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

In your face: New Models Ford Ranger

The beginning of December marked the launch of the highly anticipated next-gen Ford Ranger. Even during the run-up to the event, it was clear that this was not going to be just a facelift, but a new product to revolutionise the market. Anton Willemse Jnr had the opportunity to see if it had achieved that daunting goal.

Back in the late nineties, someone came up with the idea to shorten the load bin and extend the cab of a single cab bakkie. Thus, the double cab bakkie was born, becoming a firm favourite with those who used their vehicles for both work and play. Now, two decades later, we ask a critical question: What can the double cab do to stay relevant in a landscape littered with SUVs and crossovers? Ford has shown exactly how as it sets a new standard for bakkies the world over.

Next-gen design

The styling of the next-gen Ranger is top-notch. Simply put, this is a super sexy bakkie! The design, according to Ford, is meant to inspire Ranger owners to do what they love and inspire confidence. It certainly inspires some confidence when you look at it. It does not feel like a typical South African-made product. It has plenty of that American charm, and that’s a good thing.

I loved the previous-generation Ranger, but it never felt like a genuinely American product, especially once you compared it to its big brother, the F150. Well, that is no longer the case. If you put the two side by side, you can see that they follow a similar design language. A highlight is the newly defined grille, which is integrated with the signature C-clamp headlights featured in every Ford bakkie. In addition, the new Ranger also features wider wheel arches to give it a surefooted stance. At the back, the taillights round off the signature graphics to create a harmony of ruggedness, toughness, and utility. When designing the next-gen Ranger, Ford worked closely with customers to develop a bakkie to suit their needs. It translated into a few interesting design choices, such as that of the load bin, which is both practical and useable for the owner. The tailgate, for example, can be utilised as a workbench, with clamp points and even a ruler. The rear also features a step to provide easy access.

The next-gen Ranger is both longer and wider than its predecessor. It has a wheelbase that is 50mm longer, which pushes the wheels out to allow for better approach and departure angles, as well as a better break-over angle. The track is now 50mm wider. The hydro-formed front-end structure creates more space in the engine bay to house the new V6 and extra space for an auxiliary battery.

The changes aren’t just to the exterior though. The interior has also received some massive updates. It is flexible and modern and was designed to have superior utility without compromising on aesthetics. The most prominent feature is the massive centre infotainment screen, which will be standard in each Ranger. The Base, XL and XLT models feature a 10.1-inch screen, and a 12-inch variant will be available in the Wildtrak. All versions have SYNC 4A software.

The rest of the interior is also top-notch. The air vents have the same pattern as the front grille, and the entire interior has a very angular design. Depending on the spec, it might be slightly different, but overall, everything is of high build quality. The Wildtrak, especially, is a lovely place to be. It has plenty of leather, chrome accents, and bespoke Wildtrak touches such as the orange stitching and the gear lever that was designed especially for this model.

A new tech standard

For many years bakkies were seen as agricultural pieces of kit, with the sole goal of being utilitarian… often at the expense of luxury. With the next-gen Ranger, that’s no longer the case. It offers heaps of tech.

The new infotainment system features Ford’s most advanced software yet, which allows for wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity. All Ranger models are fitted with a built-in modem as standard, which allows you to connect with your vehicle via the FordPass app. The latter enhances the ownership experience with features like remote start, vehicle status check and health alerts, a digital owner’s manual and remote lock and unlock functions.

The infotainment system is the hub for all the tech available in the Ranger, including the adjustment of driving and off-road settings. The off-roading info it provides can prove invaluable and includes steering angle, vehicle pitch, roll angles, and various other controls. The Wildtrak variants also feature a 360-degree camera, giving you a clean, uninterrupted view of everything around you. With the V6, you also get exterior zone lighting and tailgate lighting.

The optional overhead auxiliary switches are an exciting feature of the Ranger line-up and allow you to control some of the equipment you plan to fit. The cabin also features a wireless charging pad for your smartphone and plenty of USB and USB type-C ports.

As for driving assistance, the Ranger plays host to many passive and active safety features. All double cabs are fitted with dynamic stability control that incorporates ABS, load adaptive control, roll-over mitigation, traction control and trailer sway control.

The Wildtrak has the full selection of safety features, with some being optional on the XLT. This includes Pre-Collision Assist, Post-Collision Braking, Blind Spot Information System with Trailer Coverage, Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Keeping System with Road Edge Detection. Additional features exclusive to the top-spec Wildtrak include Evasive Steer Assist, Reverse Brake Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with stop/go and Lane Centering, and Active Park Assist. All Ranger double cabs models also feature seven airbags for ultimate occupation safety.

More power and comfort

So yes, the new Ranger is well equipped, and yes, it’s good looking, but is it any good on and off the road?

