Rally team offshoot gets its hands on the big-selling Ford Ranger pick-up
4.0 out of 5
Yes, the Ranger MS-RT is an exercise in style over function, but at least the add-ons don’t have a detrimental effect on the Ranger’s talents. In fact, it’s been made slightly better on-road. The fact that it still qualifies as a commercial vehicle when the Ranger Raptor doesn’t means that there is likely to be a captive audience of buyers wanting a premium pick-up that are ready to stump up the cash.
With fewer rivals in the pick-up class, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Ford Ranger – the sector’s best-seller by a big margin – would just plod on as-is until the all-new version arrives in 2023. But Ford isn’t done with the current generation just yet, having introduced no less than four new versions to the line-up at the end of 2021. Here we’re driving the Ranger MS-RT, arguably the most interesting model of the new quartet.
The initials MS-RT might already be familiar to you if you’re a fast Ford fan. The company is an offshoot of the M-Sport rally team, and the firm that already sells modified Transit Customs via Ford’s commercial vehicle dealers. Now it’s had a go at making a sporty Ranger.
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While the Transit Custom MS-RT has an aggressive looking bespoke bodykit that’s inspired by M-Sport’s Fiesta World Rally Cars, the Ranger MS-RT is a bit more subtle. There’s good reason for that, since the MS-RT can’t tread on the toes of Ford’s official flagship, the Ranger Raptor. While that model is focused on fast off-road use, the MS-RT offers a more refined, ‘grown up’ look that’s geared towards tarmac use.
MS-RT has added a new honeycomb grille and front bumper, while the wider flared wheelarches front and rear are connected by bespoke side skirts. Those arches cover 20-inch OZ Racing alloy wheels (two inches larger than the wheels of a Ranger Wildtrak, which the MS-RT is based on), and a sports bar is bolted into the load bed to further smooth the MS-RT’s shape. Carbon fibre door mirror caps also feature, while the MS-RT is only available in three subtle colours: Frozen White, Sea Grey or Agate Black. Overall it makes for a sophisticated and sporty look that’s not as in-your-face as the Ranger Raptor’s.
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Inside, MS-RT’s talents in the field of upholstery are evident. Hand-crafted Nappa leather is used on the seats and comes with orange contrast stitching, while MS-RT logos are embroidered on the headrests and carpets, and feature on the door sills and a plaque on the dashboard. It all adds up to give the Ranger a more upmarket feel than ever.
Under the skin, the Ranger MS-RT remains identical to the Wildtrak it’s based on. That means Ford’s excellent 210bhp 2.0 EcoBlue twin-turbodiesel features, as does the Mustang-sourced 10-speed automatic transmission. Something else that’s carried over is a payload capacity in excess of one-tonne, so unlike the Ranger Raptor, the MS-RT still qualifies as a commercial vehicle, so it can take advantage of more favourable tax rates.
On the road, the MS-RT is largely identical to a Ranger Wildtrak in the way it drives. Introducing 20-inch alloy wheels with lower-profile tyres brings with it a bit more noise as they crash over bigger lumps and bumps in the road, but the trucks’ decent damping means they’re still heard more than they are felt. You get a bit more grip and slightly better turn-in thanks to the larger tyre size, but of course the penalty for this will be a slightly poorer off-road experience. Having said that, if you’ve shelled out almost £50k (that’s ex-VAT, too) for the MS-RT, you’re probably not too keen to ding that fancy new bodywork or the big wheels by taking it off road immediately.
|Model:||Ford Ranger 2.0 EcoBlue 213PS MS-RT|
|Engine:||2.0-litre 4cyl twin-turbodiesel|
|Transmission:||10-speed automatic, selectable four-wheel drive|
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