It turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. Even though it’s now based on a 2011 design, the 2020 Ford Ranger Wildtrak still manages to feel fresh, competent and capable.
Discounting the desert-jumping Raptor, we’ve got the most expensive Ranger variant on test. It’s the Wildtrak with the smaller but costlier 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine and 10-speed automatic gearbox.
A decade is beyond a lifetime in automotive life cycle terms. But although this Australian-developed Ranger is creeping up to that mark, constant updates, improvements and tweaks allow it to compete heartily with the latest and greatest in the segment.
The latest updates for this year are some small tweaks to the exterior and interior, and the inclusion of FordPass Connect.
What is FordPass Connect, you ask?
Like so many things these days, it’s driven by an app on your phone. Through it, and an in-car internet connection, you can do things like remote start, remote lock and unlock, vehicle status and parked vehicle location.
Pricing for the Bi-Turbo-equipped Ranger Wildtrak is listed at $65,790. That’s $1500 more than a Wildtrak with a 3.2-litre engine and six-speed automatic, and $3700 more than a 3.2 with the six-speed manual.
This sits below the lofty heights of $77,190 for a Ranger Raptor with the same driveline, but a different high-end suspension set-up, along with different rolling stock and interior.
Look lower and a Ranger XLT with the same driveline is listed at $60,940.
Making 157kW at 3750rpm and 500Nm at 1750–2000rpm, the smaller engine outdoes the 3.2-litre motor for power (147kW at 3000rpm) and torque (470Nm at 1750–2500rpm). While the 3.2-litre has a flatter torque curve, four additional ratios help the 2.0-litre engine stay on song more often than not.
Measuring in at 5446mm long and 1848mm wide, the Ranger is one of the biggest 4x4 utes in the segment. Its wheelbase of 3220mm is also at the top of the tree. The Ranger’s turning circle, 12.7m, is on the bigger side of the segment, but not what I would call egregious.
With all of these whistles and trinkets aboard, the Ranger is also relatively heavy: 2246kg worth of kerb weight. A 3200kg GVM yields a solid 954kg worth of payload, however, and a 3500kg braked towing capacity is complemented by 6000kg worth of gross combination mass.
That means when fully loaded, you've got 2800kg of towing capacity left over. Be wary of your payload when towing: only 254kg remains if you have 3500kg hanging off the back.
While offering better numbers on paper, the 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel engine also ups the ante in terms of refinement. There is precious little of the typical vibrations and noises, even when under load.
Ten ratios might sound like overkill as well, but the implementation is quite good. Gears shift and jump around a lot when driving in most scenarios, but the smooth nature means you only notice them if you are really paying attention.
Only sometimes do you get a more noticeable clunk in the gear change, which seems to be randomly infrequent.
It’s not as smooth in low-range, however. Gear changes thud slightly, with a noticeable surge between the first few ratios in particular. Gearing is good, and the traction systems on offer leave the Ranger feeling like one of the best and most comfortable in its segment off-road.
While we spent some time comparing the Ranger Wildtrak to its newest competitor, we also got the unique opportunity to do some light snow driving.
With a one-in-15 snow event looming west of Sydney, I took the opportunity to book two nights for the family at the Hampton Halfway Hotel and packed every jumper and jacket we owned.
With the family loaded into the Ranger, we spent a full day exploring white forest tracks around Hampton, Oberon and Shooters Hill. There were only a couple of steep pinches and mud bogs to get through; a lot of the tracks in this area are mostly flat and in good condition.
Electric power steering is a boon for a four-wheel drive, making it feel much easier to negotiate in low-speed situations.
With a thick blanket of white over the radiata pine, this drive was more about the experience instead of the challenge. However, in saying that, the Ranger’s standard locking rear differential, which works in conjunction with the snappy traction-control system, gave us a sense of confidence while solo-driving on mostly unknown forest tracks.
Ford’s listed ground clearance of 237mm bodes well for most off-roading, as does the class-best 800mm wading depth and 29-degree approach angle.
Like most other utes, you’ll start running into trouble around your side steps, which will get damaged if you run out of clearance. Your rampover angle is 25 degrees, and the departure angle is 21 degrees – typical with the 1226mm of listed rear overhang.
When back on the blacktop, the Ranger continues to impress. With a smooth and refined driveline giving good performance and decent fuel economy (9.8 litres per 100km on our test against a 7.4L/100km claim). The ride is also great, especially for a 4x4 ute. T
he ride comfort on long-legged runs through the countryside feels good, especially with a tub full of bags, prams and recovery gear.
That tub, by the way, is made more useful from a ‘lifestyle’ point of view with the electric roller shutter. It works in conjunction with a sealed tailgate (no mean feat, by the way) to convert the back end into a big boot, I guess.
This set-up isn’t going to suit those who use their Ranger on the worksite, but is good for converting the Ranger into a more effective family car that’s capable of towing and off-roading.
The Ford SYNC 3 infotainment display feels sharp and responsive to use, and offers all of the connectivity the modern buyer craves: digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There's also native navigation, but the 8.0-inch screen size has been outgunned of late.
Servicing is required every 15,000km or 12 months, and runs through a capped-price servicing program.
Costs are kept at $299 per visit for the first four visits, which then increases to $365, $690 and $365. That takes you to seven years and 105,000km totalling $2646.
Impressively, Ford’s capped-price service program runs all the way to 12 years, but doesn’t include more major works like replacing gearbox and differential oils, coolant or brake fluids.
Ford’s five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty is good, but not the best in the segment. Provided you keep servicing your Ranger via Ford dealerships, they’ll also throw in seven years (updated with each annual service) of roadside assistance via a state auto club.
Age is just a number, so say many rebelling older adults, and this Ford Ranger proves such a thing is true. While many vehicles really start to feel their age and lose their shine after years of battling on the showroom floor, Ford's constant developments and updates for the Ranger's T6 platform allow it to stick it to the much newer competition.
Special mention must go to the initial engineering and development of this platform, which have redefined many disciplines of the once rudimentary 4x4 ute.
It was a ground-breaking ute in many instances back in 2011, but still remains one of the best in the segment to this day.