Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Ford Ranger Wildtrak: A closer look

The Ford Ranger is one of South Africa’s most popular vehicles on sale and it has been at the top of the sales charts for several years. The Ford Ranger is not only locally built but it has been designed to handle the tough African environment, because of this the vehicle is offered in a variety of model. The Ranger Wildtrak offers comfort as well as the ability to take on any situation, which is exactly what we threw at it.

The test

Ford South Africa handed us the keys to their latest Ranger Wildtrak model recently and we pointed the big blue oval on the front grille to the Kalahari. A trip of around 1000km lay before us as we headed to Upington. The road ahead was long, straight and in some places riddled with potholes but the Wildtrak took it all in its stride.

The technology

Ford has managed to cram a lot of technology into the Wildtrak, technology which has been designed to improve both safety and comfort. Out on the long road, I made use of the adaptive cruise control. This system automatically adjusts the cruise control speed depending on vehicles ahead of you using a radar system mounted on the lower front bumper. It enables the vehicle to slow down and speed up to the set speed depending on forward traffic. This is a great feature that aids in safety. The vehicle also offers collision warning which means that it will alert the driver if it detects no brake input when an object forward of the vehicle is within a specific proximity to the car.

One of the highlight safety features however is the blind-spot assist and lane-keep assist functions. Lane-keep helps you keep the big Ford in the lanes and it will even assist the driver when the road gets twisty. As the name suggests, blind-spot assist will alert the driver if there is a vehicle in the blind-spot area. All of these technologies make long trips in the Ford Ranger easy and fuss-free, the vehicle does all the hard work, you just need to sit back and relax while making use of the standard Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality.

That luxury feel

Another aspect of the vehicle which I as well as others on the team enjoyed was the overall comfort levels offered by the Wildtrak. The seats are comfortable and the driving position is noteworthy, as are the heated front seats of which the driver’s seat is electric.  

The Wildtrak looks the part as well thanks to an eye-catching design that is not overly designed like other offerings in the segment. The Wildtrak also features some other visual enhancements such as bespoke rims, side-steps, rear styling bar, easy-lift tailgate and model-specific decals on the doors. Most noticeably is the Saber (Metallic) paint which gets the most attention.

Power baby

Under the bonnet of the Wildtrak is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder bi-turbo diesel engine which develops 157kW at 3750rpm and 500Nm of torque between 1500-2000rpm. This engine is also used in other Ranger models such as the recently introduced Ford Ranger Thunder which Angus Boswell spent time with – you can read about that on-page &% (here). It is also used in the incredible Ford Ranger Raptor which like the Thunder and WIldtrak makes use of a smooth and very clever 10-speed automatic gearbox. It does take time to get used to, especially if you are used to an old school manual.

The gearbox won’t let you pull away in 3rd. The ideal way to tackle a dune is to ensure that you have momentum from a decent run-up, put the transmission into S mode which lets you change gears, you better be awake as it will hit the limiter and it won’t change unless you do it via the gear lever. Once you figure out the nitty-gritty the ‘box becomes easy to live with.

More technical things to consider

Out in the Kalahari, the Wildtrak did what we required from it, it dealt with various gravel roads while remaining stable at speed and it also managed to tackle a few of the red Kalahari dunes. One of the points that we did notice however was the fact that the big Ford makes use of 265/60 R18 Continental Cross Contact LX highway-terrain rubber. While they did the job on the gravel roads and even in the dunes – once deflated to about 1.2bar – one might want to invest in some slightly more purposeful rubber if you are going to be doing more extreme off-roading.  

The vehicles four-wheel-drive modes are easy to use as all one needs to do is turn a dial. Other electronic aids are also on hand to assist, no matter the task. These include a down-hill descent control which prevents the vehicle from running away when going downhill as well as a clever traction control system that works with the 4WD system to provide better traction.

The Wildtrak measures in at 5354mm in length and 1849mm wide. It is no small bakkie this and navigating tight paths require your full attention. The Ranger offers a 25.5-degree approach angle which is impressive however one needs to keep the fancy bits hidden behind that bumper in mind when tackling obstacles. Ford claims a 21.8-degree departure angle however we found the factory fitted tow-bar to be a bit of an issue now and then as it is mounted below the rear bumper, we left a few marks in the sand which is fine but if it was rocky terrain we would have most probably needed to re-spray or re-adjust the tow-bar.

What the Ranger Wildtrak lacks in the hardcore off-road ability it makes up of by offering impressive overland ability, featuring a wading depth of 800mm, ground clearance of 237mm and an excellent payload capacity of 860kgs and a braked towing capacity of 3500kgs.

Final thoughts

With the local bakkie segment about to get a host of updated and new entries, the Ranger has its work cut out for it but it need not feel inferior as it remains a worthy option in this ever-evolving segment. Ford has recently added to the range with the new Thunder model and there is, of course, the brutish Ford Ranger Raptor which has proven itself off-road many times.

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