No need to break the bank

There is a bit of a predicament with the new Ford Ranger Double Cab XLT Bi-Turbo 4×4 Auto. ANTON WILLEMSE SNR believes it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Because what is it actually?

Many journalists have called this bakkie the budget option in the Ranger series, but in my opinion that is very unfair to this well specced vehicle. At R809 500, this bakkie is stuffed with many of the same goodies that the flagship models of other brands boast with. Well, except for adaptive cruise control. But who uses that in the bush anyway?

We had the XLT on test for a week and had an impromptu trip to the mountains outside Lydenburg. The vehicle was loaded with our tent, Ecoflow Delta Pro, fridge and all the camping kit we usually take along and driving down the N12at a speed of just over 120km/h we were able to average just above 8 litres/100km. That’s pretty good in my books, especially considering all the weight it was carrying.

The gearbox felt smooth and there was a definite upgrade to it from the previous generation. As you turn of at Belfast heading towards Dullstroom and then Lydenburg, the road becomes less of a road and more of a dodge-the-potholes challenge. However, with the 255/65 R18 and the nicely tuned suspension in the XLT made mincemeat of most of the potholes and we only needed to stay clear of the really bad ones.

The turn-off to Nooitgedacht Trout Lodge is about 5km outside of Lydenburg and this puts you on a very scenic gravel road through the mountains. We selected 4H and tackled the last 20km or so to the lodge. Nooitgedacht lies in the Mount Anderson Catchment Nature Reserve and everywhere you look there are beautiful vistas. We explored the reserve thoroughly and enjoyed some water crossings, some fast driving on gravel roads and even a bit of mountaineering. From the bottom of the valley there is a 4×4 track heading to the top of one of the escarpments and when you look at it you really wonder how you’re going to get up there. There is a road up the mountain though, and we jumped in the Ford and headed out. I had driven this road before, but I barely recognised it. It was fairly overgrown and there was zero space to turn around, so we decided to tackle the 4×4 route, instead.

The route is actually very straight forward. It’s not a vehicle breaker and your 4×4 skills don’t need to be at the highest level. But it is still challenging to pick the correct lines and ensure you miss all the brushes and branches sticking out. The auto box and 4×4 system in the Ranger have finally caught up to what a manual offers a driver, minus the clutch of course. Selecting 4L the vehicle immediately engages second gear, which is what you really want when driving in 4L. Most other bakkies out there select first gear and even if you manually select second, it will still pull off in first before engaging second – losing momentum on those crucial uphills when moment is essential. But not the Ford.

The capability to also set your gear band, for lack of a better word, also ensures that the vehicle won’t just run away when you lose control on a descent. You can select first to third only, or second to fifth, once again making 4×4 easier for the novice. When selecting first gear on a descent there is ample engine braking to ensure a smooth crawl downhill. For extra peace of mind, you can simply select the downhill descent control.

It may sound as if I loved everything about this bakkie, but there were a couple of niggles. For me the seats are a bit hard, and you might start to feel it after a 500km stretch. A very peculiar hiccup we found was that sometimes if you leave the ignition on and engine off whilst refuelling, the Ranger might not pick up the added fuel. We ended up asking someone to check the security footage to see if the vehicle actually received the fuel. After speaking to a few other Ford owners, it sounds like this could be glitch that happens from time to time. Send us a mail if this has happened to you.

But back to this riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. So, this XLT Bi-Turbo auto 4×4 had a launch price of around R780 000 and when going to print it edged just over R800 000. Now keep in mind that you have most of the driver safety systems in this vehicle apart from adaptive cruise control. In addition, you also have a huge centre screen, cordless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a tyre pressure monitor… the list just goes on.

If you compare the Ranger to some of the other brands you only see some of these features when purchasing their top models, yet the price difference can be over R120 000! Simply put, this Ranger is a brilliant package.

So, riddle me this – is this a budget model with premium specifications or a premium model at a budget price? Where exactly is this bakkie positioned? The Raptor was easy to classify – it’s a bat out of hell, bent on pushing your adrenaline levels up and delivering something not expected from a bakkie. It was built to break the mould of what a bakkie should be and can do. Technically, this option does the same, but from a budget perspective. Can you blame a guy for being a bit confused?

The verdict

The Ranger XLT 4×4 Auto, in both Bi-Turbo or Turbo, is a great option as a 4×4 vehicle to tackle those cross-border adventures. So why is this a riddle, wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma? Well, it’s all about what it offers.

The XLT is very well specced and really well priced… so well that you would be a fool not to consider it as your next overlanding vehicle – or even as your everyday ride. The offer is all inclusive and there is not a single brand currently that will offer you everything this bakkie has. Its 4×4 capabilities are on par if not slightly better than that of its main competition. The driver assist systems lack one or two features, but nothing that should deter you from picking this vehicle above any of the other models available on dealer floors.

The XLT isn’t a budget vehicle, nor is it a top-of-the-range model. It is an enigma that some of the other manufacturers will need to decipher if they want to successfully compete.

AT A GLANCE

Ford Ranger 2.0L Diesel 6AT 4×4

Maximum power: 125kW at 3 500rpm

Maximum torque: 405Nm at 1 750rpm to 2 500rpm

Maximum towing capacity: 3 500kg (braked)

Price: R693 300

Ford Ranger 2.0L Bi-Turbo Diesel 10AT 4×4

Maximum power: 154kW at 3 750rpm

Maximum torque: 500Nm at 1 750rpm to 2 000rpm

Maximum towing capacity: 3 500kg (braked)

Price: R809 500

*Included in the purchase price is a 4-year/120 000km warranty, 4-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and 5-year/unlimited distance corrosion warranty. The recommended service interval is 15 000km or annually, whichever occurs first.

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