Move Over – The 5 Star Ranger Has Arrived And History Has Been Made….
Pick-up trucks were once the preserve of farmers and builders and it didn’t matter too much how they looked, or even how well they drove, so none of us could have imagined these clunky old things would become the phenomenon of the early 2000’s as ordinary motorists began to figure that maybe a pick-up truck would suit their lifestyle better than their regular car, particularly if the truck was a double cab version and this was all the manufacturers needed to replace austerity with luxury and turn crass into cool.
Following the introduction of a brand new way of calculating the benefit-in-kind tax for company car drivers in 2002, the pick-up market went wild as drivers found they could run a mega luxurious double cab pick-up with enough toys to rival most executive cars, for just a small fraction of the “personal tax” they were paying on their regular company car, saving them £1,000’s each year, whilst their company could get the VAT back on the purchase… so happy days!
Now to be fair, we never much cared for the first ever Ford Ranger as we felt it was a badge engineered import just to fill a slot left by the dear old P100 and in all honesty, that’s exactly what it was. It was a rough and ready truck and wasn’t a very nice thing, but then, nor were many of its competitors, so despite everything, it flourished but it did so mainly because of the Ford oval on the bonnet.
Badge engineering basically means that you take a vehicle that’s made by somebody else (in this case Mazda) and replace their badges with your badges. OK, you might freshen up the grille a bit to give it you’re desired “corporate” face, but you then go on to sell it as something completely different, whilst in all honesty it’s pretty much identical in every way to the vehicle you nicked its identity off in the first place.
From the 70’s onwards, the pick up market in the UK had been dominated by Japanese trucks, with Toyota, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Mazda all having a bite of the cherry. Fords answer was to make its own offering by coming up with a Cortina based truck it called P100 which was made in Portugal from 1971 through to 1988, despite Cortina being replaced by Sierra in 1982. In 1988 the P100 eventually morphed into the Sierra but only ran until 1993 as Sierra itself was replaced by Mondeo.
In that same timescale, the other big UK car maker Vauxhall offered an imported Isuzu called the KB which Vauxhall decided to bang the Bedford name on, just to make certain you knew it was not a car! The Bedford KB ran from 1972 to 1988, and when the new Isuzu truck arrived in the UK, in 1988, GM having consigned the Bedford name to the scrap heap by then trusted it enough to give it the Vauxhall name and the Vauxhall “Brava” was born which ran until 2002.
After axing the P100 in 1993, Ford sat in the pick-up wilderness with nothing to offer in that market, but as early as 1979, Ford had got itself into a partnership with Mazda, buying part of the company and by the mid 80’s, Ford owned around 25% of Mazda meaning their was a real opportunity to grab some Mazda product and “Ford-it”, so it was from the Mazda stable that a rebadged Mazda B-Class pick-up which was built in Thailand would arrive in the UK in May 1999 with the exciting new name of “Ford Ranger”.
As we said, we didn’t much like first Ranger, but it was a Ford and being offered through the Ford network and that meant that businesses were going to trust it and park it in their yards alongside the Transits knowing that if it did go wrong, well it was going to be a quick and easy fix and that even if it turned out to be an awful thing, that no one else in their company was going to criticise them for having chosen a Ford. So Ranger was selling, but the real change in fortunes for Ranger came in 2002 following the changes in benefit-in-kind tax and the loophole it opened and Ford capitalized on it big time by pushing the up market versions of the truck such as XLT and by producing expensive special editions such as the Martini liveried XLT WRR which apparently stood for “World Rally Ranger” but looked just like Ford’s Focus World Rally car (well not really).
A pretty facelift in 2003 helped Ranger to fight off the competition and a new large chrome grille, big chunky bumpers and much improved interiors and higher level of specification hit the spot for buyers and whilst it maybe couldn’t compete on toys with Nissan & Mitsubishi, it competed because it was a Ford. New models such as “Thunder” followed and frankly, there was no going back for Ranger as it just got better and better from there on in.
Next big change was in 2006 when a fairly major facelift saw the introduction of a brand new common rail diesel engine which transformed the truck, and it didn’t stop there as the Rangers suspension was played with and for the first time ever, the Ranger became something you might actually want to drive rather than something you just put up with to save money on your personal tax. The truck had come of age. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a serious player and had all the bases covered from single cab 2wd work truck, through 4×4 Super-Cabs and up to stonking 3.0litre 4×4 Double Cabs such as the Wildtrak.
Right, that’s the history bit over and now we are going to jump forward to 2012 and the launch of not only the best Ranger ever, but arguably, the launch of the best small pick-up truck that’s ever been available in Europe.
Its so easy to praise a vehicle these days, because most vehicles are pretty good, but every now and then, we come across something that’s not just good, but that exceeds our expectations, something that surprises us and makes us say “wow” and I’m sorry to cut to the chase so early in this report, but our time with the new Ford Ranger Impressed the hell out of us because we were testing a vehicle just excelled in so many ways and it seemed that almost everything about the vehicle had been thought about, even down to silly details and that’s resulted in a vehicle that does even more than it says on the tin and frankly, more than most of us are ever going to need.
