Ford’s latest special edition Ranger Stormtrak heads to the Baviaans to show off its dirt road manners.
Written by Brent vd Schyff
Ranger, as is common knowledge, is due for replacement in late 2022, a VW/Ford collaboration that has the true-blues in a bit of a flap. Until then it’s all about adding value to the existing range, accenting Ford strengths and increasing the number of nice-to-have extras.
Cue the Stormtrak, hot on the heels of Raptor, Thunder, FX4 and XL Sport, complete with automatic rear roller shutter system, neat load bin divider and – of course – standout colour and decal detailing. So to it – Baviaans or bust.
I’ve always likened the modern-day 4×4 bakkie to a type of exoskeleton you wear to achieve things you otherwise wouldn’t be able to on foot. Cover expansive distances, carry heavy loads and scale mountains all in the comfort of a luxury car without breaking a sweat. And from the get-go, Stormtrak looks to be the ultimate version of that. The Baviaans is a natural proving ground for bakkies.
Named by the Dutch – Valley of Baboons – it offers up steep mountain passes, narrow jeep tracks that sandwiches the cliff edge and countless sharp descents to a certain death. It screams bucket list material for any adventurer.
The region is a natural intersection of lush biodiversity; forest, fynbos and grassland to Nama-karoo, succulent karoo, sub-tropical thicket and savanna lining the seemingly never-ending valleys and mountain tops. For the uninitiated – me – you’re constantly lifting your jaw off the ground, gawking at the vistas that you may have seen once on your Gran’s 2500-piece puzzle but never in real life.
And Stormtrak does a fine job, as Ford was hoping we’d remember. To be sure not much is mechanically different; the 2-litre bi-turbo is a stalwart of the range, the 10-speed box a winner on the open road. I’m reminded that it’s one of the smoothest gearboxes in this segment, best over fast Karoo gravel when 10 translates into excellent fuel economy.
But it’s the ride that really impresses. That suspension suits dirt expressways – Stormtrak stays planted with minimal rebound regardless of surface bump and undulations. Thank the independent front suspension and well-sorted leaf-sprung rear end for that. It genuinely is one of the best setups in the contemporary bakkie world, even unladen. Do the same speeds across the same piece of road 15 years ago and you’d likely be found in a ditch regretting your foolishness.
Snaking back to Karoo ‘suburbia’ – the gateway dorp of Steytlerville – it’s back on the tar and there’s time to consider the Stormtrak packaging. The automatic roller shutter over the loadbed is a mixed bag; dust leaks there were aplenty, but it’s easy to use – a neatly placed switch on the dashboard or double-tap on a button located on the key fob and voilã, open or closed.
But is it enough to warrant the price jump? It sits just under the flagship Raptor in terms of pricing and I’m thinking if you’re going to be spending this type of money, why not spend the extra R70k and opt for the big boy? The answer is probably to do with application – Raptor really is a beast, adapted to Out There. Stormtrak also nails the Karoo but is less confrontational in town.
The tar stretches into the distance. Automatic gearboxes in this segment tend to be lazy, but not on the Stormtrak. It’s responsive, smooth, even agile – great box. The Karoo teased with dark clouds and light showers, but the threat of a real deluge dissipated.
The Stormtrak had proved to be more than up to any task asked of it so I kind of wish it had rained. The mark of a good bakkie is the feeling you can go further, do more, whatever the environment. It would’ve been fun to play in the mud. Next time.
Ford Ranger Stormtrak
Power: 157 kW 500 Nm
Transmission: 10-Speed Automatic
Ground Clearance: 230 mm
Towing Capacity: 3,500kg
Price: 4×2 Hi-Rider: R790 300, 4×4: R846 500
- Planted when covering dirt and rough terrain quickly
- Smooth gearbox
- Excellent ride quality
- Comfortable interior, with adequate space for rear occupants
- Rear dust leaks of the shutter roller system
- Lack of cupholders, USB C charging ports and grab handles for rear occupants