What is it?
The previous Ford Ranger was the first to be built under the ‘One Ford’ banner, which meant it was designed to be sold in the same form worldwide – except, that is, to the American market. That model was built in Thailand but this one will be made in South Africa.
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There’ll be two engines to choose from:, a 158bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine available exclusively with Limited trim and the 197bhp Wildtrak-only 3.2-litre diesel we’re driving here. Both can be had with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox.
The two trim levels bring an 8in touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, DAB and Ford’s Sync 2 programme, an eight-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and hill descent control.
Limited trim has 17in alloys and Wildtrak gets 18in wheelsWildtrak, while the latter also gets more colour choices. Limited models come in three body styles: a two-seat Regular Cab, occasional four-seat Super Cab and full five-seat Double Cab. Wildtrak models come in Double Cab form only.
What’s it like?
On first impressions, the Wildtrak looks a strong offering. It has a plush, well-appointed interior, with swathes of leather on the dashboard and the seats accompanied by Ford’s signature pride orange stitching, while the switchgear is chunky and robust enough to withstand the rigours of commercial use.
The driver’s seat is comfortable and easy to adjust, along with a generous amount of height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel. The double cab provides space in the back for two adults to sit comfortably, with plentiful head and leg room, although, the rear of the cabin feels rather more functional in quality than the front.
The Ranger’s most important figures are still impressive; it can tow trailers weighing up to 3500kg and its load bed will take 1035kg. The bed itself is a good shape and offers good access. For reference, a Mitsubishi L200 tows less and can carry only slightly more weight.
Pressing the ignition button brings a muscular-sounding grumble from the diesel, giving you a brief idea of the no-nonsense torque available. Admittedly, no diesel is outright pleasant-sounding on start-up, but at least the Wilktrak’s has a sense of purpose.
The auto ’box shifts through its ratios smoothly and is keen to select higher ratios in search of better fuel efficiency at a cruise. Hefty throttle inputs never result in the engine sounding strained.
Even large off-road ruts don’t unsettle the Ranger, with only a small amount of reverberation felt throughout the cabin, but not to the extent that it could be classed as uncomfortable.
The Ranger comes with an electrically controlled transfer box, which gives the driver the option to select rear-wheel drive and 4×4 high range ratios on the move. There’s also an option to select low-range gearing, which gives extra traction in difficult conditions or when tackling steep inclines and declines.
Like its predecessor, the Wildtrak feature hill descent control, using its traction control system to aid descending steep slopes at a constant speed. This feature matched with the auto ’box and low-range gearing of our test car worked extremely well.
Should I buy one?
Our off-road-only drive is hardly extensive enough to come to a concrete conclusion, but the Ranger’s continued prowess on the rough stuff, its generous towing and hauling limits and comfortable, well-appointed cabin mean it should certainly be on your shopping list.
Just bear in mind that this range-topping Wildtrak still looks a little pricey next to an equivalent Mitsubishi L200 or Volkswagen Amarok, so the cheaper but similarly well equipped Limited model will be the better option for most buyers. We’ll have our final verdict after a proper on-road drive early next year.
Ford Ranger Wildtrak Double Cab
Where Lommel, Belgium; On sale January 2016; Price £32,370; Engine 3200cc, diesel; Power 197bhp at 3000rpm; Torque 347lb ft at 1500-2750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerbweight NA; Top speed 109mph; 0-62mph 10.4sec; Fuel economy 28.2mpg; CO2 265g/km