The difference between want and need.
With everyone’s wallets taking strain this year, one might want to take a look at a Ranger that’s a little more sensible than the Wildtrak.
When Ford phoned and offered a test drive in the recently facelifted Ranger, they gave us two options to choose from – a 3.2 Wildtrak 4×4 automatic, or a 2.2-litre 4×4 XLS.
Obviously we wanted to go for the more expensive one, but South Africa’s recent financial slump forced us to go for the more reasonable option. We suspect many potential customers will be thinking the same way this year because, well, times are hard and sacrifices have to be made.
The 2.2-litre XLS represents a massive saving over the top-spec Wildtrak. Costing R485 900, it represents a saving of around R110 000 compared to the Ranger everyone really wants. In real world terms, you’d end up paying a monthly premium of around R10 200 per month (10% deposit over 54 months at prime) for an XLS, while a Wildtrak will cost R12 500 per month.
The 2.2 XLS 4×4 definitely makes sound financial sense, but what’s the catch? What does the Wildtrak have that it doesn’t and are these exclusions severe enough to justify spending that additional R110 000? Or, if need be, shop around for something else?
Can I live without the power?
In a nutshell, yes. The 2.2-litre turbocharged engine’s figures of 118kW and 385Nm of torque are nothing to scoff at and there are no real losses in the departments that matter. The 3.2-litre accelerates faster and has a higher top speed, sure, but those figures are completely irrelevant. As long as a bakkie can keep up with traffic and has the ability to cruise along at 130km/h, we’re happy. That being said, there were one or two occasions when we found ourselves slightly annoyed with the lack of torque in certain situations.
At least you don’t lose out on towing ability, because the 2.2-litre has the exact same 3 500kg tow rating as the 3.2-litre. It’s less thirsty as well, and by a considerable margin.
In fact, the only thing we really missed was the noise of the five-cylinder engine. We love the offbeat burble it makes at low speeds. In contrast, you can hardly hear the four-cylinder. It idles smoothly, which has its own unique charm. The engine noise is barely discernable once you’re on the move, thanks to a well-insulated cabin.
The turbo lag isn’t too bad and once you get it going it pulls rather enthusiastically, considering the engine size. Having said that, you have to gear down for the steeper inclines and the manual gearbox struggled to shift smoothly from first to second on a few occasions.
Other than that, it was a satisfying driving experience on the blacktop.
Can I get it dirty?
Very much so. We have a standard dirt road we drive all test vehicles on and the 2.2-litre Ranger delivered the same refined and composed ride as its pricier sibling. It tracks straight and true, even when you’re driving like a bit of a spanner, which means it should inspire enough confidence in the average family man who likes to explore back roads over the weekends.
It can handle the tougher stuff too. At the facelifted Ranger’s launch late last year we were tasked with driving a 2.2-litre model up a mountain to get an ice cream. Thanks to low range and a locking rear differential, we made it up with minimal effort.
There is one big problem, however, and it’s not strictly limited to this model. The Ranger is large and rather unwieldy, which makes for a tense and tedious 4×4 trail driving experience.
How about that fancy new touchscreen?
Umm… This is a bit awkward. The 2.2 XLS doesn’t have a touchscreen. Actually, it comes without most of the luxuries that Ford bragged about when they launched the new Ranger. But hey, it had to save money somewhere, right?
At least it’s not an exact replica of the pre-facelift Ranger, but a different version of the same theme. You get a small colour display with buttons surrounding it and a separate panel for the climate control.
The fancy digital instrument cluster has also been ditched for a more traditional one and you have to make do with cloth seats instead of skinned cow.
But one has to ask: does it matter?
Not one bit, but only because most of the kit that makes life behind the wheel pleasant is still present. You just interact with it in a different way. Instead of touching a screen, you push a button. The satellite controls on the steering wheel are standard, and from there you can control everything but the climate control.
The fancier Rangers also come with blind spot monitoring and active cruise control, but we find neither of these features particularly appealing and we suspect most people will agree that these are things they could easily live without.
The most important safety kit is included as standard, which means this 2.2-litre Ranger has a five-star Euro NCAP rating. That’s good enough for us.
What will my neighbours think?
Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from the fact that the 2.2-litre XLS is less appealing than the Wildtrak, or even any other 3.2-litre for that matter. The telltale signs are easy to spot and Ford doesn’t offer a badge deletion option. Unless you’re willing to poach the numerous exterior styling enhancements from some other oke’s Wildtrak late one night, we’re afraid the neighbours are immediately going to notice that you went for the cheaper option.
Fortunately, we’re all in the same boat. Your neighbour, if he has any sense whatsoever, will likely go the same route, which means you can park your 2.2 XLSs side by side next to the white picket fence and give each other a knowing nod when you arrive home in the evenings.
The Ranger 2.2 XLS is the most logical choice in the current Ranger line-up. Don’t get us wrong, however. If we had the money, we’d buy a Wildtrak in a heartbeat.
It’s a case of want and need. We all want a Wildtrak. But you don’t really need anything more than this 2.2-litre. It’s more than enough bakkie for most.
Ford Ranger 2.2TDCI XLS 4×4
Engine Four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Power 118kW @ 3 700r/min
Torque 385Nm @ 1 500r/min
Gearbox Six-speed manual transmission
4X4 Drivetrain Part-time
4X4 Driving Aids Shift on the fly 4×4, traction control, hill descent control, rear-locking differential
Ground Clearance 237mm
Average Fuel Consumption 10.1l/100km
Maintenance Plan 5-year/100 000km
Price R485 900
* The “Ranger” name first appeared on an Edsel in1958. Ford would go on to use it for its compact pick-ups in 1965.
* The Ranger is sold in 180 countries, but not in the US or Canada. Reports have, however, been doing the rounds that the Ranger, or some sort of derivative of it, would be offered there from as early as 2018.
* Ford’s Nigerian partners, Coscharis, recently started assembling Rangers in Nigeria. The facility accommodates one shift and builds 10 units per day, but will expand over time.
* A fully assembled Ranger rolls off the SA assembly plant every two minutes.
As of September 2015, Ford SA has assembled over 250 000 Rangers at the Silverton plant.