If ever there was a launch to end off the year on a very high note, it would be the launch of the new Ford Ranger. I was fortunate enough to get behind the wheel of this beast and experience it in all its glory through the Breedekloof valley…and beyond. Believe me, there is no trip quite as epic as a Ford trip. More than 13 hours of driving over two days…as the General Manager of Communications, Minesh Bhagaloo, puts it, “Drive it till you like it.” I didn’t want to tell him that I liked it from the minute I got into it so I didn’t really need to extra hours with it, but here we are.
FROM THEN TO NOW
The outgoing Ranger is now 11 years old, can you believe it? But what is pretty astounding is that it still meets the expectations of Ranger fans. That’s testament to a pretty great product. Especially when you consider that over 270 000 were sold in South Africa. 2023 marks 100 years of Ford in South Africa which makes the arrival of this next-gen Ranger pretty darn special.
SPECIAL IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
Ford wanted to makes this new model the most versatile, most comfortable and smartest one yet. In order to do that, it was decided to take its cue from existing customers. And it paid off. After countless interviews and workshops, Ford had what it needed. It had to be unmistakably Ford and unmistakably Ranger. It had to visually look and feel what it was capable of. We were fortunate enough to hear from the Ranger Exterior design Manager, Leigh Cosentino, at the launch. Not only is he a genius in his field, but he drives a Ranger himself. So he knew what needed to change or what needed to be tweaked or added. I wish I could list everything he mentioned, but it would mean writing a full-length novel. But the things that stood out for me were things like the repositioned lighting in the load box. It is no longer on top but rather along the side so that when you are in the ‘box, you don’t block the light as you work. The power roller shutter is now accessed via the key fob. The tailgate can be used as more than just a door, it is a workbench, for example. It has a built in ruler with 10mm increments and you’re even are able to clamp timber down onto the tailgate. Everything has been thought of, including a cupholder in the load box. Areas have been segmented so you can put timber in as dividers, which would suit me to a tee so that my groceries wouldn’t roll around. There are DIY customisation solutions aplenty. The integrated step with an easy-to-grab rail is also well considered, especially for those who, like me, aren’t exactly tall.
ALL ABOUT HARMONY
There is a harmony that exists between the exterior and the interior, this was done on purpose. Like the bold, upright exterior, so the interior is horizontally laid out so that it feels more spacious. The door handles are probably one of my favourite new additions to the Ranger. We have come to open our doors in what can actually be described as quite a foreign movement. You know the push-out-with-your-forearm action that feels quite awkward. We’ve just become so accustomed to it that it no longer bothers us. Now, the action is simple and functional with the door release lever integrated into the grab handle. Genius!
My only bugbear is the gearlever on the Wildtrak and that’s because it is just too bulky. My tiny hands do not manage to grip it properly, and sure, I am not really in the 80 percentile of customers buying a Ranger, but I can assure you there are many partners with similar ‘dimensions’ to me who will also be driving this vehicle and I can foresee them having the same issue. There is also no space for a 1.5-litre water bottle in the side door pockets, despite the Head of Ford South Africa trying to prove me wrong with a misshapen bottle.
IT’S ALL IN THE RIDE
Having spent so much time in the next-gen Ranger I can tell you just about everything about it, well sort of. The ride quality has definitely been improved and it feels almost flatter on the road so there is not as much body roll. The off-road capability is something to behold. It is all just very effortless. I am not going to go into too much technical detail here because I am assuming that if you are reading this review, you already know what a Ranger is capable of, so just exceed those expectations somewhat and you’ll have an idea of what the new one can do.
The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel has been grabbing all the attention, even though we got a taste of it in the new Everest earlier this year. It impressed then and it impressed now again with its 184 kW and 600 Nm. Bearing in mind I have also just experienced it in the new Amarok, and even though the previous Amarok had a V6 in its cartel, this Ford version feels somewhat more potent. Especially if it is towing you are into. It is ever so wonderfully refined and there is no effort when you’re put behind the wheel and need that extra oomph to overtake. I want to say that I actually forgot about the engine at one point, mainly because we had been driving for what felt like decades, but this is again testament to something excellent. If I had had to do this epic journey with an engine that was sub-par it would have been a very different trip.
Even the 2.0-litre biturbo diesel, which is is carried over from the outgoing model – albeit with slightly less power – made for a very pleasant drive. If your budget doesn’t stretch to the 30-litre, don’t fret because the 154 kW/500 Nm motor is more than enough for what you will more than likely use this lifestyle bakkie for.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Absolutely. Ford has moved the goal posts when it comes to this segment. I suspect that Toyota is not feeling all that confident anymore and they might want to take a good, hard look at this new Ranger to up the stakes in its next Hilux, which is still sometime away. The Amarok likely be more expensive than what its cloned on and so it would be an interesting choice to make. We will have pricing of the Amarok only in the new year, but for now, it is safe to say that the Ranger is very competitively priced. In fact, I would go as far as to say they could have asked for more and customers would have paid it. Never in all my years as a motoring journalist have I made such a statement. This should give you a good idea then of my feelings and thoughts on this next-gen Ranger.
PRICING OF THE NEXT-GEN RANGER
- 2.0L SiT Double Cab 4×2 6MT R486 000
- 2.0L SiT Double Cab 4×4 6MT R528 600
- 2.0L SiT Double Cab XL 4×2 6MT R529 900
- 2.0L SiT Double Cab XL 4×2 6AT R544 400
- 2.0L SiT Double Cab XL 4×4 6MT R607 300
- 2.0L SiT Double Cab XL 4×4 6AT R621 900
- 2.0L SiT Double Cab XLT 4×2 6AT R592 700
- 2.0L SiT Double Cab XLT 4×4 6AT R669 800
- 2.0L BiT Double Cab XLT 4×2 10AT R702 300
- 2.0L BiT Double Cab XLT 4×4 10AT R782 100
- 2.0L BiT Double Cab Wildtrak 4×2 10AT R778 300
- 2.0L BiT Double Cab Wildtrak 4×4 10AT R867 700
- 3.0L V6 Double Cab Wildtrak 4WD 10AT R953 500