Ford Ranger 3.0TDCi — August 2007
Thursday, September 6, 2007
We're talking about the arrival of Ford's 3.0-litre TDCi common rail engine, which also coincides with the arrival of an optional five-speed automatic transmission and an all-new model; the lifestyle-focussed Wildtrak.
Ford has finally got its act together with the Ranger and at last given the double cab pick-up truck the performance it deserves.
While the auto 'box is only available on the 3.0-litre Thunder model, the Wildtrak retains the five-speed manual gearbox and gets lively paint schemes and blinged interior, as it aims for a piece of the lifestyle sector with its all-new engine.
“New Ranger has been well-received, with sales volumes up 30 per cent on those of a year ago,” says Steve Kimber, Ford's commercial vehicle director. “With the addition of these two new versions, we're expecting sales to have doubled by the end of 2007.”
In the first half of 2007, Ford shifted 4,300 Rangers to UK buyers, which compares favourably to the 7,000 models sold throughout 2006.
“We're expanding our footprint within the pick-up sector and while Mitsubishi still dominates, with Nissan chasing hard, we're now fast approaching Nissan — the bigger engine and automatic transmission is what customers have been asking for.”
Engine power hasn't risen dramatically and it doesn't topple the all-singing, all-dancing Nissan Navara, but the 156hp on tap from Ford's enlarged Duratorq lump is a modest step up from the 143hp 2.5-litre, which remains available. And it almost suggests there could be more grunt in the pipeline.
But it is in the torque department where the 3.0-litre delivers its trump card. There's now 380Nm available at 1,800rpm, where there was once a peak of 330Nm.
The new engine is a smooth and refined common-rail TDCi diesel engine that now packs more punch through an enlarged capacity, which should translate into revised towing muscle and greater versatility, wrapped up in a package that promises more comfort for those longer journeys.
The big four cylinder keeps double overhead cams with 16-valves, as found on the smaller 2.5-litre. On paper, it seems more than capable of doing the job.
On the Road
We had the opportunity to put the 3-litre Ranger to the test around the roads of Surrey and at an off-road facility where mud tracks, fields and lanes could be tackled.
Coupled to the auto 'box, the new engine makes for impressive performance, but what's more impressive is the low level of cabin noise. Sitting in the Ranger is a joy given the smooth, progressive power delivery and hushed environment. And the seats are comfy too.
The ride's okay, after all this is a pick-up, not a saloon car. And on leaf springs at the rear and independent double wishbones with torsion bar springs up front, you'd expect it to feel a bit fidgety.
Power is fed through the five-speed auto 'box in a smooth, creamy way. It's a four-speeder with overdrive and the latter is selected with a thumb-button on the side of the centrally mounted gear selector.
Behind the main lever is a small rotary selector showing 2H, 4H and 4L, enabling selection of four-wheel drive and low range. No surprises here and it's easy enough to use, but still requires the truck to be stopped to allow the driveline to engage those front drive shafts and connect the outer front hubs to the rest of the four-wheel drive system.
Once engaged, shift-on-the-fly is possible, just by a twist of the dial, which activates an electro-magnetic clutch to couple up the four-wheel drive. Reverting to two-wheel drive requires the dial to be returned back to 2H; unlike the manual transmission, there's no freewheeling release button for those front hubs.
There's a feeling of eagerness from the engine and after briskly negotiating the first couple of roundabouts, you're left in no doubt that coupled to the auto 'box, the three-litre Ranger could comfortably entertain in no uncertain terms on a damp road. And without weight in the back, maybe there's scope for some tail-out, oversteer action on dry tarmac too.
Off-road, the auto takes the strain and provides useful engine braking effort for those downhill descents too, while the torque converter allows controllable throttle inputs to keep the wheels from spinning unnecessarily.
The driving experience with the manual transmission is no disappointment either. The five-speed manual 'box is extremely positive and easy to use, despite it being equipped with tall gearing. The new engine's greater torque makes much better use of the wide spread of ratios compared to the smaller engine, but we're still surprised that a close-ratio six-speeder with an overdrive top gear, hasn't found its way into the truck.
Power delivery is smooth and progressive and there's no turbo-boost induced whiplash as the truck gathers up its muscle.
With the manual gearbox, there's still a secondary gear lever for four-wheel drive and low range selection, and like the auto it requires the truck to be stopped before initial engagement of four-wheel drive can take place.
Steve Kimber anticipates that 35-40 per cent of all Thunders sold will be 3.0-litre automatics, but having driven it — and the three-pedal alternative — we think his estimate is somewhat conservative.
Ranger Thunder keeps its one-tonne payload and three-tonne towing capacity, along with an ABS braking system, front and side impact airbags, and seatbelt pre-tensioners help to keep occupants safe.
The usual top-spec finish extends to a crafted black leather interior, complimented by a chrome finish on door trim inserts, door handles and window switches.
Over and above the Thunder, the Wildtrak version comes packed with much more specification. Externally, it gets a new design of 16-inch alloy wheel, door mirrors with integral LED turn signals, sports body styling with side steps and vents, sports front grille with aluminium over-rider, rear light protectors, rear styling bar, roller-shutter type lockable load cover and roof rails.
Internally, leather and alcantara seats complete with orange stitching and Wildtrak logo in the seat backs combine with leather trimmed steering wheel and gearlevers, and Wildtrak embossed floor mats to complete the package.
Like the smaller engine, the silky smooth three-litre TDCi engine needs new oil every 12,500 miles and the warranty remains at three-years, 60,000-miles.
Buyers get a choice of four colours: storm black, steel silver, Andaman blue or titanium grey, though the Wildtrak's paint options extends to two limited colours; chilli orange and passion red, both over titanium grey.
Ford has finally caught up with the Ranger, giving it a 3.0-litre engine and five-speed auto 'box that's good enough to compete with what's out there. And having driven both the manual and auto versions, we're pleased with the improvements made, though a six-speed manual would have helped in-gear acceleration and high-speed cruising. All it needs now is a 3.5 tonne towing capacity.