Second report: Ford Ranger pick-up is proving its worth day to day and as a track-day support vehicle
4.5 out of 5
There should be no surprise that the Ford Ranger is our current top choice in the pick-up marketplace. It combines relaxed power, and impressive load-lugging and carrying, with a comfortable cabin and a well controlled ride.
- Mileage: 3,118
- Economy: 28.6mpg
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- Mileage: 891
- Economy: 31.0mpg
Two of the certainties when I’m running a long-term test car are that it will tow a trailer, and that it will become a test bed for the various products I put through their paces for Auto Express.
The Ranger is no exception, because its rear window has been used to create some baked-on debris in our bug-cleaner test and, more recently, I’ve been doing my best to turn the Sea Grey Wildtrak white. Not that I don’t like the metallic grey, but rather I was testing snow foam lances.
So multiple coats of Autoglym Polar Blast were sprayed on, left to work to assess foam thickness, then pressure washed away. The large panels were ideal to monitor run-off and it also gave me a chance to test the hard-top’s leak prevention. While other tops I’ve tested let water in quite easily, none made it in to the big Ford’s load bay.
And I’ve been putting that load bed to regular use ferrying tools, tyres, and other kit to various track days and competitions. It’s where a pick-up comes in to its own, with driver and passengers kept separate from the smelly, dirty bits. It also means I can carry fuel in the tow car without filling the cabin or track car with the dubious whiff of super-unleaded.
As the days have got shorter those track visits have often started and finished in the dark, so I’ve come to appreciate the powerful bi-xenon headlights with their automatic dimming. Trouble is, they were a fair bit too good for oncoming drivers, who regularly thought I’d not dipped the headlights. At first I thought the trailer was causing the front of the Ford to rise and point the headlights high, but a test minus trailer revealed the problem was still there.
Car group tests
The minimalist handbook left me none the wiser, but careful inspection of the light switch revealed a small control that could be released with a push. Twist and there’s a choice of headlight positions.
The only other niggle is the 10-speed automatic transmission. It always seems to find the correct gear, but the changes are not always seamless. I also need to wait a few seconds when first starting the car before I can engage Drive.
Still, the engine is a gem whether it’s towing a car on a trailer or trickling around town. Delivering 210bhp and, crucially, 500Nm of torque, it is more than able to tow my track cars, and you need to keep a keen eye on the speedo when accelerating on to a motorway to stay within the law.
There’s no getting away from the Ford’s size, however. There’s a rear-view camera and warning sensors, but reversing in to my driveway and alongside the house seems to set all of them off. I also keep getting caught out by the large turning circle.
Despite the size and spending a lot of the time towing, fuel consumption has been 28.6mpg. Not ideal, but better than I have seen in other pick-ups doing the same mix of driving. The onboard computer was fairly near the figure, too, which is useful.
The cabin is a pretty good place to be, with Apple CarPlay, DAB radio and effective heating and air-conditioning. Plus, the Ford’s heated seats have been very welcome indeed on cold, early morning starts.
So far, I’ve only made day trips in the Ranger, but an upcoming week’s break in Wales will reveal how it fares over a longer period. Based on the first three months with the Ranger, I’m looking forward to it.
Ford Ranger Wildtrak: first report
Our award-winning Ford Ranger truck has been thrown in at the deep end
Sod’s Law was truly in play over the past few months, because, after years of running pick-ups on the Auto Express long-term fleet, when I moved house recently I was between trucks. As a result, all those trips to the recycling centre with the clutter built up after decades of product testing, motorsport and living in a house had to be tackled in the family SUV, and the interior trim is still bearing the scars.
For load lugging there is little to beat a pick-up, with its near-indestructible load bed and car-like interior for more delicate items. So collecting our Ford Ranger, the magazine’s current pick-up of choice, from dealer manager Simon Lewis at Gates of Harlow FordStore in Essex couldn’t come soon enough. And even though the house move has been completed, I’ve a packed programme of track days and speed events planned for the rest of the year.
I wasted no time putting the Wildtrak to work hitching up my trailer and Caterham Seven racer for a track day at Brands Hatch after less than 24 hours on the fleet.
Even before I hit the road, I was appreciating the advantages of a pick-up for this sort of activity. All the dirty, smelly bits are carried in a separate space designed to be knocked about a bit. So spare wheels and tyres are not on the back seat, but in the load bed and they don’t need to be kept in bags to protect upholstery. Fuel and filling kit is also out of the way, keeping the interior free from the whiff of super unleaded.
Loading isn’t so easy with the high-set load bed, but once everything is in and pushed to the bulkhead, there’s a fair bit more space to play with than in most SUVs.
On the road there’s a really solid feel to the Ranger. The steering is well weighted, but not heavy, although the tight confines of where my cars and trailer are stored has exposed a pretty large turning circle.
Our Wildtrak is fitted with the 210bhp 2.0 EcoBlue twin-turbo diesel, so it never seems like it is working hard, even when towing. While less-powerful trucks can do the job, they always need lots of throttle and high revs. This isn’t the case in the Ranger. My relatively lightweight trailer and cars keep the braked towing weight below the Ford’s 3,500kg maximum, and the truck purrs up hills with a touch of extra throttle, usually without the need to drop a gear.
The 10-speed automatic transmission sorts itself out pretty well, and I’ve yet to find it hunting for the correct gear. While not bad for a truck, the transmission isn’t the smoothest, as on a light throttle the up changes can just be felt. Ratios can also be selected via a button on the side of the shifter, but I’ve not found the need to use it yet.
The cabin spec is largely as you’d find on many SUVs. I’ve still to explore all the features, but it has Apple CarPlay, which delivers what I need from an infotainment system – sat-nav, sounds and phone. There’s a mass of features to still discover, but Ford’s system is one I’m not that familiar with, so navigating around it has been less than intuitive.
Apart from the standard kit, we’ve added a few options. According to sales executive Noel Quinn, our truck’s £600 Sea Grey metallic paint is the most popular for the Ranger. It certainly looks good with the £120 Boulder Grey 18-inch wheels. With plenty of experience of pick-up truck accessories, a hard top is essential, so the Ranger has one fitted at a cost of £1,920, while the essential Trailer Tow Pack is £480. We added a hitch drop plate, too, so that the trailer runs level with the tow ball height, rather than nose-up.
There’s also the Driver Assistance pack with park (£1,380) that brings adaptive cruise control, driver alerts and auto high beam. It also adds active park assist. The adaptive cruise works well on motorways, but it could be quicker to respond when traffic speeds up.
The first few days with a new car usually brings an “I’m not keen on that” moment, but I’ve yet to have one with the Ranger. Let’s hope that continues.
|Model:||Ford Ranger 2.0 EcoBlue Wildtrak auto|
|On fleet since:||July 2021|
|Price new:||£39,716 (inc. VAT)|
|Engine:||2.0-litre 4cyl, twin-turbodiesel, 210bhp|
|Options:||Sea Grey metallic paint (£600), Boulder Grey alloy wheels (£120), Driver Assistance Pack with Park (£1,380), Load Box Hard Top Canopy (£1,920), Trailer Tow Pack (£480)|
|Any problems?||None so far|
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