We get asked questions about cars every day here at CarAdvice, and one that has started to creep up regularly is, “should I buy a double-cab ute?”
It’s a tempting proposition, the multi-role work-and-play capability, levels of comfort, safety and technology to rival many SUV wagons, and of course that ever elusive benefit from the tax man, all help make the move to a giant Tonka truck very appealing.
Manufacturer incentives don’t hurt the cause either, and the 2017 Ford Ranger XLS Special Edition dangles another carrot in front of potential buyers: value.
Priced from $48,990 drive away for the manual, or $2200 more (at $51,190) for the automatic, the XLS SE presents all the core ingredients that make the Ranger so popular, at a pretty hefty saving off the high selling XLT and Wildtrak models.
The 2016-plated MY17 XLS SE is about $6500 less than an XLT and a solid $10,500 less than a Wildtrak. So yes, it is a runout model, and it's in limited supply (only 1400 available in total), but as we saw with the 2016 Holden Colorado LS-X, these accessory bundle packs make quite a bit of sense in the financial stakes.
You’ve got to feel for the Blue Oval too. Ranger 4x4 sales grew the most of all pick-ups in the class in 2016, 31.8 per cent, and yet it missed out on the top-selling gong by falling just 196 units behind the ubiquitous Toyota HiLux.
That’s less than one Ranger for every Ford dealer. So you can see why a little push in the form of the SE, might be what's needed to take the prize in 2017.
The XLS is powered by the familiar 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel engine as found in its pricier counterparts. Combined with the six-speed automatic transmission and selectable four-wheel drive system, the XLS has the basics that has made the Ranger such a winner for Ford.
The Special Edition throws in an alloy sports bar, side steps, tow package and a tub-liner onto the already solidly equipped XLS. If bought separately, these goodies account for about $4,900 worth of retail value. There’s also a standard rear-view camera, power mirrors and windows, cloth trim, carpet, 240-volt outlet and rear differential lock.
And, as with other models in the range, you get horrible 16-inch alloy wheels. Please Ford, employ a better wheel designer. Please.
The tub itself is the same (about 1.5m deep and wide) but the XLS does lose the 12-volt socket in the tray.
We loaded up a Honda CRF250L trail bike (150kg) in the tub using our handy Ready Ramp bed extender. This meant, using the four tie hooks in the Ranger, we could secure the bike (and even potentially fit another one) without any trouble.
The bed extender means you need to travel with the tailgate down, but the number plate is still visible, and it makes the 1.5-metre deep tub a lot more practical. The length of the ramp made it easy to load the bike into the high tub of the 4x4 Ranger too.
Curiously too, around the outside of the tub are tie points which look like rock-climbing hand holds. It’s a statement to the more ‘working’ nature of the XLS, but as the tub design itself is the same as the XLT, they do look a little bit ‘stuck’ on.
Things are very similar in the cabin, though. You can still comfortably fit adults in the rear thanks to the generous leg room, and the bench can flip up to hold cargo inside the cab, or to access the storage cubbies below.
It’s a good, simple layout with good simple materials. It’s not up-market but at the same time, it doesn’t feel cheap. Our car was well put together in all the key areas, although Matt has been driving an XLS that might have been a bit of a Friday special (stay tuned on that one), so make sure you go for a spin and poke and prod around the cabin if you are considering a Ranger like this.
Think of the XLS then, as the tech-lite version of the XLT, as that is the area where the equipment gap is most visible.
You miss out on the eight-inch SYNC 3 touchscreen and navigation, instead replaced by a high-resolution four-inch screen running a more basic version of the SYNC software.
Once you understand the connection between the screen prompts and buttons on the fascia, the system works surprisingly well and while there is no DAB tuner or CarPlay integration, the system supports SYNC apps on your smartphone, so you can tune into Paul and Trent on Macquarie Digital Radio, or enjoy a reading of James and the Giant Peach from the Roald Dahl audio books app.
The screen shows vision from the standard rear-view camera too, and despite the small size, the picture is sharp and accurate enough to manage urban parking. Handy to avoid touch parking with that tow bar!
The basic air conditioning controls work well, and the car keeps very cool even in 30-degree temperature. There’s good storage around the cabin too, but as we’ve found with other Rangers, the placement of the USB points low on the dashboard can be a bit fiddly to access. Especially if you are using your phone on a mount to run navigation.
The instrument display is a more traditional twin-dial setup, with a digital trip and driving information screen in the centre.
All the info is there, including digital speed, and everything is easy to use. The XLS features standard cruise control and speed limit functions, not the radar adaptive system of its more fancy siblings.
The ride, both with and without the bike, is settled but still quite ‘utey’. There’s none of the harsh jitters we see in some other pick-ups though, the Ranger’s rear leaf springs dealing with undulations and rough surfaces really well. Mild-duty off road running sees the big Ford deal with basic articulation well, and it continues to be one of the best riding utes on the market.
Fuel consumption, as in other Rangers, tends to sit around the 9L/100km mark on a combined cycle. Cruising is a comfortable and relaxed experience and the cabin is impressively quiet.
There is a bit of vibration low down in the rev range, and the noise under load is ‘trucky’ but the Ranger continues to offer one of the most impressive and refined drivelines in its class. It’s no rocket ship, but for a mixed role of tootling about town on working errands, and then outer urban and unsealed touring, it’s a very solid and liveable package.
It’s that liveability, while retaining a robust working nature, that has no doubt earned the big Ford a loyal and growing fanbase.
Speaking of working nature, if your motivation to buy a double-cab pick-up as a partial ‘business tool’ is for small business tax benefits, I’d suggest you are not alone. Business registrations grew by over 36 per cent in 2016, with many seeking to lodge an ABN to support a home-based or part-time money earner.
So you know, under ATO regulation AT2024, a double-cab Ford Ranger that is primarily used for work purposes but occasionally utilised to take rubbish to the tip, is fringe-benefit tax exempt.
Using the tax office calculation, where five-seats occupied by a 68kg person (340kg), can not be the majority of the total load rating (the XLS has a 1089kg rating, which means with five ATO officials on board you can still lug 749kg), the Ranger scores a solid tick.
This isn’t financial advice though, and even say, carting around a Honda trailbike (which weighs about 150kg) isn’t always work. Unless that AAA-Ardvark Motorcyle Removals business name is your next hit on the ABN registration list.
The 2017 Ford Ranger XLS SE makes a great value argument for those looking for one of the country’s favourite utes but without wanting to stretch the budget too much. Considering you could nab the XLS and the bike in the back for less than the cost of an XLT might be the right amount of sway you need to park one in your ABN registered driveway.