ROAD TEST: Ford Ranger 3.2 DC 4x4 Wildtrak AT
By: Jesse Adams
Johannesburg - A delivery quotation of R2500 seemed excessive. Not to mention a clause at the bottom that indemnified the company from any damages which may occur en route.
The decision was simple really. I’d have to trek from Jozi to Pietermaritzburg and collect my custom-made - rather large and quite expensive - furniture unit myself.
The trip coincided perfectly with the arrival of Ford’s just-launched Ranger Wildtrak for a road test, and after enlisting three travel companions and convincing a mate to lend his flat-bed trailer I set off on the nearly 1000km round trip mission. Ford’s PR man also encouraged the journey, as it would be the perfect opportunity to test some of the new bakkie’s high-tech features.
And I do mean high-tech. It wasn’t all that long ago that this term meant things like digital clocks and central locking in the commercial vehicle segment, but where bakkies were once just bare-boned load-haulers some are now just as gizmo-rich as some luxury sedans.
Granted, the 4x4 Wildtrack is the most expensive (R596 900), leisure-oriented double-cab in Ford’s 29-model Ranger line-up and bottom variants are still lucky to get clocks; but still, I never thought I’d live to see radar cruise control, active lane-keeping, rain-sensing wipers, forward collision mitigation, and rear view monitors in a pickup.
Also included is Trailer Sway Control – a safety feature I was happy not to test on my trip. I have a friend who nearly lost his legs when a trailer he was towing tried to overtake the car pulling it, leading to a high speed altercation with a bridge abutment; and it’s this scenario which TSC prevents by applying individual brakes to keep a swaying trailer in check. I’ve felt it work it in the past when a Passat I was driving became overwhelmed by the racing car trailer behind it, and though the buzz of the ABS pump and the grabbing at specific wheels makes for a bizarre sensation, it’s a life saver in the most literal sense.
ALMOST DROVE ITSELF
I did, however, give the Wildtrak’s adaptive cruise control a workout, and not having to tap brakes or throttle for hundreds of kilometres at a time is an absolute pleasure. This, combined with a lane keeping aid which gently steers the vehicle back into its lane when it senses a painted line being crossed, left me as the driver with little to do but scroll tunes on my Bluetooth connected phone. I must say though, that this almost autonomous way of driving could be dangerous at times and I admit it could’ve been easy to drift asleep with so much responsibility taken up by the big Ford’s clever computers.
The loaded trailer weighed around 700kg, which was no effort for the Wildtrak. Its 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel with 147kW and 470Nm laughed in the face of any extra weight, and it charged up Van Reenen’s Pass as if nothing was behind it.
Ford says this bakkie’s good to pull up to 750kg unbraked, and up to 3500kg with a braked trailer. I did notice some extra thirst in the trip computer though, which read around 11 litres per 100km on the way down and crept up to just under 14 on the way back.
For a bakkie, the Ranger Wildtrak is surprisingly comfortable. There is a fair amount of engine roar almost always, but besides that the cabin’s a cozy, well-insulated place. A rather large 8” touchscreen, where I was able to scroll said music and fine-tune climate control, gives off a very modern feel, and a smaller colour TFT screen in the instrument cluster where trip data and safety systems are displayed also adds to the upmarket feeling.
It’s quite a large vehicle, with a generous ride height which requires an alley-oop to board, but once at the wheel it’s particularly easy to drive. A six-speed autobox took care of shifting duty in our test unit, and the steering is remarkably light in power assistance – at least when compared to some other heavy-duty bakkies out there.
The suspension’s also quite forgiving considering the lack of any real advancements in this department, and its leaf-sprung rear axle only hops and judders over seriously ragged roads.
Though the bakkie market is usually slow to react to technology developments, Ford’s high-end Rangers are right at the sharp end when it comes to cutting edge gizmotronics.
The Wildtrak on test here is easily the most advanced leisure-type pickup on sale in South Africa, and the soon-to-be-launched new Hilux, Navara and Triton, will have have their work cut out for them.
But, at just a tad under 600 grand, it’s also one of the priciest. The second priciest actually, behind SA’s most powerful bakkie, the V9X Narara at R672 500.
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Ford Ranger 3.2 DC 4x4 Wildtrak AT
Engine: 3.2-litre, 5-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
Power: 147kW @ 3000rpm
Torque: 470Nm @ 1500-2750rpm
Price: R596 900
Warranty: 4-year / 120 000km
Service plan: 5-year / 100 000km
Isuzu KB300 D-Teq DC 4x4 LX AT - 130kW/380Nm - R536 600
Mazda BT-50 3.2 DC 4x4 SLE AT - 147kW/470Nm - R466 400
Nissan Navara 3.0 dCi V6 DC 4x4 LE - 170kW/500Nm - R672 500
Toyota Hilux 3.0 D-4D 4x4 Legend45 AT - 120kW/343Nm - R537 800
VW Amarok 2.0 BiTDI DC 4x4 Highline AT - 132kW/420Nm - R534 600