The flagship 2015 Ford Ranger Wildtrak made its world premiere in Thailand today, bringing new levels of driver assist technologies to the ute market, wrapped in trademark aggressive styling additions.
The updated Wildtrak premieres a few months after the rest of the mid-life updated Ford Ranger line-up, but will arrive on Australian shores at the same time — in the third quarter of 2015.
Ford’s facelifted top-of-the-range ute gets tweaked styling that is still “inspired by tools and machinery”. There’s a bolder new trapezoid-shaped grille finished in dark grey, and grey highlights on the side mirrors, door handles, side air vents, bed rails and tail-lights.
There are also rectangular foglights, a trademark sports bar, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, Wildtrak graphics and a slightly different shade of hero orange paint (there are other colours available, naturally, including white, black, silver and grey).
Inside the cabin is a car-like new instrument fascia with its large central 8.0-inch touchscreen and Sync 2 multimedia with satellite navigation and all manner of connectivity. The voice control system can understand natural voice commands such as “temperature 20 degrees”, “I’m hungry” or (we liked Ford’s suggestion of this one in its release) “play Motorhead”.
There’s also a new soft-touch surface atop the instrument panel, dark chrome or faux cabonfibre-style finishes throughout, orange stitchwork and an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat.
Befitting its place atop the range, there’s also a long list of high-tech features that would have been unthinkable for a ute even a few years ago.
These include Lane Keeping Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control, a Forward Alert system that flashes and preps the brakes if a collision is imminent (one step away from autonomous brakes), front and rear parking sensors with a rear-view camera, a tyre-pressure monitor, a Driver Impairment Monitor that uses a camera and sensors to detect driver weariness and warns you to pull over, and Emergency Assist that dials 000 in an accident and feeds it GPS data.
Ford says all of these advanced safety features will be available in Australia, but has not yet finalised whether all will be standard in our market or available as part of an optional package.
There’s also Hill Descent Control, Hill Launch Assist and an adaptive stability control system that adjusts the parameters as you add load to the cargo area. Ford has also fitted a new electric power steering system to reduce fuel economy, and to enable the driver assist features.
Despite the flashy bits, you still get an electronically controlled transfer case that shifts on the fly, and Ford claims class-leading 800mm water-wading ability and 230mm of ground clearance.
Under the bonnet is the familiar 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel with 147kW/470Nm matched to a six-speed automatic gearbox (there’s no mention of a manual option). An updated exhaust recirculation system improves fuel economy by up to 18.0 per cent, Ford claims. Towing capacity remains 3500kg (braked).
The Ranger Wildtrak is a vital variant for Ford Australia. As we know, more people are using utes as family cars, hence the advanced levels of equipment now on offer. Up to 40 per cent of Ranger sales are of the XLT and Wildtrak in Australia. The Ranger is now among the top sellers in the massive ute market, second in volume to the soon-to-be-replaced Toyota HiLux.
Australian pricing in not yet known, but expect it to be close to the outgoing version, which retails for $57,390 plus on-road costs — making it among the priciest utes you can buy (about $3500 more than the XLT) after the $65,290 Volkswagen Amarok TDI420 Ultimate.