By transplanting the 154 kW V6 mill from Ford’s Explorer SUV into the local Ranger range, FMCSA has unleashed some of the most powerful bakkies (4x2 and 4x4) ever produced in South Africa.

By transplanting the 154 kW V6 mill from Ford’s Explorer SUV into the local Ranger range, FMCSA has unleashed some of the most powerful bakkies (4x2 and 4x4) ever produced in South Africa.

An often-quoted statistic says that a four-wheel drive vehicle spends only five per cent of its working life on non-tarred roads. This probably applies more to overseas countries than to our neck of the woods. More and more South African 4x4 owners are attending off-road driving courses and planning holidays off-the-beaten-track.

FMCSA planned a route through Botswana, where, in the rainy season, four-wheel drive is required at least 95 per cent of the time, to demonstrate the capabilities of their latest flagship pickup, the four-litre Ranger. And an impressive job the vehicles did, taking the mud puddles (or should we say pools, about half a metre deep) in their stride.

Most could be tackled in 4x4 high range but every now and then low range was selected, via the console-mounted rotary switch, for slower progress through the water and increased traction. Diff-lock is also selectable from a facia-mounted switch. Automatic transmissions are becoming more popular on 4x4s, with smooth progress ensured via the torque converter.

In this case, the five-speed auto-box is very well suited to the “made in the USA” 4.0 litre V6 powerplant. We were able to try both manual and automatic versions and actually preferred the auto-box. The manual gear change was a bit notchy and there was insufficient room to the left of the clutch pedal to rest your left foot.

The meaty torque of 323 N.m at 3 000 r/min is also well-tamed by the auto for those moments when maximum grip is needed. The well-proven engine (used in the Ford Explorer) has a maximum output of 154 kW at 5 250 r/min. Under-bonnet accessibility to the engine is also surprisingly good. Build quality seemed fine and with all the water-wading, not a drop intruded into the cabin.

Appearance-wise, a rugged, American-style look is accentuated by the chrome grille, side mirrors and door handles plus an insert in the front bumper. The rear-end has been left conventional with no modern bright lenses to add to the bright and shiny all-round look.

Standard features on all the double-cabs include leather seats, front stainless-steel nudge bar (which was fully tested for compatibility with the dual airbag deployment sensors), roll-over bars, rear step and side sill protectors, all in stainless steel and the usual full array of interior luxuries is also standard equipment. Fifteen-inch alloy wheels are shod with 265/70 R15 tyres.

Comfort up-front was good with reasonably supportive seats and good head-and legroom. The sizeable centre armrest hides an air-conditioned storage compartment containing a removable foam insert moulded to keep six cans upright and cool. The rear cabin also proved comfortable for adults, with the seat being raised with extra padding for better leg support. An armrest is also fitted to the rear bench seat. Payload ability is a full one ton.

The Ranger is also available in 4x2 form at a considerable saving in price, while a Super-cab version, which is an extended single-cab having tax-saving virtues, completes the range.