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

The balancing act

Not everyone can afford a Raptor, the halo model in the Ford Ranger line-up with a price tag of R910 000. Settle for slightly older drivetrain tech and a few less toys, and the XL Sport might just hit the spot.

At a shade, under R580 000 the XL Sport does not exactly qualify as a budget option, and while it does not have all the amenities of a Wildtrak (which is priced at R806 000), it is no commercial workhorse either. Call it a useful middle point.

Styling

The current T6 Ford Ranger was introduced in 2015 to rave reviews, and it has only been mildly facelifted since then. I mean, why change what works? With the XL Sport, Ford has upped the style game with a black bumper, black sports bar, and a striking all-black grille with Mustang-like nostrils – imparting an aggressive look. This derivative also comes standard with attractive black 17-inch alloys shod in 265/65 R17 all-terrain rubber.

Interior

The interior, like the exterior, has not changed much, apart from an infotainment upgrade. It loses out on some of the tech and safety features compared to higher-end models, but it is hardly lacking. It has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone connectivity as well as front and rear 12V sockets. What it could do with is cruise control.

The driver and front passenger have the best seats in the house, though the second row is both spacious and practical. The Ranger is refined and comfortable, making it a treat to drive, just as one has come to expect from Ford.

Performance

The XL Sport uses the older Duratorq 2.2-litre TDCI four-cylinder engine, boasting 118kW of power and 385Nm, coupled to either a six-speed manual or the preferred six-speed auto. Our test unit had the latter, and this is a treat to use in real-world conditions.

I don’t mind the 10-speed gearbox in the 2.0-litre variants, but I prefer the six-speed as the manual mode is far easier to use. The Wildtrak and FX4 feature an annoying button on the side of the gear lever which is hard to reach and inconsistent in the way it works. The Raptor uses paddles located just behind the steering wheel, which makes far more sense. The XL Sport uses the older gearbox with its entirely logical system: push the lever to the right, and pull towards you to upshift and away to downshift. Far more intuitive.

Off-roading ability is what you would expect, given low-range gearing, a rear diff-lock and hill descent control. The Ford traction and stability control system is pretty decent as well, sorting out where the power needs to be transferred in a cross-axle situation.

Two airbags up front and ISOFIX points at the rear are part of the safety gear list, along with a good array of electronic driving aids, including ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) as well as Hill Launch Assist, Roll-over Mitigation, Adaptive Load Control, and Trailer Sway Control. All helping to keep you pointed the right way up.

Pricing

Compared to its competitors, the XL Sport is priced extremely well. Our test unit, an XL Sport 2.2-litre TDCi double cab 4×4, will set you back R573 800 before any extras. This makes it one of the more affordable high-end double cab bakkies in the market now.

The XL Sport is sold with a six-year/90 000km service plan, four-year/120 000km warranty and a three-year unlimited distance road assistance plan.

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