6 / 10
It seems more and more people are wanting more and more from their vehicles, and fair enough too, for in this age of high-technology engineering wizardry cross purpose vehicles make just as much sense as cameras in mobile phones.
So, what of the ever increasing number of commercial vehicles that double as family transport on the weekend? Is the line between the two now so far blurred that it doesn’t matter? Or has the humble work ute grown to a point where it’s now accepted into the family fold?
To find out, I decided to spend a dirty weekend with the new Ford Ranger Wildtrak and see if it could be the answer to all my questions.
Visually the added enhancements of the Wildtrak pack have certainly made for a more interesting, masculine and rugged looking vehicle than the standard Ranger.
Included in the $3000 premium above the Ranger XLT, on which the Wildtrak is based, are ‘Wildtrak’ decals, 18-inch alloy wheels, side steps, roof and tub rails, polyurethane tub liner and lockable retractable hard tonneau, all of which give this special edition model a more unique and tougher appearance.
The cab is suitably attired for a vehicle of such utilitarian purposes and provides passengers with ample space and storage throughout. Of note is the comfort of the front seats, which make a pleasant change from those found in most commercial vehicles in this class.
Interior features include binnacle gauges featuring pitch and roll, internal and external temperature and compass; alcantara ‘Wildtrak’ seats; ‘Wildtrak’ floor mats; leather clad steering wheel and gear knob; six-disc CD tuner with auxiliary input; power windows; power wing mirrors with puddle lights; cruise control; and remote central locking.
Rear seat accommodation is also more than adequate in terms of space but is less than ideal in terms of a relaxing ride with reduced cushioning and a more upright recline angle making longer trips a little hard going.
On a positive note the sail across the rear window proves handy in keeping sun from the rear seat passengers necks, even if it does make reversing from a 45-degree angle rather tricky.
Under the bonnet Wildtrak features a diesel-only offering in the form of Ford’s 3.0-litre, common-rail, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that offers 115kW at 3200rpm and a suitably strong 380Nm from just 1800 revs. It’s a little noisy under idle and heavy acceleration but is otherwise acceptable given the vehicle’s commercial orientation.
Our test vehicle was coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission (with switchable overdrive) which is a little uncouth in application and slow in decision. A five-speed manual box is also offered for those who prefer a clutch and would easily be my pick.
Fuel economy returns were a little above ADR claims but not dramatically so with our week of city, highway and off-road use returning 11.6L/100km (ADR Combined claim is 10.4L/100km).
The four-wheel-drive system offers a proper low-range ratio, auto-locking hubs plus on-the-fly switching, and despite the 18-inch alloys wheels (with road bias tyres), Wildtrak is certainly very capable off-road availing 214mm of ground clearance and enough guts in the rear springs to ensure adequate laden suspension travel.
Unfortunately from a driver’s perspective the power steering is dramatically over assisted meaning feel is somewhat … err, lacking, and although light steering may prove handy when parking or tackling a bush track, it can see this utility tending to follow camber, like flies to a barbecue, once you’re back on the black stuff.
Up front the Ranger features disc brakes but makes do with drums on the rear. ABS is standard and features Electronic Brake Force Distribution though I can’t help but notice the pedal is soft of feel with a great deal of travel before any real ‘bite’ is felt. On the plus side, ABS calibration is suitably delayed in threshold for off-road use.
Wildtrak offers 1016kg of payload though unfortunately the load area is slightly diminished due to the sails and retractable tonneau cover. I should point out though that even though the tonneau is lockable the tailgate isn’t, so bear that in mind if carrying trade tools or valuables.
Safety includes dual-front airbags and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution but misses out on three-point inertia belt for the centre rear seat passenger. The Ford Ranger also only manages a three-star ANCAP rating (from a possible five-stars) which may lead a re-think on using the car as the primary family hauler.
As a tough, no-nonsense crew-cab Ranger is one of the better vehicles in this market sector, and with the individuality the Wildtrak pack offers above the XLT, it is bound to appeal to buyers wanting to combine work and play in the one trusty, and very distinct, vehicle.
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer
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