ROAD TEST - Ford Ranger 2.2 DC XLS
Good ol' bakkie debates. There are not many conversations where the “mine is bigger than yours” mentality is more prevalent than here.
Listen to the arguments around your nearest braai and you'll hear about which double cab has the most powerful turbodiesel engine and which one tows the best. And as much as size is not spoken about as often, it must count for a lot. Just look at how much bigger the average bakkie has become in the last few years.
Despite fuel prices spiralling out of control, bakkie buyers the world over are still demanding bigger ones and here the Ford Ranger is well poised. It's really big.
Have you ever tried to park a cruise liner in your swimming pool? Ok, well the Ranger's not quite that bad, but it still challenges the dimensions of your average South African parking lot - especially the recently built ones, all of which were designed by people that drive Chevy Spark Lites.
But providing you stick to parkings that don't have an uncoordinated idiot on one side, the Ranger still fits in most spots and you get used to it eventually.
What surprised me more than this Ranger's size, however, was just how un-bakkie-like it feels inside. The design, plastics and fit and finish move the bakkie goalposts forward. It really feels more SUV than workhorse in here and the same applies to the rear legroom, which is almost mid-sized-sedan spacious.
Bearing in mind that it's still suspended by leaf springs, the ride quality did very little to alter the illusion that I was driving an SUV and the same applies to its overall quietness of operation. I'm drawing straws comparing it to the Amarok for overall refinement, yet I'd say this Ford has the edge, if only just. At least the clutch doesn't feel like it's nicked from a rusty old truck.
Speaking of trucks, the Ranger has a chunky look about it that reminds me of a proper American pick-up truck - especially at the back.
It's no V8 brute though. The 2.2-litre turbodiesel double cab that I drove is not even the most powerful diesel in the range, but it is a good R60 000 cheaper than the 3.2-litre diesel.
For that you give up a few creature comforts and 37 ponies, but the 2.2 is still well endowed with 110kW on tap at 3700rpm and 375Nm from 1500rpm. It might have a lot of weight to haul, but the performance still falls short of sluggish. It's adequate in most situations, as long as you're not expecting it to pull like the previous 3-litre Ranger. It is a good highway cruiser, however, thanks largely to its six-speed manual gearbox.
The 2.2’s braked towing capacity of 1800kg is also somewhat down on the 3.2's 3350kg limit. It still does well on the loading front, with a payload of 965kg.
The 2.2 XLS double cab is available in both 4x2 and 4x4 formats and the 3.2 4x4 that we tested previously proved extremely capable on an off-road course, thanks to its 237mm ground clearance and decent approach and departure angles of 25.5 and 21.8 degrees.
Priced at R332 620, the 2.2 XLS is most certainly the pick of the bunch amongst its less powerful peers. Add the chunky styling and overall sophistication into the mix and you have a winner.
Ford Ranger 2.2 DC XLS - R332 620
Isuzu KB 250 D-Teq DC KB72 (85kW) - R320 900
Mitsubishi 2.5 DI-D DC (100kW) - R326 900
Nissan Navara 2.5 dCi DC XE (106kW) - R337 000
Toyota Hilux 2.5 D-4D DC Raider (75kW) - R341 000
VW Amarok 2.0 TDI DC Trendline (90kW) - R341 700