating for 2012 and there’s a sudden leap – all the way to five stars! Not only is this a significant achievement in terms of vehicle safety, but it also made the Ranger the first bakkie in history to achieve a five-star safety rating globally. That’s one impressive milestone and guarantees sleepless nights for the competition.

Let’s jump forward again – this time to early this year. That’s when the news broke that the next Ranger and Amarok would be developed by Ford and Volkswagen in a joint agreement. Effectively, VW will make use of the next Ford Ranger platform for their Amarok.

Then there’s the matter of what the Ranger means in the South African context. Yes, the Ranger sells well locally but Ford exported 68 364 Rangers last year – that’s local jobs and building the local economy. With an increase of more than 16% on the previous year, Ranger’s success is also South Africa’s success with the majority of these vehicles exported to Europe.

The New Ranger – of which the Wildtrak tested is one – will be exported to 148 markets. All of them with the label Proudly South African.

If none of this quite convincing enough, then there’s the Wildtrak experience itself. The ride is really good, comfortable and undemanding. The technology crammed into the Ranger sees it compete with any saloon – from the rain-sensing wipers, electric mirrors, automatic headlights, LED running lights, dual-zone climate control, Ford SYNC, adaptive cruise control, airbags – driver, passenger, side, curtain and knee to the tyre pressure monitoring. Then we get to the mechanical stuff, ESP braking system, traction control, adaptive load control, hill launch and descent control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution.

This is a laundry list of features which does leave me wondering quite what there is that Ford can still include in the package. I probably wouldn’t bat an eye if Ford announced the next Ranger will drive without the need of human input and will automatically repair potholes it encounters on your route.

I am not – and never have been – a fan of double-cab bakkies, but with a package as compelling as the Ranger Wildtrak, it is easy to see why it isn’t such a wild decision for so many people to park one of these in their driveway. Specifically in the drive, since it is big enough that there are a few garages it likely doesn’t fit into.

Wildtrak rear view
With a laundry list of technology inside, it is easy to forget that the Wildtrak also has thoroughbred off-road abilities.
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