THE FORD RANGER
The Ford Ranger has soldiered on stoically since its introduction in 1983. The appearance of the 2012 PX Ranger, designed and built in Australia, was a notable piece of car news and it's now the strongest challenger to the dominant Toyota HiLux, which has garnered a reputation as a tough and reliable vehicle. The Ranger's 3.2 litre diesel engine, 3.35 tonne braked towing capacity, 470Nm of torque and optional six-speed auto leave the HiLux standing.
The design of the interior of the Ranger is very well put together. The Ranger soundly beats the HiLux, Navara and Triton for trim quality and the clean shapes of the interior: there is a stippled, sloping dash to the brushed metal centre stack, satin metal highlights to the doors and instrument bezels. It is, all in all, a very nice place in which to find oneself.
The doors of the Ranger open wide, seats are well-padded and surfaces such as the padded door rests are appealing. This vehicle feels much more like a modern sedan than a “fourby” ute due to the cosy ambience of its interior and its overall refinement. The Ranger's turning circle is quite tight. Braking is fade-free.
The Ranger is roomy in the front and back. The B pillars have been shifted forward to create more expansive rear-door openings and rear glass. Doors open square at something approaching 90 degrees, so entering and exiting the vehicle is easier. There is ample space for all your children, so long as you stopped at three. It is one of the largest vehicles in its class in terms of capacity, and it can accommodate a payload of 1,148kg. There are spaces for drinks all around: drink holders in the console and in a folding armrest for passengers and bottle holders in the doors.
The more obvious improvements are the stepped rear bumper, three-bar chrome grille, alloy wheels and larger tyres, while the superior grade of trim and metal garnishes to the interior and doors are more subtle.
The XLT has voice control and cruise control. The windscreen wipers sense rain. Other clever touches include regenerative charging upon deceleration and a motion-sensing alarm. The 3.35 tonne braked towing capacity dwarfs most of its closest competitors.
Storage compartments beneath the back seats allows valuables to be stored unobtrusively. The glovebox can hold a laptop computer.
The Ranger's superiority to its competition is most evident on the road. Only the Navara comes close to matching the vehicle's horsepower, but the Ranger is not only more powerful, but also quieter and smoother. Diesel clatter is all but absent. The engine is better than that of many costly, upmarket family sedans.
The 6R80 six-speed transmission operates in Normal and Sport modes, and the two can be alternated between by flicking a lever. In Sport mode, upshifts take place later. Grade logic control automatically downshifts when descending or navigating a corner.
Some safety features are to be expected: child restraints, pretensioning seatbelts, front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control and traction control. Some, however, are pleasant surprises: the rear view camera, rollover mitigation control, trailer sway control, adaptive load control, hill start assist and hill descent control.