WHO says you need to be a farmer or construction worker to crave a pick-up truck? it seems we still have an appetite for the high-stance, flat load-bed 4×4 that is simply known as the “Pick-up”.
Granted, many would-be buyers have been lured away by the ever-expanding market in all-wheel-drive SUVs and is probably the reason why some manufacturers no longer sell a pick-up in the UK. Mitsubishi with their L200 is a notable absence.
However, there is still a call for the pick-up although many will never see anything other than flat tarmac. Maybe some gravel occasionally, if you holiday in the Lake District.
Locking diffs, hill-descent and extreme flexing of the suspension is just not needed by the average commuter. Or so I thought . . .
Then Storm Babet hit the UK and I found myself being eternally grateful for the Ford Ranger Wildtrack that was on my driveway. Not living in the worst-affected parts of Scotland, I decided it was safe enough to attempt to reach my place of work – a mere 5 miles away.
However, that’s about 4 miles of rural B-Roads and there had been some heavy flooding with the rain still coming down heavily. But the big Ford Ranger hardly noticed.
I was glad of the high driving position, 4×4 capability and those big, 20in, all-weather tyres too, because where the edge of the road ended and the grass verges started was impossible to see. Even in a SUV I would probably have turned back for fear of either damaging the car on something unseen, or getting bogged down in a saturated verge.
So, yes, for those increasing amounts of time that we are hit by extreme weather, a pick-up can be the right choice – even for a family. Just be aware that it ain’t easy to park at the retail centre . . .
If you’re not that farmer or construction-worker then you’ll also want some creature comforts too. And you’ll definitely want the Double Cab model. Unless the kids are happy to slide about in the rear load-space. My model came with an electric load-cover (an extra £1,800) so at least they would stay dry.
The new Ford Ranger is available with a 2.0 diesel engine with an output of 170Ps (405 Nm of torque) or 205PS (500Nm). There is also a 3.0L 240Ps which boasts 600Nm of torque. The range-topping Raptor offers 292P (600Nm) in a V6 EcoBoost petrol engine – but that will cost you £46,300 excluding VAT
My test vehicle came with the 205Ps diesel bi-turbo unit and in Wildtrack trim (the most popular, by far) it starts from £39,350, exclusive of VAT. It came with a host of extras that pushed the price north of £44K; like the metallic paint, 20in alloys and upgraded sound-system. There was also a £1,000 technology pack that provides the likes of front and rear parking aids, 360-degree camera, blind spot monitoring, intelligent speed assistance and a 13-pin socket and tow bar.
The standard kit is pretty good though and includes orange-stitched black leather upholstery and an impressive 12in, portrait, infotainment screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are of the wireless variety, which is a bonus. The interior, on the whole was surprisingly lush with plenty of space up front and generous leg space for rear passengers.
Both front seats are heated, along with the steering wheel. The driver’s seat gets 8-way electrical adjustment and there’s even a pair of snazzy pop-out cup-holders. It’s genuinely a pleasant place to be sat, whether you’re dropping off some lambs at the market or dropping off some little-lambs at school.
It’s good to see separate, physical knobs for the climate and volume controls, although they are also available from that smart-looking 12in touchscreen, too.
Visibility is good all round and rear passengers will appreciate the large side windows and generous headroom, thanks to the Ranger’s high roof-line.
The 8-speaker Bang&Olufsen system sounded amongst the best I’ve heard in such a large vehicle and definitely the best I’ve heard in a “commercial”.
This 2023 model Ranger has the same powertrain as the 2019 model – which is no problem as the 2.0-litre diesel engine and 10-speed auto gearbox are very well-regarded and very reliable. It has a 1-tonne load-carrying ability and a 3,500 kg towing capacity along with an advanced four-wheel-drive system with several terrain options to choose from. There’s also a nifty front-view camera for those off-roaders that like to see what’s immediately in front of the front axle, before committing.
The look of this new Ford Ranger has changed substantially and has taken obvious cues from its American sibling – particularly, the all-conquering F-150 – although VW have had a say in it too as their new VW Amarok is based on the Ford Ranger and they needed a slightly wider vehicle to accommodate their V6 lump.
It is a big vehicle and in the supermarket car park you’ll need 2 parking spots, front-to-back, to fit the Ranger into.
The Ford Ranger Wildtrack doesn’t feel too big out on the road though. Ford have done an excellent job of making the Ranger feel and handle more like a family SUV and less like a . . . well, pick-up truck.
At well over 2-tonnes it hides that weight very well and the drivetrain pulls you along nicely without ever feeling overwhelmed. The 10-speed auto box has plenty of ratios so the Ranger pushes on very smoothly indeed with no “dumbness” to the gear-changes. You can select gears manually by pressing the M button on the side of the selector and then using the + and – buttons to make more work for yourself. Why bother?
It may be based on a ladder chassis and still have old-fashioned leaf-springs in the rear suspension, but Ford have managed to make the Ranger actually enjoyable to drive. I was expecting to feel nausea with all the anticipated bouncing around on the local B-roads, but the Ranger was actually very comfortable with no unwanted side-effects at all. I’ve driven many SUVs that were nowhere near as pleasant to travel in as the chunky Ford.
It’s a good motorway cruiser too. A trip to Dunfermline showed the Ranger to be quiet at speed. Certainly, no worse than many premium SUVs or family hatchbacks. The huge mirrors did create a little noise but nothing to write home about. Fit the ranger with All-Terrain tyres though and it could be a different story.
It’s still not a vehicle to be throwing around corners though. It’s heavy and you’ll feel it if you’re being silly with speed and direction. Having said that, the steering is surprisingly sharp, if a little lacking in feel. Turn-in is better than expected and all-in-all it adds to the Ranger’s ability to mimic a much smaller car’s driving-dynamics.
So, if you need a vehicle capable of shifting a euro pallet-sized load from one boggy field to another, but you also want it to double up as the family wagon, then it’s a no-brainer – you need a double-cab pick-up truck and the Ford Ranger is one of the best out there. Probably hands-down the best value too.
However, if you simply want to own a big, hairy pick-up, that’s fine also. The pick-up is the original Sports Utility Vehicle, and as such it’s iconic and desirable, despite its shortcomings (fuel efficiency and around-town practicality).
Ford know how to build rugged off-roaders. They’ve been doing it a long time and the Ford Ranger has been around in the UK since 1998. This latest model is more capable than ever of not just dealing with extreme conditions, but also cosseting its occupants and providing an excellent driving experience. Meet the new boss – same as the old boss . . .