It sits on the revised T6 chassis, so the Ranger still has a body-onframe construction. This allows for maximum flex within the chassis. While body-on-frame construction might translate into sub-par on-road performance, this is definitely not the case in the Ranger. It felt highly sorted on the black stuff. The Wildtrak, in particular, didn’t feel like a bakkie while driving. It felt relatively planted through the bends and really came into its own once we started the off-roading bits.

As I mentioned, the next-gen Ford Ranger has improved approach (30 degrees) and departure (23 degrees) angles. So overall, the performance, both off and on the road, is outstanding. The ride quality feels refined and comfortable, more akin to an SUV than a bakkie.

When Ford first announced the new Ranger, there was a lot of excitement when it was revealed that, alongside the much-loved and proven 2.0 bi- and single turbo engines, the Ranger would also be available with a new 3.0 litre V6. All of the power units are sourced locally. The 2.0-litre bi- and single turbo have received some updates as well. The 2.0-litre single turbo now produces 125kW and 405Nm and is mated with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic gearbox. This engine is an option on the Base, XL and XLT.

The 2.0-litre bi-turbo, with a 10-speed automatic, has been around for about three years, but let me make it clear that it is a transformed unit. It produces 154kW of power and 500Nm of torque. The previous engine sometimes felt a bit choppy, especially when you had to put your foot down for an overtake. This was due to the turbo system and gearbox that lacked a bit of refinement. This issue was rectified for the next-gen model, and now the power unit feels more refined across the rev range. And the big boy? The new 3.0 V6 diesel is an amazingly smooth power unit. It is balanced superbly and works great alongside the 10-speed auto gearbox. It isn’t a speed demon, but it still has plenty of power on tap. I suspect it will be a beast of a towing vehicle, thanks to the 184kW of power and 600Nm of torque it has on tap. This thing goes like a freight train.

Verdict

There was a lot of anticipation revolving around the new Ranger. I expected it to be good, but not as good as it is. The new V6 power unit is great, it has loads of power on tap, and its sheer amount of torque makes it one of the most refined and comfortable bakkies ever made. The older power units received the needed updates to make them feel as fresh as the V6 unit. The new Ranger is undoubtedly the new standard. It was designed to be the perfect bakkie for any job, thanks to Ford’s constant communication with consumers during its development. The fact that the locally sourced product is priced very aggressively means that the bakkie market is set to be turned on its head. It’s a huge thumbs up from us.

Model line-up and pricing

The previous-generation Ranger had a staggering 24 different double cab options. The new line-up has a more streamlined 13 derivatives. Pricing starts at R486 000 for the Base, while the XL kicks off at R529 900, and the XLT is priced from R592 700. The mighty V6 is priced at R953 500. However, the most exciting part of the new Ranger’s pricing is how Ford is looking to package the product. Ford allows you to customise your bakkie. For example, you can buy the Base 4×4, and for a bit extra, you can add a few chrome bits and alloy wheels to make it look like an XL or an XLT. Ford knows that each variant of the next-gen Ranger has a distinct function. Still, the introduction of Ford’s upgrade packs allows you to improve your variant to help bridge the gap to the next one. This means that you can spec your Ranger to almost exactly what you want, and thanks to Ford’s partnership with ARB, you can even fit some aftermarket accessories without the risk of losing your warranty because they were designed for the new Ranger.

Base

  • 2.0L SiT Double Cab 4×2 6MT: R486 000
  • 2.0L SiT Double Cab 4×4 6MT: R528 600

XL

  • 2.0L SiT Double Cab XL 4×2 6MT: R529 900
  • 2.0L SiT Double Cab XL 4×2 6AT: R544 400S
  • 2.0L SiT Double Cab XL 4×4 6MT: R607 300
  • 2.0L SiT Double Cab XL 4×4 6AT: R621 900

XLT

  • 2.0L SiT Double Cab XLT 4×2 6AT: R592 700
  • 2.0L SiT Double Cab XLT 4×4 6AT: R669 800
  • 2.0L BiT Double Cab XLT 4×2 10AT: R702 300
  • 2.0L BiT Double Cab XLT 4×4 10AT: R782 100

Wildtrak

  • 2.0L BiT Double Cab Wildtrak 4×2 10AT: R778 300
  • 2.0L BiT Double Cab Wildtrak 4×4 10AT: R867 700
  • 3.0L V6 Double Cab Wildtrak 4WD 10AT: R953 500]

*A 4-year/120 000km warranty, 4-year/unlimited-distance roadside assistance and 5-year/unlimited-distance corrosion warranty are included as standard. The recommended service interval is 15 000km or annually, whichever occurs first. In addition, customers can also purchase service or maintenance plans for up to 8 years/165 000km. The warranty can be extended up to 7 years/200 000km, while the roadside assistance can be extended or an additional one or two years.

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