By: Neville Beeton

As a youngster growing up on a Lowveld farm I learnt to drive in a bakkie with a clumsy steering-wheel-mounted gear shift. But that was many, many moons ago and I have since grown up, as have bakkies, becoming larger and infinitely more refined.

Best of both worlds

This thought crossed my mind as I eased our test vehicle, the Ford Ranger XLT 2.2 TDCi double cab with a six-speed auto gearbox, into Joburg rush hour traffic. Ford Ranger owners can now have the best of both worlds following the introduction of this auto gearbox in the model line-up, making it the ideal vehicle for commuting in slow, stop-start traffic in the week before heading out to the great outdoors on weekends.

The rear-wheel-drive XLT 4x2 is the top-of-the-range model in the 2.2 diesel range and brings the bakkie closer to the cliched “car-like” driving experience with a quieter and more refined ride, and comes with loads of nice-to-have features such as satellite controls on the steering wheel, dual electronic automatic climate control, electric windows and leather seats. We found the switches for the climate controls on the small side, though, making them a bit fiddly to use while driving.

Neat cabin with touch-screen

The cabin layout is neat and uncluttered with a 4.2-inch TFT screen in the instrument cluster providing handy info without distracting you from the road too much.

A larger 8-inch touchscreen on the centre console provides access to features such as voice control, multimedia, Bluetooth, phone and includes an SD card slot, auxiliary input and two USB ports.

This Ranger comes with a handy reverse parking camera incorporated in the touchscreen. However, once we loaded a mountain bike rack on the tow bar it activated the proximity buzzer when reversing.

The seats are manually adjustable, while the steering wheel can be adjusted for height, but not for reach, but it is easy to find a comfortable driving position.

The centre console between the front seats doubles as a storage bin while also providing a cooler box which is handy for long trips.

The XLT also comes with some eye candy with chrome detailing on the front grille, mirrors, and door handles. The offroad look is enhanced by a steel step making it easier to get in and out, while a chrome rear bumper shows the Ranger means business.

The double cab has ample space for both front and rear passengers and rear passengers have a centre folding armrest with two cupholders.

Slight lag, but otherwise smooth

The 2.2 Duratorq turbodiesel engine is good for 118kW of power and with 385Nm of torque on tap provides good all-round driving ability with low-down grunt for tackling steep climbs or pulling a heavy load while also enabling relaxed high-speed cruising. The motor is refined for a diesel and the pairing with the six-speed auto gearbox works well.

Although there is slight turbo lag on pull away, the Ranger accelerates smoothly and the driver has the option of using the fully automatic mode, switching to sport mode for improved responsiveness and downshifts, or selecting manual gearshifts.

Fuel consumption which included both urban and freeway driving was a fair 10.2l/100km.

The Electronic Stability Program includes traction control, hill-launch assist, trailer-sway control, adaptive load control and roll-over mitigation. The Ranger can tow a 750kg unbraked load which increases to 1500kg for braked towing.

Though it’s a 4x2 the Ranger XLT’s offroading ability is enhanced by a genrous 237mm ground clearance with 800mm water wading depth for our African rivers. A rear diff lock is available as an option.

VERDICT

The addition of a 6-speed auto gearbox to the 2.2 Ford Ranger model line-up will find favour with those seeking the ease of an auto gearbox matched to the versatility of a double cab bakkie, while the XLT model on test comes with a high spec level providing good levels of comfort.

FACTS

Ford Ranger XLT 2.2TDCi Double Cab XLT auto

Engine: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel

Gearbox: 6-speed automatic

Power: 118kW @ 3700rpm

Torque: 385Nm @ 1500 - 2000rpm

Price: R483 900

Warranty: 4-year / 120 000km

Service plan: 5-year / 100 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Isuzu KB 300D-Teq DC LX auto - 130/380Nm - R501 200

Mazda BT-50 3.2 DC SLE auto - 147kW/470Nm - R456 500

Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 DC Raider auto - 130kW/450Nm - R508 500

VW Amarok 2.0BiTDi DC Highline auto - 132kW/420Nm - R529 200

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