Long Term Van Test Drive: Ford Ranger - November 2012

Date: Monday, November 5, 2012

Ford’s new pick-up faces tough competition, but having lived with a Ranger Limited for six months we reckon it goes to the top of the class. James Dallas reports.

Having spent more than six months on our fleet, during which time we put about 7000 miles under its 17-inch alloy wheels, our long-term Ford Ranger has moved on to pastures new.
The new Ranger embodies a considerable step up in sophistication and comfort compared with its predecessor, and is impressively well upholstered, too.
Powered by a 2.2-litre 150hp Duratorq TDCi powertrain, we opted for the six-speed manual transmission over the automatic also available.
Out on the open road our Ranger’s imperious performance was impressive. The gear change is tight and well-spaced while the rack and pinion steering is responsive and predictable and, just as Ford promised, more car-like than before.
Motorway cruising is made more relaxing by the first-rate cruise control, simply operated by steering wheel-mounted buttons. There is no shortage of power on tap either.
Negotiating the mean and narrow streets of south London took more getting used to. The gearchange can be a little notchy when having to be shifted frequently under stop/start conditions, and potholes and speed humps cause bumps and jolts, particularly for rear seat passengers when there is no load on board.
Manoeuvring the Ranger’s considerable bulk into tight parking spaces is made considerably less hazardous by the parking sensors that come as standard with the Limited, and stress levels are diminished further by the excellent parking camera incorporated into the rear view mirror. This springs into life as soon as reverse gear is engaged, providing a clearly marked gridded area in which to back up. This feature, however, is bundled in with the satellite navigation system and will set you back £750.
Not long after we’d taken delivery of our Ranger we sent it back to base to be fitted with a Truckman cover for its load area. This £2040 (excluding VAT) addition is colour-coded in Ford’s Performance Blue and blends in harmoniously with the rest of the vehicle, in contrast to such additions on other vehicles, which can look incongruously wonky when foisted on to the base pick-up.
We quickly put our new weather-proof load box to use by filling it with old furniture, garden waste and camping equipment (not all at once). The chunky, robust tailgate opens flat to 90º and feels capable of supporting a block of granite, let alone the bunch of kids who were fond of using it as a bench seat. The tailgate locks up firmly – with the ignition key securing the lower door and a separate key used for the upper, glazed section. The relatively high load floor height of 835mm, however, can make lifting heavy objects into the boot awkward.
Our Ranger’s adventures off the beaten track consisted of bowling along rough country tracks and happily sploshing through sodden camping fields, but having attended the model’s launch in the South African outback we have experienced its formidable off-road ability, which is aided by its class-leading water-wading capacity of 800mm and ground clearance of 232mm.
Switching between 4x2 and 4x4 high and low modes can be done easily with a knob on the centre console, and despite occasional eccentricities the satnav is reliable and user-friendly. The environment inside the Limited’s spacious cabin is classy and comfortable, enhanced by leather seats, high quality black and silver plastics and robust, easy to use knobs and switches.
Matching Ford’s official combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 32.8mpg proved to be beyond us, but the Ranger’s all-round strengths – which include class-leading payload and towing capacities, not to mention a five-star NCAP crash test rating – make a compelling case for it to be crowned the king of the pick-ups.


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