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POWER Ranger!





20 October 2011


 POWER Ranger!

For a long time Ford fans have had to put up with jokes about their brand and its bakkies. Ford’s bakkies were never bad – but they were never great, either. This situation is about to change dramatically with the introduction of the all-new Ford Ranger. And – gulp! – the term “great” may even be applicable here!

 

Text: Danie Botha

Photographs: FORD press

 

Traditionally, Ford’s bakkies were a bit like that boy or girl in your high school class.

He or she was kinda good-looking, sporty, did well at school, and was dependable – but alas, he or she never quite cracked it in the popularity stakes, and was therefore mostly relegated to the social reserve bench.

Yip, that’s what happened to the Ford Ranger, too. Over the years the Ford bakkie has earned respect. It’s always been a hard and powerful worker — tough as nails, and unassuming. It got the job done.

But it seemed to lag behind in the popularity stakes, unable to drum up the same social support as that Japanese bakkie called a Toyota.

Now Ford is facing the brave new world of the T6 project – the all-new Ford Ranger, due to be launched here by the end of October.

Ford has taken the Ranger to finishing school and for the first time, it seems, it has a product in this segment that ticks all the right boxes and has even created a few brand new boxes, too.

After years of frustration, the Ford fans are rejoicing – the new Ranger is the promised bakkie.

Rickard Nell of Pretoria is a typical Ford fan. This IT storage engineer drives a Ford Ranger Supercab 3.0TDCi 4×2, which he loves to bits. He is one of the three finalists in the Global Ranger Challenge, in which enthusiasts were invited to present the new Ranger with a challenge that would really test its mettle.

Rickard suggested that the Ranger should tackle the dangerous rock climb at Moegatle 4×4 Trails – described as one of SA’s three Terror Trails. This massively steep climb has brought an untimely end to a number of 4x4s that got it wrong.

And that’s how Rickard and a Ranger ended up at Moegatle, and put the bakkie through this rather hectic test. But that’s a story for another day. (For a video, check out www.fordrangerchallenge.co.za for more information and the chance to vote for your favourite “challenge”).

Rickard was given a new, pre-production Ranger 3.2TDCi XLT 4×4 to drive for a few days prior to the attempt to climb up that impossible rock. This particular Ranger is armed with Ford’s Duratorq five-cylinder turbodiesel engine that delivers 147 kW of power and 470 Nm of torque. He also got the six-speed automatic version, with low-range transfer gearbox (a shift-on-the-fly system), a rear differential lock, and traction control.

“My 3.0TDCi bakkie feels like a bakkie. This Ranger feels more like passenger car on the road,” says Rickard. “The way the power is delivered, the way the gearbox swaps gears, the way it drives and feels – it’s all very car-like.”

Rickard refers to the comfort of a friend’s double cab bakkie – one of those populist ones.

“When I drive in the back of that bakkie, I get nauseous after a short distance, with all the bouncing around. This does not happen in the new Ranger.”

The new five-cylinder engine is a state-of-the-art unit, and it has loads of horses for 4×4 courses. But it’s not alone. Also available in the Ranger will be a new 2,2-litre TDCi turbodiesel engine with two output levels — the lower ouput version with 88 kW and 285 Nm of torque, and the high output derivative with 110 kW and 375 Nm of torque.

Petrolheads can get their octane fix with a new 2,5-litre Duratec engine that delivers 122 kW of power and 226 Nm of torque, coupled only to a five-speed manual shifter.

The two diesel engines are available with two transmission options — manual or automatic six-speed ’boxes.

Safety is another new Ranger trump card. The top models are fitted with curtain, side and dual front airbags, ABS brakes with a Gravel Road Logic function that ensure shorter stopping distances on gravel, an electronic stability program (ESP), adaptive load traction control, hill descent control (HDC), hill launch assist (HLA), trailer sway assist (TSA) and roll-over mitigation (ROM).

So it looks as though only the new Volkswagen Amarok is remotely on the same technological safety level as the Ranger. However, the Ranger clearly has the Amarok covered in the engine performance department.

And it doesn’t end there. The new Ranger is a fine-looking bakkie, from any angle. It’s big and bold, modern and sleek — a large and imposing piece of metal.

Inside, the Ranger continues to impress, rewriting the populist rule book.

The rear-seat passengers get plenty of leg- and headroom. A climate control system keeps everyone comfortable. The dashboard and steering wheel look as though they have been borrowed from a luxurious Ford passenger car, and were never intended for a “truck.”

There’s even a voice command system and Bluetooth connectivity, and remote switches for the sound system and cruise control on the steering wheel. This Ranger seems to have all the answers.

Rickard relates the story of how a passerby stopped next to him at a shopping centre and said: “Cool bakkie! Pity about the badge, man.”

“I know it is just a perception thing, but Ford is really, really good,” says Rickard. “And this new Ranger… wow! It completely changes the playing field.”

We reckon Rickard Nell, the Ford fan, is probably right – especially after watching the Ranger in off-road action. The new model really moves the Ranger brand to a higher level in the bakkie hierarchy.

Although the proof of the pudding remains in the driving, it’s safe to say that the Ranger may very well represent a double cab bakkie benchmark. Importantly, it fills the bigger engine and bigger power gap left so obviously by the very capable VW Amarok, while it trounces the top-selling Toyota Hilux in just about every department.

Pricing will be crucial, of course. We understand the new Ranger will be very competitively priced, ready to take the fight to its peers.

Now all that remains to be seen is whether the Ranger will stay on the social reserve bench and get only a limited amount of action, or if it will rise to the occasion and become an A-lister in the popularity stakes! Although it may not happen overnight, our money is on the latter.

 

Fast facts

  • The new Ranger’s code name is T6
  • Its platform will also play host to the next-generation Mazda BT-50
  • The new Ranger will be built in three countries: Thailand, Argentina and South Africa
  • It will be sold in 180 countries across the globe
  • But the new model will not go on sale in the US. It’s apparently too close in size and price to the Ford F150, which is sold there
  • The new range will initially be launched with double cabs models, but Supercab and single cab models will follow soon

 

 

  • alf

    Sometimes i wonder whether this high specs are not diluting the tough image that these bakkies are supposed to have. Worse still, they are making them so cute i can assure you that within a few years most of the parking spaces at the malls will be full of these cars. Watch out guys, we are being slowly emasculated.