The arrival of the new Ford Ranger signaled a change of tack in the pick-up sector for the blue oval brand.
A world apart from its utilitarian, workhorse predecessor, the new arrival vies with the VW Amarok and Nissan Navara to lead the sector for comfort and sophistication and to appeal both leisure, and work vehicle.
At the top of the range sits this double cab Wildtrak powered by a 3.2 TDCi 200hp engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The standard price, excluding VAT, for the Wildtrak is £24,279 though ours had metallic paint (£400) and a £1150 lockable roll top cover.
The automatic transmission certainly takes much of the strain out of driving such a bulky vehicle in narrow, congested urban streets and the sensors and reversing camera make parking a relatively stress free exercise.
The Wildtrak is the most overtly in-your-face styled model in the Ranger line-up (it has 18-inch alloys and the one we drove was orange) and as such, polarises opinions amongst urbanites, attracting an equal measure of admiring glances or approbation for the driver for daring to breach the city limits with such a perceived gas guzzler.
To be fair, the 3.2-litre, 200hp engine is a tad thirsty. Matching the manufacturer’s official combined cycle fuel consumption of just over 27mpg would call for a zealous adherence to an economic driving style. For all but the most strenuous demands, we reckon the 2.2-litre, 150hp engine would offer adequate performance.
Both engines offer a meaty, class-leading maximum towing weight of 3350kg and once out on the open road we’re not convinced the larger powertrain delivers enough extra grunt to persuade many punters to bypass the impressive 2.2 unit.
Having said that, the 3.2 does offer plenty of power and it is wise to set the cruise control at a sensible limit before getting too fond of life in the fast lane.
When gathering speed the auto box is smooth enough but prone to an occasional lurch that, in our opinion, sees it fall short of the standard set by the new eight-speed automatic on VW’s Amarok.
The Wildtrak’s cabin is plush and more brashly styled than the other Rangers in the line-up, including leather seats with Wildtrak stitching and trimming.
Steering is adjustable for rake and reach and electric controls on the driver’s side make it easy to find the best position. There are a couple of 12-volt sockets and a handy cable to plug-in ipod into.
Unlocking the roll top cover revealed a load bay with six lashing points and a another 12-volt socket.
From a safety perspective, ESP with traction control and emergency brake assist comes as standard and if you do decide to hitch up a trailer, or a modest yacht, then Trailer Sway Assist and Roll Over Mitigation should keep you safe from harm.
The Wildtrak Auto is an impressive flagship but the 3.2-litre engine is unlikely to tempt the bulk of Ranger customers