– Unique, practical look
– Cabin space and features
– Economical offroader
– Somewhat harsh ride
– Noisy highway drive
– Some hard cabin plastics
The Ford Ranger WildTrak has been around for a while, although it has gone under the radar largely due to the fact that it only came with a diesel engine. Despite the visual modifications, its strong resemblance to the commercial variant never helped either. Just as diesel prices dropped significantly, Ford decided to update the Ranger WildTrak for 2016, trying to make it more appealing to people who desire a pickup truck that is too big to fit in the average parking space.
External changes to the 2016 Ranger WildTrak comprise of a heavily revised front end that is far more aggressive and eye-pleasing than its commercial cousin, and closely resembles that of the latest Ford Edge. The side and rear profiles remain largely the same as the previous model. We got the Ranger WildTrak with a fiery orange paintjob, a shade that seemed every bit cool as much as weird for a pickup. The paintjob matches the standard orange leatherette stitching in the interior too.
The WildTrak’s interior gets stitched leatherette on the dash-top and door inserts, although a lot of hard plastics remain elsewhere. The centre-console houses a 6.2-inch touchscreen displaying the familiar SYNC 2.0 user interface, and also features a new layout for the controls. The gauge cluster comprises of two colour LCDs on either side of the speedometer, like many other Fords. The dual-tone orange and black cloth seats with leatherette inserts are moderately bolstered, ventilated, and sport “WildTrak” branding. It also comes with an array of tech and features, some of which include blind-spot monitoring, auto a/c with dual-zone climate control, auto headlamps and wipers, auto dimming mirror, six airbags, and so on.
The Ranger Wildtrak has generous amounts of space both in the front and rear, with good legroom and headroom. The rear seats in the Ranger are less upright than most other pickups in its class, although still no match for the seating comfort that’s typical of more commuter-oriented vehicles. The a/c seemed quite strong for the April weather, as it still manages to cool the cabin decently despite the lack of rear vents. There are enough cup holders for the front and rear passengers, bottle holders in the front driver and passenger doors, and several storage areas, including a hidden space in the floor underneath the rear seats. There is a 12-volt power outlet, and even a 110/240-volt power socket too for the rear passengers. The large cargo bed has a lockable metal cover.
One of the major highlights of the Ranger WildTrak is the 3.2-litre 5-cylinder turbodiesel motor, making 197 hp at 3000 rpm and 470 Nm of torque at 1500 rpm. Mated to a smooth-shifting 6-speed tiptronic transmission, it lunges the WildTrak from 0-100 kph in 9.8 seconds. With a smaller turbo at higher boost replacing the bigger turbo from the previous model, the turbo lag has been reduced to unnoticeable levels. The manual mode in the automatic transmission is quick and responsive, and holds the revs even at redline, without upshifting automatically. The gearbox did seem to go hunt for the right gear in slow city drives, although that could have been the truck trying to adapt to our driving style after being driven by several others.
Quick overtaking on the highway is a breeze and does not require any downshifts due to tons of turbodiesel torque being available. And yet, the consumption is as frugal as it could get compared to any petrol unit of the same capacity. The trip computer in our Ranger WildTrak posted a burn rate of a measly 9 litres/100 km in mixed driving conditions, including a mild desert bash.
As we had earlier observed, the Ranger WildTrak rides with an obvious harshness, thanks to the heavy-duty leaf-sprung live-axle rear suspension setup. We had assumed the harshness was possibly due to over-inflated tyres, but we checked that the tyres were inflated only to 32 psi. However, we got to test-drive a fairly new 2016 Toyota Hilux side-by-side with the Ford Ranger on a mild off-road course, and immediately realised how much more smoothly the latter rides, relatively speaking.
The Ranger WildTrak handles nicely for a pickup. The body roll is very limited, and grip limits were fair for a pickup. The electric-assisted power steering offers good feedback, and with a good turning radius, manoeuvring the Ranger is a breeze. Visibility is generally good all around, and there is a reverse camera for the chore of reverse parking into tight spots. It’s still somewhat noisy on the highway though, mostly due to the engine sound.
Boasting a part-time 4×4 system, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak is a capable off-roader, and comes with a knob-operated transfer-case with three modes -– 2 High, 4 High, and 4 Low. There is no centre differential, which means the lack of a useful all-wheel-drive mode, and the truck has to be driven in rear-wheel-drive mode at all times on the tarmac. Specs indicate the availability of an optional rear differential lock, hill start assist and hill descent control, all of which were missing in our tester. We never felt the need for those anyway as we did not do any serious off-roading with the Ranger, our run being confined to moderate dunes.
Nonetheless, the WildTrak proved to be a great off-roader with a lot of potential, with great approach and departure angles, skid-plate protection for the engine and underbody, and abundant power that put most other off-road SUVs to shame. Even with fully-inflated tyres, the WildTrak just swept the desert trails and the mild dunes that we attempted without breaking a sweat, as we barely had to rev the engine for climbing even some moderate slopes. However, the low-slung side-steps may be of some concern in rocky scenarios.
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak pickup truck is a solid entry into a segment that barely has any entrants in the region. With several segment-firsts under its belt, excellent off-road capabilities, terrific fuel-efficiency, solid engine performance, and car-like ergonomics and features, the Wildtrak is also the only “civil” mid-size pickup truck currently available in the GCC market. Although we feel that the ride quality could be better, given Ford’s own F-150 boasting ride comfort that is far superior, the Ranger WildTrak is undeniably great bang for the buck.
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