Ford's Ranger remains the pick of the dual cab ute field despite the competition from newer, redesigned models. We take a look here at our pick of the range, the XLT.
Our recent eight-way mega ute test highlighted a number of things – not the least of which was the continued competency of the 2016 Ford Ranger XLT. The higher end of the dual cab ute segment is as tough as nails, and we’re not talking just about the vehicles when we make that claim either. The competition for the hearts and minds of the buying public is fierce, and make no mistake, Aussies continue to further their love affair with the dual cab ute segment in all its various forms.
As you can see from reading our mega dual cab ute test, it’s the 2016 Ford Ranger XLT that sits at the top of that pile, as it has done for some time now. You can also find some of the more detailed specification information in that dual cab ute test. The XLT is not the outright pinnacle of the Ranger, um range, as that gong goes to the Wildtrack, but the XLT is undoubtedly the smart money pick in the range. It doesn’t lack in terms of equipment and doesn’t feel like it absolutely needs any of the additions you get with the Wildtrack.
So with the choice of model grade sorted, we take a closer look at what continues to make the Ranger (now called Mk II) such a solid all-rounder in the face of newer competitors and established combatants alike. Some of those newer competitors have been completely redesigned too, making the facelifted Ranger’s dominance even more impressive.
You’ll immediately notice that facelifted and restyled exterior when you take a look at the Ranger. This was a prickly subject at our ute shootout. I prefer the simpler styling of the previous model, however most of the team thought the new Ranger was an improvement on what was already the best looking truck in the segment. The majority CarAdvice verdict stands then: the new Ranger is more attractive. Whatever your opinion, the Ranger certainly looks the most US truck-like, the ideal to which our rather more diminutive dual cabs aspire.
Pricing for the Ranger XLT starts from $54,390. Our test model gets the $1100 XLT Tech Pack (which attaches a vital reverse camera to the equation) and prestige paint for $500. That brings the price to $55,990 plus on-road and drive away costs. Yep, it’s still a lot of money for what is essentially a work truck, but in terms of interior refinement and driving enjoyment, there’s never been a better time to buy a dual cab ute either.
There are numerous strings to the Ranger’s bow, many of which would be enough to tip a potential buyer over the edge on their own. Perhaps the Ranger’s most potent weapon though is its first-to-market win in the form of adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist. True, it is optional equipment but the mere fact this technology is available at all is noteworthy in a segment that has historically lagged well behind 4WD wagons. The Ranger also gets a tow bar as standard equipment, which is a welcome standard inclusion for the dual cab ute buyer.
Under the Ranger’s high-riding bonnet, there’s the now well-known and well-respected 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm between 1750-2500rpm are more than enough to get the toughest jobs done, whether you’re towing, hauling a load in the tray or beating around the bush in heavy terrain. We’ve tried every scenario with the Ranger and it excels in all of them. There’s an effortless sense to everything the Ranger does, such is the power and torque of the engine and the way in which it is delivered.
You can pick a dust up between any of the dual cab heavy hitters, but there’s one area that is hard to argue against, and that’s the Ranger’s exceptional engine and gearbox combination. That said, the new throttle mapping for this Mk II Ranger has brought with it a strange hesitation or jerkiness around town at low speed. We couldn’t work out exactly what it was, but the Mazda BT-50 didn’t exhibit the same tendency.
So, the Ranger is not perfect then, but you do get used to this minor gripe and simply drive around without even noticing it after a while. Still, it is there and it is worth mentioning. Despite that, the Ranger is effortless around town at any speed, more refined and quieter than you’d ever expect, yet delivers plenty of punch when you require it. Most dual cab ute owners cover plenty of kilometres each year, and you can do that in comfort behind the wheel of a Ranger.
The Ranger’s six-speed ‘box makes excellent use of the torque available and shifts almost seamlessly at any speed. It makes for a generally smooth driving experience regardless of where you are, and also serves to make the Ranger feel more car-like than it otherwise would. The transmission executes downshifts rapidly enough to give you confidence when you have to move out to overtake at speed, which is something we appreciated during the country leg of our drive loop.
On the subject of distance covered, we found on test that the Ranger used a real-world 9.9L per 100km against its ADR claim of 9.0L/100km – an impressive 10 per cent over the hard to achieve theoretical figure only. Much of our testing was low speed, around-town stuff, so you can expect to replicate that fuel usage figure if you do buy a Ranger.
In urban areas, there’s effectively nothing to whine about in terms of the Ranger’s ride comfort and general insulation either. As we know, dual cab utes don’t often shine with an unladen tray, but the Ranger is currently as good as it gets, if only a shade in front of the Volkswagen Amarok. Unladen, the Ranger is compliant and comfortable, no matter how nasty the road surface you’re tackling. It feels solid too, even over bumpy surfaces. There’s no flopping or wobbling around from either the front or rear end, which is something you’d know all about if you’ve ever owned an older example of the breed. Those often felt like the rear end was doing something completely unrelated to the front.
As you’d expect, load a few hundred kilos in the tray and the Ranger’s ride competence gets even better.
The Ranger’s electrically assisted power steering system is a big factor in terms of winning over the buyer who spends plenty of time twirling the wheel around town. Tight manoeuvres like three-point turns and reverse parking get no easier in this segment than you’ll experience in the Ranger. The steering system isn’t perfect, with a somewhat numb sense to the feedback at speed on the highway, but around town where most of these utes ply their trade, it’s a revelation compared to the hydraulic systems of old. I’d argue that in this segment, steering "feel" at speed is less important than a system that works around town, and the Ranger has definitely nailed that brief.
The Wildtrack model grade gets a more luxurious interior, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the XLT’s cabin either. In fact, it’s our pick of the range inside the cabin as well as in terms of price. The Ranger’s new touchscreen is intuitive and responsive and we found it easy to master and understand. The safety technology works too, and the reverse camera is a must, making the Tech Pack an almost unavoidable option. You can get the camera for $600 on its own, but you might as well spend $1100 and get the whole Tech Pack. Like the safety additions, the up-to-date infotainment system has been sorely lacking in this segment for way too long.
The Ranger’s driving position affords the excellent view you’d expect of a high riding dual cab and the back row is spacious enough for two adults on longer trips (and three around town). We universally found the driving position to be excellent, while the reverse camera makes driving the Ranger a lot easier in tight parking situations. It’s taken a long time, but driving a dual cab is now a lot more car-like than it ever was. You don’t quite forget the physical heft of the Ranger, but you do feel like you’re piloting an SUV more than a work truck.
So, while the Ranger isn’t quite perfect, it is the best of the breed and the best we’ve ever had in the realm of the dual cab ute. It does what buyers would expect from it better than any other vehicle in the segment. It feels tough enough to last the distance, although we’ll have to wait for some owner feedback once a few examples start getting a few thousand kilometres under their belts.
You get an added benefit when you buy a Ranger too, and that’s the tough truck styling. It’s not as important as being able to get the job done sure, but it’s a factor for many buyers. The Ranger is a solid workhorse and comfortable daily driver, which is why it’s a favourite at CarAdvice.
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