New Ranger comes in the same body line up as was originally offered way back in 1999 and that’s regular cab, super cab and double cab, although a chassis cab will be available soon, and trim levels are a carry over from the old Ranger which are XL, XLT. Limited and Wildtrak but that’s where the similarity ends as new Ford Ranger is massive, its huge and our double cab test vehicle was 5.35 meters long, with a 1.549mm load box length, it was 1.85 meters wide and 1.85 meters tall and that’s over 6 feet in old money and compared to previous model Ranger is like comparing a Rottweiler to a Poodle.
New Ranger comes with 3 engine options, which include 125ps & 150ps versions of the 2.2 four cylinder diesel, with the less powerful 125ps version only being available in regular cab, whilst the 150ps is available from 4×4 regular cab right up to limited version in the double cab. All of the 2.2 units get manual 6 speed, however in double cab limited version, you can specify a 6 speed automatic.
The biggest of the engines is the 3.2 TDCI which throws out a massive 200ps and only comes in the Limited and the top of the range “Wildtrak” versions, but even on something the size of this new Ranger, the big 3.2 lump really feels as if its got all of the bases covered and makes this poshest of Rangers a great thing to drive in either manual, or with the optional 6 speed auto.
As a truck to do a job, the New Ranger certainly delivers, offering some of the best in class figures, with biggest payload being on the 4×4 regular cab at 1340kg, whilst even on the big double cabs is a good bit over 1100kg. If you want to pull a trailer, well the Ranger can drag up to 2500kg on the 2×4 versions and 3,350kg on the 4×4 models and that’s pretty heavy. With our present UK weather in mind, Ford also tells us that new Ranger can wade in water up to 800mm “now that might be unexpectedly useful?”
Ford have led the way in vehicle safety for some time, but what they have achieved with the new Ford Ranger has blown the industry away as not only is Ford Ranger the first pick-up in history to achieve a maximum 5 Star Euro NCAP rating, its also one of the safest vehicles that the guys in white coats at Euro NCAP “Have ever tested” irrespective of vehicle type and that’s simply amazing.
Sorry to be a pain, but I really need to emphasise just what Ford have achieved with new Ranger, so please bare with me so that I can demonstrate just how well the Ranger performed. To highlight this, let’s compare some of the Euro NCAP results with the other “brand new” kid on the block which comes from the well respected VW Audi stable and that’s their new VW Amarok pick-up and to be fair, lets also look at some of the competition that’s also still out there for you to buy.
Looking at the Euro NCAP tests, for pedestrian safety, Volkswagens new Amarok scored 47%, whilst Ranger scored not far off double, with a stunning 81%, which is in fact the highest Euro NCAP have ever recorded for any type of vehicle “ever”. Ranger topped Amarok again in child safety, delivering an 86% score compared to the Amarok’s 64%. Safety assist score saw Ranger with 71% against the VW’s 57%, whilst adult safety, which is something you might expect VW to have right, the new Ranger scored a near perfect 96% whilst the VW Amarok’s managed 86%. We chose the Amarok here simply so that we could directly compare the 2 most modern trucks out there, both having been released in the last year and you can judge from the results for yourself just how good Ranger is.
In all honesty, the Volkswagen did OK, but as you can see, it didn’t come close to Ranger in terms of safety, being beaten by Ranger in every test so if safety is high up on your priority list, well it’s got to be the Ranger you choose. But to highlight just how good both of these new these trucks are, we took a look at some current models that are on offer from other manufacturers and whilst yes, I accept they were originally launched 4 or 5 years ago, they are still current, so this is absolutely relevant when you are deciding what to buy.
Looking at the Isuzu D-Max/Rodeo which was released in 2008, well it earned just “one and a half stars” overall and it scored just 17% for adult occupancy it got just 22% for child occupancy and as for the poor old pedestrian, well the Isuzu scored a measly 2%. The three star scoring Nissan Navara (a truck we like a lot) originally bombed in the tests, but following some changes it managed to achieve 24% for adult occupancy, 40% for child occupancy and 14% for pedestrian safety. Even the 4 star scoring Mitsubishi L200 that was also released in 2008, only scored 27% for adult occupancy, 32% for child safety and the pedestrian still only gets 2% (compared to Rangers 81%) and these my friend are possibly the most popular trucks outside of Ranger. Not good eh? But it does suggest that if you want to commit suicide by walking out in front of a pick-up truck, the one to avoid is the Ford Ranger as you’ve got most chance of surviving being hit by a Ranger that than any other of the trucks.
Whilst Ranger is not a dedicated “off-roader” as none of these trucks are, it does the off road bit pretty damn well and the levels of traction the new truck provides are simply stunning and 4×4 models get all the trick toys to make life easy for you such as Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Roll-Over Mitigation and added to the standard Traction Control System, Electronic Stability Programme, Emergency Brake Assist, Emergency Brake Warning, and with its special low-ratio rear axle and electronically controlled transfer box, allowing you to shift from four to two wheel drive on-the-fly via a knob located on the centre console, this is a pretty sophisticated vehicle. Other standard items such as Load Adaptive Control and the magnificent Trailer Sway Control, which detects trailer sway and reduces engine torque and applies brakes to each wheel to help restore control, make this a truly unbelievable truck and I almost feel sorry for its competition.
