2016 Ford Ranger: The ideal truck for work and play
While the full-size pickup is the first thing to come to mind when individuals think about lifestyle off-roaders with a cargo bed, smaller pickups have become the vehicle of choice for small businesses who are only interested in hauling cargo. However, these smaller pickups clearly would make for a practical vehicle for everyday use as well, if they actually came with modern conveniences and weren’t just offered as workhorses. Ford has answered that call with the new 2016 Ranger.
Ford is aiming to broaden the target market for the lifestyle genre with its new Ranger, which offers more in the way of refinement and visual appeal than has hitherto been the norm for the segment.
The latest Ranger’s makeover begins with the exterior, with the most notable features being the swept-back headlights that flank the thrusting trapezoidal grille. Both these elements help in visually linking the vehicle to Ford’s vehicle range. It’s a handsome beast, especially the rugged Wildtrak version that we drove. None of its Japanese rivals offer a version in the GCC that looks this good.
Equipment and specification levels have also been updated to reflect the latest technology that Ford offers. Behind the steering wheel, a high-tech new dual 4-inch TFT instrument cluster provides drivers with information about the vehicle, 4×4 driving data, multi-function computer as well as entertainment, phone and climate control details at a glance.
Among the Ranger’s features is the available SYNC infotainment system that allows you to continue working while you drive, thanks to voice-activated controls. This means there’s no need to take your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road -– and this is one of the key features that differentiates the Ford from the likes of the new Toyota Hilux and current Isuzu D-Max, let alone the aging Nissan Pickup. A touchscreen is also standard on the WildTrak.
Other features in the WildTrak include front and rear parking sensors, rearview camera, 2 USB ports, power driver’s seat, cruise control with speed limiter, ambient lighting, keyless entry with push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and a tyre-pressure monitor.
Comfort levels are good as there is dual-zone climate control with rear vents, and the seats up front are well-bolstered and offer ample adjustment. There’s also the availability of cruise control and a reversing camera to make even lighter work of the daily grind. In addition, there’s a power inverter in the cab so you can charge your phone, tablet or plug-in equipment, even when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
You’ll notice the cabin trim materials are a cut above the rest in this segment and the interior layout is more like a passenger car than a light-commercial vehicle, especially in the WildTrak we are driving here. The cabin’s focus is around the central 8-inch touchscreen, and it even has stitched leather upholstery on parts of the dash, armrests and seats.
There are three powertrain options, namely a 2.5-litre petrol unit (163 PS and 225 Nm), along with 2.2 TDCi (150 PS and 375 Nm) and 3.2 TDCi (200 PS and 470 Nm) turbodiesels. The 3.2-litre in the WildTrak offers great fuel economy and strong low-end and mid-range torque.
That turbodiesel engine translates to superior off-road performance as we found out in the deserts of Dubai and the wadis of Jordan. It’s very capable in rough terrain, thanks to ground clearance of 230mm that enables it to ‘walk’ over most obstacles. It can also wade through a class leading 800mm of water, so the flooded roads we get here occasionally pose no challenge to the Ranger.
All versions are complemented by the latest Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which automatically adapts to different payloads for added safety in challenging conditions. You can shift on the fly from 2WD to 4WD – not available on the Hilux – and there’s an e-Locking Rear Differential that helps maximise traction when you’re out in the dunes or clambering across rocks or mud. The ESP is further aided by Rollover Mitigation and Trailer Sway Control systems.
The Ranger’s workhorse credentials are impressive too, as it has a towing capacity of 3500 kg and, depending on model variant, can haul up to 1360 kg in its generously-sized load bay. There’s a light installed in the cargo tray to provide the illumination you need to get the job done in the dark.
Adding to a feeling of security in off-road conditions, there’s Hill Descent Control that automatically applies braking as needed, to slow the vehicle to a set speed when tackling steep, slippery descents. You can modulate speed through the throttle or via the cruise control buttons on the steering wheel.
Passive safety is also a strong suit, as the reinforced safety cell in the Ranger is supplemented with the protection of up to six airbags, including side and curtain airbags.
Although it’s a truck, the Ranger handles with car-like ease, thanks in no small part to the electronic power-assisted steering, which makes for great manoeuvrability and saves fuel as well. The steering is light and responsive for city driving and when parking, but it firms up at speed to promote a greater feeling of stability and control.
All in all, the Ranger is a light-commercial package that offers a good blend of space, comfort, style and functionality. With its well-presented cabin, controls that are in plain sight and easy to reach, extra storage and reduced noise vibration, it’s a workhorse that you actually enjoy driving. And in WildTrak form, it is an absolute beast of a vehicle in the desert, while being small enough to fit your city lifestyle.