The last big truck I strapped myself into was the Volkswagen Amarok. And it was, to be quite honest with you all, a fine piece of machinery. In fact it was so good, I wondered why anybody would want to shell-out for the comparatively agricultural Toyota Hilux.
Why? Well you see the trick with the Amarok lies in the way it splices car-like qualities into a product that Mr. Layman normally associates with discomfort and compromise.
Indeed, and probably for the first time ever, it proved that rolling around in a rugged double-cab was no longer the preserve of Free State farmers questionably attired in khaki shorts and long socks. It could, if you felt the burning desire to do so of course, be a livable alternative to the usual suspects lurking within the more conventional SUV camp.
Yeah, the Wolfsburg faithful hit upon a winning formula all right. And it is one that Ford has just done well to replicate in the form of their new Ranger single, super and double-cabs. Launched to us local motoring reprobates in Mpumalanga late last week, this is a ‘bakkie’ that can easily challenge the Amarok to a sparring match in terms of spec, style and, dare I say it, driving substance. After all, the Americans hate playing second fiddle.
It certainly may not be quite as classy on the outside but that doesn’t mean that the Ranger lacks any presence. Yes sir, like some cocky frat boy in a pair of bling sneakers and a Yankee cap, this Ford stands out as one of the most aggressive vehicles in its class.
Drawing heavily on the F-Series trucks that have proved so damn successful in the land of the free, home of the brave, this Ranger is consequently filled with many Americana-inspired styling cues. That means a power-domed bonnet and no shortage of chrome. In fact no matter where you stand – front, side or rear – you’ll find this mirror-like metal shooting the sunshine deep into your retinas. Personally I think it’s a little OTT. But then there are others who’ll dig the way it complements their shiny new TW Steel watch.
It’s a similar story on the inside too. For whereas the Amarok plays things down with a sensibly shaped dashboard painted a sensible shade of black, the Ranger gets a super bold fascia defined by many assertive angles and shapes. Again, large portions finished off with a veneer of faux aluminum, it won’t be to everybody’s taste. But for those to whom the word understatement has no meaning, well, it’ll win the fight any day of the week.
Even more so when kitted out in Wildtrak spec – a lifestyle package that adds leather seats tattooed with orange go-faster stripes of intent. Ticking this box also gives you a special Rear View Camera, dual-zone climate control and automatic lights and wipers.
Fortunately even the lesser models come reasonably well equipped with things like power windows, an Aux-in connection and a beefy Radio/CD/MP3 sound system all forming part of the standard package. Plumb for a middle of the road Ranger and you’ll also score Bluetooth audio streaming that allows you to play songs stored on your mobile phone without having to plug in any wires or jacks – completely indispensible on a long haul.
Topped off with exemplary build quality and the sort of refinement you’d expect from a medium-sized saloon car, this makes Ford’s new truck a real pleasure to spend time in.
But by far the biggest feather tucked into the Ranger’s trucker cap has to be the way it drives. Ford has really gone to town in the engine department and you can now choose between one petrol (1x 2.5 four-cylinder) and three diesel derivatives (2x 2.2 four-cylinder and 1x 3.2 five-cylinder turbo). On launch I got drive the two top-of-range oil-burners and was suitably impressed by the way they performed. Old-school members of the 4×4 faithful will probably scorn the fact that there’s not a big V6 on offer but in real-world off-road conditions, well, the turbocharged Duratorqs are more than sufficient.
And when mated to the low-range coupling native to all the 4×4 models, they give the Ranger serious bundu-bashing credentials. Part of out launch route included a bottom-clenching meander through a dry riverbed, a test in which it performed flawlessly. Even with the six-speed manual gearbox (a six-speed automatic is available as an option) it scrambled up rocks and slowly descended terrifying drop-offs with hardly any drama.