New Ranger follows in the footsteps of the old model and indeed of all its competition as model by model, it’s becoming much more car like and more civilised, but still seems to be able to achieve that despite using much harder wearing materials to withstand the Rangers double life as a truck and a car. Yes, if you know Ford product, you are going to recognize some of the components and the Ranger is very much a Ford, but in that tradition, it gets its share of nice bits as standard even at lead-in XL levels every Ranger gets drivers and front passengers airbag, side airbags, side air curtains and a driver’s knee bolster airbag. Nice bits from basic up include electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, electrically operated front windows with one-shot driver’s window and remote control central locking and to keep you amused, a decent radio and CD player.
Jump up the range to “XLT” and Alloys replace the steel wheels and the grille goes chrome and spot lights sprout out of the front bumper and cool looking polished stainless side steps jut out below the doors. Bluetooth hands free comes as standard as does cruise control and that most lovely of Ford innovations, the heated front screen, whilst, when it’s hot, the XLT’s air conditioning is going to chill you down whilst you can listen to music streamed via what ever kind of “iPoddy thing you happen have” using Bluetooth to the Rangers audio system. Other nice touches such as Automatic headlights and wipers, auto dimming rear view mirror, nice ambient lighting and an overhead console all go towards making the XLT Ranger such a nice thing.
Another step up into “Limited” specification and the alloys grow an inch to 17” and various extra chrome bits start appearing, along with a chrome plated steel rear step bumper. Inside just gets cooler as Dual Zone Electronic Climate control replaces the air-conditioning and the seats go from cloth to leather with an 8-way electrically adjustable and heated driver’s seat and so you don’t bump into anything, Ford put rear parking sensors on as standard and well, because the trucks wide as it is, you’ve got the ability to electrically fold your door mirrors in.
Go completely wild and opt for the “Wildtrak” and now you’re showing off, because this is one pretty vehicle. Difficult to describe how moody this looks, but the alloys grow again, this time to 18” and the chrome goes to be replaced with a titanium coloured grille, black door mirrors, black details on the front bumper, black door handles. Alloy roof rails and a aerodynamic sports bar finish off the look, whilst Wildtrak logos on the front doors and tailgate, leave no one in any doubt about what you are driving. On the inside, well its “Limited” but better with special wildtrak stitching around the leather trim, wildtrak floor mats, a cool ice blue interior lighting that you can dim to suit and to be really flash, a full coulour satellite navigation system with a rear view camera.
Yes, I know you would think that even from the XL version we were talking car, not truck, but that’s how much things have changed and in just 10 short years, vehicles like the Ranger have increased in popularity immensely and that why people like Ford are offering the kind of luxury and equipment that was only previously available on up-market cars and if you asked ford to explain it, I guess they would probably say that they are listening to their customers and that’s got to be good.
Price wise, the new Ford Ranger starts in at around £14,753 for the 2wd regular cab, whilst XL super cab in 2wd sits at £16,070 and the XL 4×4 double cab is well priced at £17,861, but if you want to splash the cash and top for the top of the range 3.2 Wildtrak auto, that’s going to set you back £24,278. There are various model options to suit most prices, but not many factory extras you can order as most of the trucks are well specified, but its good to see Ford are offering a factory-fit tow bar for just £250, because that’s cheap compared to a retro-fit bar. Metallic is a £400 option across the range.
New Ranger is a special truck and from its humble rebadged beginnings in the last century, the Ford Ranger simply makes it difficult to honestly consider anything else if this is the type of vehicle you need. Its clear just living with the truck a few days that there isn’t anything the designers haven’t looked at and that much thought has gone into making the new Ranger as good as it could possibly be.
Early in the development of these types of vehicles 10 years or so ago, in an effort to attract customers, car makers like Ford loaded these trucks with bits to make them look attractive, but all they were was high spec builder’s trucks, and whilst they did fill a gap, they drove and behaved like a ballerina in steel toe caps. As the decade moved on, it became clear the market wasn’t going to go away, so people like Ford decided to go back to the drawing board and start again and in doing that, they’ve come up with a kind of Swiss army knife in as much as it will do the job that any business would want from a truck of this size, delivering great payloads and big towing capacities. Development didn’t stop there as Ford wanted to offer a vehicle that would truly be able to go onto a building site or travel on the worst unmade boggy roads, but at the same time, make it as comfortable, as safe and just as nice to drive as a regular car of that size and they’ve absolutely achieved it.
So if you need a truck for your business, the different models and body styles are going to offer you something to fit the bill, but if you simply fancy a big truck as your daily drive, well in the words of US singer “Roger Miller”, the new Ford Ranger really is “King of the Road”. But maybe you’ve always fancied yourself as a free spirit riding a Harley Davidson; well perhaps this big Ranger can be the 4 wheeled alternative? or maybe you simply need a great safe truck built by a manufacturer you know you can trust and supported by the biggest dealer network in the UK well “unsurprisingly” the Ranger is going to do that one as well.
For a quotation on the new Ford Ranger or on any other Ford, please contact us.