“Do you really need a million rand bakkie?”
It’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves after spending the good part of a year with our long-term Ford Ranger XL, which costs little more than half of that amount and provides a great deal of bakkie for the money, and surprising refinement too.
Yet given how many Wildtrak models we see on the roads, there is clearly a demand for a Ranger with all the trimmings, and with that in mind Ford recently swapped our back-to-basics XL with the recently-launched Wildtrak X model.
Shortly after taking delivery of our new Frozen White long-termer with its Cyber Orange accents, we also got to spend a week with a Wildtrak 3.0 V6 diesel, leading to another obvious question: if you are spending a million on a bakkie, which is your best Ranger option?
The Wildtrak X, stickered at R1,013,000 at the time of writing in December 2023, costs just R13,000 less than the aforementioned V6 Wildtrak. Instead of the latter’s bigger engine the X sticks with Ford’s four-cylinder bi-turbo diesel, which offers 154kW and 500Nm.
Although it loses two cylinders versus its similarly priced counterpart, it gains a whole lot of extra kit that makes it more capable and comfortable when you hit the trails.
Over and above the impressive list of features fitted to the regular Wildtrak, the X gains a significantly revised long-travel suspension with Bilstein shocks, 17-inch rims with General Grabber all-terrain tyres and a nifty feature called Trail Turn Assist.
It also inherits Ford’s on-demand four-wheel drive system, until now only fitted to the V6 models. It has a “4A” mode that gives you an extra safety net with four wheel control when driving at higher speeds. It’s very handy when driving in heavy rain or on slippery stretches of dirt road as we did on the launch in the Northern Cape.
Looking back on that, I remember being highly impressed with the Ranger’s overall feeling of stability as well as its ride comfort.
The engineering changes have also widened the new model’s track by 30mm, while ground clearance is raised by 26mm.
Although we have yet to experience the Wildtrak X in extreme off-road conditions - that’s certainly on the agenda for our new long-termer - we did get to see the new Trail Turn Assist system in action on the launch.
Essentially it brakes the inside rear wheel to significantly improve the turning circle on trails, something that’s becoming all the more relevant as bakkies grow bigger and bigger with each generation.
The Wildtrak X has a few unique design touches, including black Ford badges, Cyber Orange accents on the front bumper, integrated auxiliary lights and aluminium side steps.
Cabin decor comes in the form of Miko suede and leather seat upholstery with Wildtrak X embroidery as well as Cyber Orange contrast stitching, which also appears on the doors, dashboard and steering wheel.
Features include a 10-speaker B&O premium audio system as well as Sync 4A infotainment system with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. But more importantly for those overlanding folk, it has a built-in 400W/240V inverter with outlet in the load bay and cabin.
But is it worth sacrificing the V6 engine that’s available in the similarly-priced Wildtrak for all the Wildtrak X goodies?
That really depends on what you’re looking for in a bakkie. The V6 Wildtrak offers meaty performance and a soundtrack to match. It is a serious piece of kit.
But after driving them back to back, the 2.0-litre bi-turbo in the Wildtrak X didn’t leave me wanting at all, despite losing 30kW and 100Nm of torque to its bigger engined sibling. It’s comfortably powered and if we use Ford’s official fuel consumption figures as a basis, it is 0.9 litres per 100km more efficient.
So here’s the deal. If you have a boat or a caravan that’s the size of a government Minister’s mansion and you like to travel long distances with it, the V6 Wildtrak is probably the one for you.
But if you’re an avid off-roading enthusiast who likes to take the road less travelled, the 4A equipped Wildtrak X will keep you safe on those gravel stretches and its superior off-roading ability will make a difference when you hit those really challenging trails.
All we can say is, we’re really happy to be stuck with a Wildtrak X for the next few months. Adventure loading..