SOUTH AFRICA is bakkie country. In fact, so obsessed with pick-ups is our market that any manufacturer serious about becoming a volume player must have a product in this segment. The fact that the Volkswagen Amarok exists is at least partly due to VW South Africa pushing the powers-that-be in Germany for such a vehicle for decades. And we hear that Hyundai is now doing the same. Nevertheless, having a product on offer is one thing. Having a product good enough to unseat the decadeslong class leader, the Toyota Hilux, is quite another. But now that day may have arrived. The all-new Ford Ranger has easily been one of the most eagerly anticipated launches of the year. Expectations are high and can be attributed, to some degree, to the fighting talk coming from the Blue Oval’s offices in the months leading up to its launch. Of course, there is a danger in being too confident, too cocky. But, based on this first test, Ford has reason to be exceedingly confident.
The new Ranger is just that, brand-new. It shares nothing with its capable predecessor and is the first bakkie to be built for global markets under the One Ford banner. Rangers are assembled in Pretoria for local sale and exported to a number of world markets.
Starting from a clean sheet of paper, Ford’s engineers and designers benchmarked the vehicle’s competitors and set out to beat them in every possible way. A big focus was toughness. According to Ford, more than 30 000 computer-aided assessments were done in the areas of safety, durability and dynamics, among others, during the virtual design phase. Of those 30 000, close to 7 500 were virtual assessments of the underbody to ensure robustness. Once in prototype form, the Ranger was then tested exhaustively in 15 countries, clocking up more than a million kilometres of endurance testing in the most strenuous conditions. Ford simply wanted the new Ranger to be capable of “towing more, carrying more, wading deeper and climbing higher” than its rivals.
Looking at the claimed figures for the newcomer, it certainly appears Ford has achieved those lofty ambitions. The flagship Ranger, as tested here, can tow 3 350 kg (braked) and boasts an 800 mm wading ability, partly thanks to its ground clearance of 237 mm.
On this extremely solid base, Ford wished to build a classleading leisure vehicle. Throughout our test term and from a wide variety of drivers, the opinion was that the new Ranger boasts class-leading ride comfort, on both tar and gravel. It is also very stable, no doubt aided by a clever electronic stability programme that incorporates traction control, hill-descent control, hilllaunch assist, trailer-sway control, adaptive load control, emergency-brake assist and roll-over mitigation. It also features seven airbags and Isofix childseat anchorages. No wonder, then, that the Ranger recently became the first bakkie to attain a five-star rating in EuroNCAP crash testing.
Measuring 5 270 mm in length and 2 163 mm in width, the Ranger double cab is a hulk of a machine. Ford’s designers have used these generous dimensions to create a class-leading cabin. The previous Ranger was particularly disappointing in this area – rear space was not the largest in the class and access was problematic through narrow doors. Well, on the new model Ford has gone as far as fitting smaller front doors on double-cab models to facilitate longer rear doors and make ingress easier. The Ranger also boasts class-leading rear-seat comfort and space.
Up front, the good news continues, although we would have liked to see more adjustment for the steering wheel. It offers limited rake adjustment, and none for reach. That said, the seat offers generous adjustment, and when we took the vehicle to be tested by farmers in the Swartland, even the biggest men proclaimed it comfortable.
In terms of ergonomics and fit and finish, the newcomer offers all the mod cons, including an audio system with Bluetooth capability, USB and iPod connectivity, dual-zone climate control and cruise control. There are 23 storage areas in the cabin and the glove compartment is particularly large. There is also a handy hidden storage area underneath the rear seat. Like all other bakkies, the Ranger’s cabin is constructed from hard-to-the-touch plastic, but it looks suitably robust and the vehicle remained rattle-free, no matter what road conditions it faced during our test term. There are concerns, however, that some of the “prettier” trim bits may show signs of wear rather quickly.
This particular Ranger is powered by an all-new five-cylinder, 3,2-litre turbodiesel engine that is built in Ford’s plant in Port Elizabeth. It delivers 147 kW at 3 000 r/min and a meaty 470 N.m of torque from 1 500 to 2 750 r/min. And you can feel it. Mated with one of the few six-speed automatic transmissions in this segment, the engine propelled our test unit to 100 km/h in 12,39 seconds, not bad for a bakkie that tipped our scales at a hefty 2 253 kg! It’s a comfortable highspeed tourer, too, feeling absolutely stable at a tested 170-plus km/h. The engine also promises to be economical considering its performance and the weight of the vehicle, with a fuel index figure of 11,52 litres/100 km being quite easily bettered. An 80-litre tank is standard fitment, making a range of around 700 km possible.
Should you be heading off-road, this Ranger features an electronically controlled transfer case that allows shift-on-the-fly from 4×2 to 4×4 high at any time via a knob on the centre console, and an electronic rear-differential lock. Ford has employed a lower reduction gear in the transfer case compared with previous models.
The only thing that really counts against the Ranger off the beaten track is its bulk. As one farmer suggested, it is so pretty, and so big, you really don’t want to scratch it. At least visibility out of the vehicle is good.
Bakkies fulfil varied roles in South Africa. Some are workhorses, while others are purely leisure vehicles. And some have to do both. When you’re talking high-spec, automatic transmission double cabs, however, it is clear-cut. We’re looking at a vehicle that primarily has to perform as a family/leisure vehicle. In this regard, the new Ranger not so much beats the Hilux as gives it a walloping.
While we eagerly anticipate more (work-oriented) Rangers to evaluate, we’ve seen enough in this particular test to know that the Hilux faces its stiffest challenge yet, possibly ever. Brand loyalty – one of the Hilux’s great strengths – will be seriously tested in the coming years.
|FORD Ranger 3.2 XLT HR D-Cab Dsl PU MY12 AT 2012|
|Litres per 100 km:||8.4|
|Warranty:||48 Months / 120 000 kms|
is a Hilux hunter. A
bloody good one,
too “ KK
A seriously impressive
product. Seems like
the Hilux has met its
match “ GD
Hilux, there's no point
in watching your
back. The Ranger has
already pulled ahead