Anyone would think that the 2012 Ford Ranger was new to the Australian market, as all of a sudden everyone is talking about this big ute with renewed enthusiasm.
The first Ranger appeared on our roads back in 1998 and since then it has under gone a series of refinements that now make it a top contender for a sophisticated 4WD work ute. In fact, its nearest competitor is the VW Amarok but even that lacks the Ford’s under bonnet firepower with only a 2L petrol/diesel engine compared to the 3.2L XLT.
The 2012 Ranger is the result of five years of development within Australia alone. Destined for sale in over 180 countries in five continents, the totally new Ranger is wider, longer and taller with a frame three times stiffer than its predecessor.
This high riding 1t vehicle offers a remarkable balance of dual purpose use, high degree of refinement, comfort, and endless features. This neatly stitched together package is going to make life hard for rivals to compete in its market niche.
The Ranger is a big vehicle; at 5.351m in length it’s longer than a Nissan Patrol. Consequently, it’s a bit of a handful to park at the shopping centre, but so are most vehicles of this size. The XOS sizing delivers a huge rear cargo section balanced by a spacious interior with wide bucket seats up front. There is genuinely room for three in the rear plus ample head room all round. If you like to drive with your Akubra hat on, the Ranger will accommodate you nicely.
There seems to be something for everyone; the Ford Ranger comes in 10 different 4WD models. The top of the range Wildtrak and XLT double cab (being reviewed) are going to have the most appeal to family orientated buyers seeking a work horse for the week, and an RV for weekend activity. Both are available in six speed auto and manual versions.
Either loaded for work or with family aboard, the Ranger has a soft, supple, ride. The coil spring, double wishbone, MacPherson strut set up in the front mated to leaf springs, double acting shock absorbers at the rear will make even very long journeys a pleasure.
Features for the driver and passengers are a sweet mix in the XLT Ranger.
Within the cabin are 20 storage nooks, including bottle shaped pockets on all four doors and a Notebook computer-sized glove box.
The cabin interior is right on the money with a premium look from start to finish. Seats are plush cloth and prominently stitched with tonings of silver, grey and chrome combined throughout the cabin in a stylish modern blend.
The radio and air system controls are central within the dash, with a colour screen at the top offering parking assistance when reversing. And for the techno buffs, the Bluetooth Voice Control system allows the driver to use a mobile phone, the vehicle’s audio system, MP3 compatible CD player, and iPod2 all totally hands free!
Other features include, dual zone climate control air conditioning, electric controls for virtually everything, central locking, neat fingertip control systems for sound, and Bluetooth and iPod connectivity controls, and a compact for the cruise control.
I found the driving position quite comfortable, although lack of reach control on the wheel was an omission in an otherwise great set up. The large amount of glass around the Ranger’s driver provides an unequalled view, assisted of course by a sensibly sized ‘A’ pillar. Night driving was highlighted by the blue glow from cabin instruments, although I must say that I was somewhat disappointed with the Ranger’s headlights. To my mind the headlights were the only let down in an otherwise top shelf vehicle.
The Ranger’s Duratorq 3.2L five-cylinder variable geometry common rail turbo diesel engine is arguably the smoothest engine within its class. It has immense capability with 147kW of power and 470Nm of torque but is unheard in normal driving mode.
Towing capacity is 3350kg and the Ranger can handle that sort of chore with ease.
The test XLT Ranger was equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, which sorted ratios very evenly between engine revs. Sixth gear at 110km/h saw the tachometer just approaching the 2,000rpm mark.
I found the Ranger’s clutch had a reasonably long throw but a precise feel about it. The manual gearbox within the test vehicle was slightly tricky with the movement between first and second gears requiring some careful deliberation, but this is likely to be a peculiarity of specific vehicle rather than the entire range.
Highly desirable Ranger features include hill descent control (foot off brake, speed regulated via cruise control system), hill launch assist, trailer sway mitigation, load adaptive control, emergency brake assist, ESP, ABS with EBD, plus a rear park assist sensor tucked into the blue oval badge. The rear tray is also set up with a liner and 12V outlet.
The Ranger was a brilliant ute to drive in city traffic or on the highway. The ride was always smooth with even travel on rough country tracks causing no jars or bumps. Four wheel drive can be engaged via a console switch.
The Ranger is a true off road vehicle with its 17” alloys, smart side steps, low range capability, locking rear diff, 237mm ground clearance and 800mm water wading capability.
A mix of city and country driving returned figures around 9L per 100km and with a tank capacity of 80L there’s useful cruising range on tap.
Overall, the 2012 Ford Ranger is going to have a serious impact on rival’s sales. In many respects it sets new standards for equipment, comfort and ride, and the six-speed diesel is everything a driver needs in power and smoothness.
Warranty is three years or 100,000km. Price as reviewed was $57,980 driven from showroom.Reads: 2906