Give the Ford Ranger chrome treatment, a silky smooth V6 engine and a comprehensive off-roading package and you get the Ranger Platinum; the most premium offering within the Ranger family, bar the Raptor. While the Platinum option remains unavailable in South Africa, Oliver Keohane got behind the wheel to drive it in the icy Mountains of Queenstown, New Zealand.
What are we driving?
We are driving arguably the most intentional luxury offering within the Ford Ranger family. Yes, the Ranger Raptor still sits in a league of its own, and while it may possess similar elements to the Platinum, with equally high-grade materials, the Raptor is still a very sporty, niche off-roading vehicle in terms of look and feel. The Platinum on the other hand caters specifically to the luxury bakkie market. I mean, when have you seen this sort of chrome treatment on a Ranger before?
Why is the Ranger Platinum significant?
The Ranger Platinum cements itself as Ford’s ultimate luxury bakkie, and in doing so firmly establishes another category and market for the manufacturer within its already extensive Ranger Lineup.
The pecking order traditionally has been the 3.0L twin-turbo V6 Ranger Raptor, just below that the Ranger Wildtrak (with either a 3.0L V6 or 2.0L Bi-Turbo engine option) and then the Ranger XLT 4X4 – the highest spec of the double-cab Ranger options.
Then Ford confirmed the release of the Wildtrak X, which comes to South Africa in the next few months – read our review below. Priced at over R1 million, and retaining the 2.0L Bi-Turbo engine but kitted with a host of specific factory-standard off-roading modifications and technology, the Wildtrak X marked the introduction of a double-cab for the bakkie-buyer looking for premium off-roading-and-overlanding capability, straight off the showroom floor.
My impression is that the Ranger Platinum is the luxury sibling to the Wildrak X. The Platinum sacrifices very little in terms of off-road prowess, but what it does is offer buyers the option of SUV-type luxury without all the Raptor and Wildtrak extras that make those bakkie unique to off-roading. The Ranger Platinum is Ford’s answer to the ever-growing market for luxury lifestyle bakkies. It is a vehicle that has been produced to meet the requirements of a statement car in terms of comfort, look and feel, but not at the expense of the genetics intrinsic to a bakkie.
What’s new on the Ranger Platinum?
While the Platinum Ranger is a new member of the family, the Platinum trim is not unfamiliar, with the highest-spec Ford Everests having sported the Platinum badge for a little while. Naturally, the Ranger Platinum shares many of its extra features with its Everest sibling.
At first glace, the Ranger Platinum distinguishes itself from other Rangers with a unique, chrome-infused grill, Matrix LED Headlights – which further enhance the aesthetic of the already impressive C-Clamp lights unique to Ford’s Next Gen vehicles – and the “Platinum” badge stretching across the bonnet. The chrome accents continue throughout the car, from the side steps to the window lining and wheel arches, complementing an impressive set of 20-inch, 12-spoke alloy wheels. The wheels, for me, were the dominant distinguishing factor, giving the car a Maybach-like look when in motion. They looked particularly impressive kicking up the snow of the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds, but more on the driving conditions later!
Despite prioritising a luxury trim level, I was impressed that Ford opted to kit the Platinum with the new Flexible Rack System, a feature it shares only with the Wildtrax X. The system works with folding roof racks and a power roller shutter with a soft close tailgate. What looks like a simple roll bar is actually a very effective loading system for the car.
Adding to the overall presence of the Platinum package is the fact that it isn’t just styled to look good, it’s built to perform exceptionally. The Platinum possesses a 3.0L turbo-diesel engine which puts out 184kW of power and 600 N.m of torque, the same as that of the Volkswagen Amarok Aventura – arguably the most luxurious bakkie on the South African market at the moment – with the new Amaroks having been built on the same platform as Ford’s Next Gen Rangers. For VW’s top spec you pay R1 105 000, so it would be interesting to see what Ford would price the Platinum at, were it to come to South Africa.
In terms of driving modes, the Platinum comes kitted with all the selectable four-wheel drive options, including a low-range mode and the new 4A option, which allows permanent four-wheel drive, whether on tar or gravel. The Platinum also has all the necessary off-road goodies, including a rear diff-lock, hill descent control and stability and traction control.
Inside the cabin, the class continues. Step inside and you’re greeted by luxurious quilted leather upholstery finished with distinctive “Platinum” emblems on the front seats. Detailed accent stitching lines the seats and cabin and high-end floor mats bear a premium badge. Of course, the Ranger Platinum has the large 12-inch touchscreen Ford infotainment system, paired to an impressive Bang and Olufsen sound system. Also present is a 12,4-inch digital instrument cluster. Comfort is taken care of with the inclusion of ventilated front seats, adjustable in 10 ways with power control and memory settings, along with a heated steering wheel to top it all off.
What does the Ranger Platinum cost?
We don’t know, because the Platinum remains more a hope than a reality for the South African market. What we can safely say, is that you won’t be getting your hands on that kind of luxury and capability for under a R1 million. The Ranger Platinum would probably sit above the Wildtrak 3.0L V6, which currently costs R1 026 000.
Forgive me for the long-winded verdict, but I would like to contextualise how the Ranger Platinum presents as a product against how it performs. I think it is easy to assume, given the luxurious nature of the offering, that Ford may have done away with some of the off-roading prowess in order to make room for more premium materials or a refined driving experience. Not the case at all. This is something that I’ve found has also characterised Ford’s entire range of Next-Gen vehicles. While the engines may vary, as do the off-road capabilities, the ride quality is consistent throughout the spec levels.
We were lucky enough to test the Ranger Platinum at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds in Queenstown, New Zealand. The Proving Grounds provide a massive facility in the snowed-out mountains of the South Island, where manufacturers across the world test their vehicles in the most trying conditions. Just after we left, Audi’s Quattro system was being put to the test.
Advanced driving company Downforce New Zealand took us through a day of ice-driving training in a few Ford Rangers and Everests. Of the Ranger family, there were XLT 4X4s, Wildtraks and then one Platinum, in the version-specific Equinox Bronze shade. The Platinum stood out, but not just in looks. You could hear the V6 purr, the car seemed to perform just that little bit better than the other vehicles as it navigated its way through the different courses, and when I got the chance to drive it I could feel that I was behind the wheel of notably more premium offering.
The Ford Ranger Platinum is a natural and necessary progression that transparently embraces- rather than resists- the shift of the bakkie market into luxury and lifestyle vehicles. But what makes it most welcome, I believe, is the fact that it embodies the opulence of an SUV without sacrificing the traditional capability of a bakkie. In an industry often concerned with appearing rather than being, Ford has stayed true to delivering authentic luxury – where the vehicle performs as it presents. Beautifully.
Ford Ranger Platinum Fast Facts
Engine: 3.0L V6 Turbo-diesel
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Torque: 600 N.m
Driven wheels: Selectable Four-wheel drive