Again, Ford’s commitment to a great all-round driving experience can also be felt when rolling across the smoothness of everyday asphalt. The ride is, admittedly, a little on the hard side but other than that there’s little to fault; the mating of a rigid ladder chassis to front double wishbones and rear leaf-springs culminating in a fine on-road companion.
So, all said and done, would I buy one? As much as the all-new Ranger left an enviable impression on me, I’d still be inclined to go with the better-looking and more grown-up Amarok. Call me shallow but there’s something about the VW’s sheet metal that just makes me sit up and mouth the word ‘wow.’ Aesthetics aside, however, there is actually very little between two.
In fact when it comes to all-out performance, I think that the Ranger, what with its more powerful diesel engine portfolio, probably has the upper hand over its less brawny German rival. Seriously, in range-topping 3.2 XLT 4×4 specification you are getting a Ford that can tow a staggering 3350kg behind its tailgate. And that, no matter what brand ultimately winds your hard-earned loyalty, is nothing to be sneezed at.
In the cold light of day the new Ford Ranger won’t be poaching too many Toyota fans away from the evergreen Hilux. But for those of you who were looking at garaging the more lifestyle orientated VW Amarok, I think your purchasing decision just got a whole lot more difficult. Pound-for-pound and spec-for-spec, it’s a helluva worthy competitor.
Ford Ranger at a Glance:
Engine: 1x 2488cc four-cylinder petrol; 2x 2198cc four-cylinder and 1x 3198cc five-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 122kW at 5500rpm; 88kW at 3700rpm; 110kW at 3700rpm; 147kW at 3000rpm
Torque: 225Nm at 4500rpm; 258Nm at 1500 – 2300rpm; 375Nm at 1500 – 2500rpm; 470Nm at 1500 – 2750rpm
Top Speed: N/A
Fuel Consumption: 9.8l/100km; 7.6l/100km; 8.4l/100km; 9.6l/100km
CO2: 235g/km; 203g/km; 235g/km; 235g/km
Pricing: R174 00 – R436 700
A very premium package
Great performer both on and off road
Strong diesel engines
Styling could be too American for some
Ride borders on being harsh
Not much else
I definately think Ford has the makings of the best in class in this bakkie. Until now I have been looking at the Amarok as the only option to sway me away from my sedan but the blue oval has won me over again! I love the butch aesthetics (theres something amiss with the Amarok) and fortunately for me I am aiming for a two wheel drive XLS model which is said to have a better ride on and off road.
I am however annoyed that it seems like Ford cannot make their minds regarding when the Bakkie will be available for purchase, one moment its November and the other its January 2012. I really want to test drive this car and I think this is my next ride that will support my active lifestyle. I really would love to know when will it be officially launched and most importantly the specification levels of the XLS (4*2) model . . . . . anyone who has an answer for me can mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am interested in the auto but have heard that it is not a good box?
Hi Glenn. I drove the new Ford Ranger on launch and was very happy with the way the automatic gearbox performed. It’s one of the better ones I’ve experienced.
Ford Ranger is a very nice truck, and has good safety features .It was really good experience for me while driving this truck, its design is so awesome that can attract customer, this trucks provide safety and comfort to driver and also delivers high performance surely truck drivers would really have good experience while driving Ford ranger truck.
Car reviewers who are totally biased towards one manufacturer should not be let loose reviewing competing products, or for that matter their own choice. I realise that in the philosophical context total objectivity is impossible, however I would advise against criticising the civilised fiber of proponents of a certain marque to try and find non-existing faults with their vehicle of choice. if VW is sponsoring your drive that is fine, but please don’t try and justify the outdated, unimaginative and frankly boring Amarok fascia by describing the progressive and contemporary Ranger design as being garish and appealing only to hillbillies.
The fact is that the Ranger is twice the vehicle that the Amarok is on paper and in the real world. Before you accuse me of being a Ford fanatic, I have bought and owned every verrsion of the Hilux since 1985 and this year I decided to buy the Ford.