Ford Ranger 2.5TDCi Regular Cab 4x4 - Tested January 2007

Date: Sunday, January 28, 2007

It's perhaps not surprising that pick-up manufacturers have become mesmerised by the 4x4 double cab market.

 

Fuelling an impressive level of sales growth for some producers, four-door five-seater double cabs are fashionable and profitable, especially the branded top-of-the-range versions festooned with every extra known to man. Some of them are sold as tax-efficient alternatives to the company car, others for leisure use and yet others for use as a workhorse during the week and to transport the family around at weekends.

Despite the fact that they have the advantage of a longer pick-up bed than their double cab companions, 4x4 single cabs have been somewhat eclipsed by all this ballyhoo and one or two manufacturers have decided not to import them.

Isuzu isn't marketing a 4x4 single cab version of the new Rodeo in the UK, although it is contemplating selling a 4x2 single cab here. Nissan's Navara isn't up for grabs as a 4x4 single cab either, although its D22 predecessor was and was still available at the time of writing.

Some manufacturers seem to be taking the view that if customers want a 4x4 pick-up with a bit more cargo bed length, then maybe they should sell them one with a stretched two-door cab with some space behind the seats. Not a bad solution so far as some owners are concerned, but again you lose bed length.

We decided to fly the flag for the traditional 4x4 pick-up for a few days by getting to grips with a single cab 4x4 Ford Ranger — a Regular Cab in Ford parlance — and we weren't disappointed by the outcome.

Technical

Power comes courtesy of a 2.5-litre Duratorq TDCi intercooled common rail 12-valve, four cylinder diesel engine. It kicks out a healthy 143 bhp at 3,500rpm, while peak torque of 243 lb/ft bites at 1,800rpm.

A five-speed manual gearbox comes as standard and relies on a hydraulic single dry plate clutch.

A lever next to the gearstick is used to switch drive to all four wheels. A shift-on-the-fly system allows you to do so while driving and when in 4x4 mode you can select a set of low-ratio gears if you're going to attempt some serious mud plugging.

Don't forget to press a button on the dashboard to release the freewheeling front hubs, which lock automatically, when you return to 4x2 mode. You get a rear limited slip diff too.

Independent suspension is fitted at the front and is a double wishbone set-up with torsion bar springs and an anti-roll bar. You'll find leaf springs at the rear. Our test Ranger's 15in steel wheels were shod with Michelin LTX A/T 235/75 R15 tyres.

Stopping power is provided by ventilated front disc brakes accompanied by drums at the back and ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution are standard items. Offering a 12.6m turning circle between kerbs, the ball-and-nut steering is power-assisted.

Gross payload is 1,235kg and you can haul a braked trailer grossing at a hefty 3,000kg.

Load Area   

A tailgate that can either be dropped down completely or locked in the horizontal position so that the vehicle can cope with over-length loads provides access to the cargo bed. Loads can be secured to exterior hooks supplemented by a rope rail and the restraint frame positioned behind the cab comes with hinged stops to prevent anything propped up against it — a ladder for instance — from sliding off to one side.

Maximum load length is 2,280mm compared with the Double Cab Ranger's 1,530mm and the Super Cab's (ie stretched two-door) 1,753mm. Maximum width is 1,456mm, narrowing to 1,092mm between the wheel boxes, the double-skinned sides are 457mm deep and maximum loading height is 823mm.

Cab Comfort   

Our two biggest gripes about Ranger's cab interior concern the handbrake lever and the driving position.

Despite the fact that there's an acre of floor space available, Ford has made the big error of equipping Ranger with an umbrella-type handbrake release mounted underneath the dashboard. It's an old-fashioned set-up that What Van? heartily loathes, and unnecessary too given that there's plenty of room for a conventional handbrake lever.

Pick-up drivers come in all shapes and sizes, so it's downright annoying — and rather surprising — that the driver's seat cannot be adjusted for height. At least the height of the steering column can be altered.

On the positive side we like the chunky, user-friendly controls for the heating and ventilation system and the stereo radio/CD player, and we like their brushed-steel surrounds too. Storage facilities for all the oddments drivers like to carry around with them include divided bins in each of the front doors, a lidded and lockable glovebox, a cubby hole at the bottom of the dashboard and a little slot for small change to the right of the steering column.

Ranger comes with electric windows and mirrors plus driver and front passenger air bags and remote central locking.

Nice to see a practical wipe-clean vinyl cover for the cab floor. The seat trim is in various shades of grey, and while it may not be inspiring, at least it's unlikely to show the dirt in a working vehicle.

On the Road

While Ranger may not be the most powerful pick-up on the block, precious few owners will moan about a lack of performance.

It leaps away from rest, offers storming mid-range acceleration and happily cruises at the maximum legal motorway speed without breaking sweat. All this is to the accompaniment of an exemplary gearchange, a good ride and well-muted noise levels.

OK, the steering is slightly over-assisted, but this doesn't spoil what is surprisingly impressive handling for a 4x4 with a high centre of gravity.

All the torque that's on tap makes 4x4 Ranger a handy off-road performer and the engine's anti-stall system can be invaluable during low-speed manoeuvring in the rough.

As far as fuel is consumption is concerned the demonstrator averaged 32mpg during the test period.

In contrast to the soft touchy-feely styling now being espoused by some pick-up makers, Ford's latest offering looks downright aggressive. That can be attributed to a huge chrome radiator grille dominated by a pair of horizontal bars with a large Blue Oval badge sandwiched between them plus a prominent bonnet and wheel arches.

Service intervals are set at 12,500 miles and Ranger is protected by a three-year/60,000 mile warranty including emergency roadside assistance for the duration. It's also covered by a six-year corrosion perforation warranty.

Our vehicle was finished in metallic paint for an extra £250 plus VAT.

VERDICT

Ford's current Ranger 4x4 pick-up is an impressive package, no question about it. It looks good, there's plenty of performance on tap, and it rides and handles well. The gearchange is smooth and noise levels are well controlled. Our main criticisms concern the cab interior with its ghastly umbrella-type handbrake release and the lack of driver's seat adjustment. Sort these two, admittedly minor, problems out and Ranger is likely to be a real winner.

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