TOUWSRIVIER, Western Cape – Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa certainly knows how to keep its target market (and general enthusiasts) interested in Blue Oval bakkies. First, we saw the introduction of the Ranger Wildtrak. Then the Raptor was unveiled and introduced in South Africa. The latest model to join the locally built range? The double-cab Ranger Thunder.

What is it?

We’ve already covered the Thunder in depth, but as a reminder, it's essentially an upgraded Wildtrak (albeit with no mechanical updates). However, there is an extensive list of additional features the Thunder enjoys, both inside and out.

What stands out?

In terms of practicality, the loading bay comes standard with the Wildtrak "area management system", which include side rails, a drop-in bedliner with a 12V power socket, and tie downs. Bear in mind, however, if you plan on loading objects with abrasive surfaces (or really heavy equipment), the moulds that cover the entire loading bay may not last as long as a more conventional rubberised version.

There is also an optional Mountain Top roller shutter that was fitted to our test unit. During our drive, it was evident this system not is not only strong (and thankfully lockable), but also almost completely waterproof.

The red accents on the grille are the most obvious exterior updates, along with the black sports bar (with yet more red detailing) and the darkened side windows. There are also black alloy wheels and Thunder badges aplenty.

Behind the wheel

We took delivery of this particular bakkie a couple of weeks before the launch as it now forms part of our long-term fleet. However, heading to Aquila Private Game Reserve close to Touwsrivier gave us a first taste of the Thunder on the open road. While we’ve previously spent more than six months with the Ranger 2,0 SiT Double Cab XLT 4x4 10 AT, the additional power (157 kW over 132 kW) and torque (500 N.m over 420 N.m) of this bi-turbo engine are welcome.

Overtaking is easy while frugal consumption is another highlight. Currently, with some 1 000 km on the clock since it arrived, the fuel consumption figure is settling at around 9,5 L/100 km. This includes the 400 km road trip as well as daily duties. As we’ve experienced before, ride comfort is good and noise suppression commendable, while the cabin features plenty of useful standard kit.

My Android phone connected within seconds, while the two USB and two 12V sockets in the front, along with a 12V and a 230V/150W power converter socket in the rear, make managing device power a cinch. I initially frowned at the thought of a 10-speed automatic transmission, but on the open road and in town I barely noticed when the gearbox swapped cogs, except perhaps for the first couple of changes at lower speeds.

Summary

South Africans love their bakkies, and together with the Toyota Hilux, these two routinely fill the top podium places in terms of sales (though the D-Max enjoyed a stellar August). Adding this Thunder variant to the mix again places focus on the range, just as Ford SA would have planned.

While it's more expensive than the Wildtrak, it does offer additional features. And if the number of Thunders we’ve already seen on the road is anything to go by, buyers may just prefer the newcomer to the already popular Wildtrak. Regardless of which variant you choose, the Ranger line-up continues be one of the top choices for those shopping for a lifestyle and/or family bakkie.



FAST FACTS

Model: Ford Ranger Thunder 2,0 BiT 4x4 10 AT
Price: R787 000
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power: 157 kW @ 3 750 r/min
Torque: 500 N.m between 1 500 - 2 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 10 secs (tested)
Top Speed: N/A
Fuel Consumption: 7,8 L/100 km
CO2: 207 g/km
Transmission: 10-speed AT
Service Plan: Six-year/90 000 km