The Ford Ranger is consistently among the top-selling bakkies in South Africa (every so often it claims the top spot for the month) and, with a model range of more than 25 vehicles, there is certainly something to suit every buyer and application.
In but a few months’ time a new series of Ranger will be launched locally, with new models and a new generation of engines. We thought, then, that this would be the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with the current range that has been such a smash hit among SA’s bakkie-buying public.
This range-topping Wildtrak might not be the best value-for-money model amongst the Ranger double cabs (this 4×4 version costs R655 900), but it’s always been the one you’d really want to have, the one to aspire to. A week spent with it reminded us why…
It’s got the looks
The current Ranger has been a familiar face on South Africa’s roads since 2015 and the Wildtrak looks appropriately cool as it heads up the range. With its darkened grille, mirrors and rear bumper treatment, black door handles, sports bar over the load box and side steps, it still boasts a commanding but sophisticated presence. Wildtrak-specific 18-inch alloys round off the look.
Step inside and the Wildtrak’s individuality is taken a step further with the use of orange seat fabric, and orange stitching on the seats themselves, door and centre arm rests, around the handbrake and gear lever, around the leather-wrapped steering wheel and on the soft-touch dash. It’s not as garish as you may think – but suitably energetic for a vehicle with this type of image. A black roof lining adds to the sense of sportiness.
It’s strong on features
The Wildtrak’s spec list is comprehensive and includes most of the features one would expect to find – Ford’s eight-inch Sync 3 infotainment system takes pride of place in the dash and features navigation; the front seats are eight-way power adjustable; the lights and wipers operate automatically; and the regular electronic safety systems are augmented by a tyre-pressure monitoring system, trailer sway control and adaptive load control.
There are also some features you may not expect to find, such as the 230-V three-pin plug socket – although, strangely, this will not accept a South African three-pin plug. Far more practical is the adaptive cruise control with heads-up display, forward alert, collision mitigation and distance alert; as well as the lane keeping system that includes lane keeping aid, lane departure warning and driver alert system.
That’s luxury-car equipment, in a bakkie.
It’ll carry the load
Accessed via the lockable tailgate (activated with the central locking…) is the lined loadbox that boasts side rails and interior tie-down hooks (smoothing off the exterior looks). It features a handy 12-V power socket and an even handier 938 kg payload.
With an overall gross vehicle mass of 3 200 kg and gross combination mass of 6 000 kg, the Wildtrak is rated to tow 750 kg or 3 500 kg if the trailing unit is braked (a towbar is standard).
For those more interested in tackling the rough stuff, the Wildtrak can be switched to 4×4 mode on the fly and features a lockable rear differential as well as hill descent control. It’ll wade an impressive 800 mm of water and, even when fully laden, boasts 237 mm ground clearance.
It’s still good to drive
OK, the 3,2-litre five-cylinder TDCi warhorse under the bonnet is beginning to show its age when compared to some of the more modern larger capacity engines in rival bakkies. Nonetheless, it’s a strong and willing unit and puts its 147 kW and 470 Nm to the ground through a six-speed automatic gearbox, which is generally smooth shifting and quick to respond.
It is, however, a thirsty unit, having slurped down its 80 litres of 50 ppm at a rate of 13,6 l/100 km during our test week. Ford claims 8,9, but you’d honestly be hard pressed to achieve it.
One of the hallmarks of this generation Ranger is its ride and handling, which have always been among the best in class – even in the face of some impressive new competition having entered the market. The ride is typically a little firm, but the suspension is well damped and comfort is among the best of double cabs.
You could do a lot worse for the money
It’s not easy making it in the double-cab market, competition is tough. The Ranger Wildtrak goes up against the likes of the VW Amarok 2.0 BiTDI Dark Label 4Motion (R681 300), Nissan Navara 2.3 4×4 LE (R647 500), Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Raider (R637 500), Isuzu D-Max 4×4 LX (R606 400), and Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 Di-D 4×4 Extreme (R589 995).
It might be one of the oldest and the most expensive of this bunch, but its mix of commanding looks, good drive, excellent equipment and all-round ability means it remains one of the best. There can be little doubt the next-generation will carry the mantle with aplomb.
CyberStoep rating: 7,5/10