Can it remain at the top of the sales charts now that the long awaited Toyota Hilux has been launched? I spent time with the XLT model to see if the changes made are enough to keep this brute at the top of the charts.
On the outside one can definitely see the brands American heritage coming through. The newly designed front chrome grille looks remarkably reminiscent of that found on larger American models, like the F-150. The ranger also gets new, sleeker headlights which on the XLT are Xenons. It also features chrome wing mirror caps, door handles and other nice style elements as well, like the lower front fog light surrounds, the XLT also gets a set of unique alloy wheels.
At the back the new Ranger has a large load bin that will take a payload of up to 970kgs which is impressive. What’s more is that it will happily tow around 3500kgs, which is class leading.
However, what if you are not into the loading and towing business? What else does the Ranger offer? Well, step inside and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Apart from the redesigned dashboard, the up spec models get an 8”inch touch screen which incorporates Fords impressive SYNC II media system. The system not only deals with all of your infotainment needs, it also gives you the ability to change the climate control functions, which is a bit odd seeing as though designers spent some effort redesigning the manual controls.
The dials no longer look agricultural and there are more than three. In fact they feel very car like, much like the instrument cluster. The centre speedometer has two colour screens on either side of it which give the driver various forms of information pertaining to trip information on the one and media information on the other. They also give the driver the ability to change vehicle settings as well as activate or deactivate a wide range of optional safety features, which include radar guided cruise-control as well as lane keeping assist, they also happen to be a first for the bakkie segment. Well played Ford, well played.
Space inside is ample and the Ranger remains one of the best in terms of shoulder, leg and head room. There is also ISOFIX child seating for those with little kids.
On the road
So what’s it like on the road? Ford claim that one of the big improvement points for the new Ranger was to improve the cabin ambiance. They pulled it off; the XLT is surprisingly quiet on the inside which lends to its ‘car’ like attributes. Unfortunately the suspension is still quite firm compared to that of the Volkswagen Amarok. Ford has also added a new electronic power assisted steering system which not only reduces fuel usage but also improves manoeuvrability. Under the hood is the familiar 3.2-litre 5-cylinder turbo diesel (TDCi) engine which generates 147kW and 470Nm. The model that I drove was fitted with a 6-speed automatic transmission. One can select a manual however the auto did a fine job on and off the road.
Talking about off-road, the Ranger remains an impressive bundu basher. It features a rotary dial to select between high and low range as well as other useful features like Down Hill Decent Control which keeps the vehicle at a steady speed when going downhill, this gives you, the driver more time to focus on direction.
The upgraded Ford Ranger is exactly that, an upgrade. It offers impressive safety features that are unique to the segment as well as a more refined package. The Ford Ranger XLT that I drove comes with a standard price tag of R566 900. Is it better than the Hilux? Well that might be a simple question however the answer is not so easy to come by. What I can say though, is that with the new Hilux out on the market the competition is now on a level playing field, which should make for a good fight.