Ford has somewhat of a problem on its hands. It’s currently readying up a successor to the wildly popular Ranger ute, which is promising, but with sales of its current-generation Ranger still ticking along at industry-leading rates, Ford can’t afford to stuff up its successor.
Despite the T6 Ranger platform existing for nearly 10 years now, Ford has continually put work into the Ranger. It has been tweaking it through updates to keep it competitive within its segment, and creating new variants such as this 2021 Ford Ranger Wildtrak X we have on test.
It’s the 'MY21.25' update to the preceding MY20 iteration, and scores a number of additions over and above the standard Wildtrak, while still sitting below the full-fat Ranger Raptor. A majority of them are style-based, like the wheel arch flares, new front grille with accented nostrils, and black trim highlights. Although, it is equipped with a few useable items, such as a front Lumen LED light bar, power roller shutter for the tub, black side steps, black front nudge bar, and unique 18-inch black alloy wheels with a wider offset.
The usual spattering of Wildtrak X branding combines with some enhanced interior trim appointments to present a properly serious-looking ‘truck’.
Now, looks are a facet of new cars that I wouldn’t typically broach, as everyone is different and each person has their own preconceptions. However, I can’t not mention the styling of this Wildtrak X variant, as its imposing demeanour really does make an impression.
It looks tough. I think it also flies under the radar as the best-looking variant in the Ranger line-up, those orange-accented nostrils going a long way to provide a fresh take on an old design. The pumped wheel guards and extra 35mm in offset width also provide a strong squared-off stance that makes you wonder whether it’s already stopped off for some aftermarket goodies.
The Wildtrak X can be had with Ford’s tried-and-true 3.2-litre turbo diesel five-cylinder engine with six-speed automatic. However, our car is fitted with the more expensive 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel four-cylinder engine, which comes mated solely to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Both engines are able to tow 3500kg, though the 2.0-litre scores a higher payload of 943kg and uses less fuel with a 7.4L/100km combined consumption claim.
In Wildtrak X guise equipped with the 2.0-litre powertrain, it’s priced at $67,990 before on-road costs, and our example wears the $650 Saber orange prestige paint. It slots in near the top of the Ranger model line-up, but sits below the top-dog new Ranger Raptor X that costs $79,390 plus ORCs.
|Key details||2021 Ford Ranger Wildtrak X|
|Engine||2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel four-cylinder|
|Power||157kW @ 3750rpm|
|Torque||500Nm @ 1750-2000rpm|
|Drive type||Part-time 4x4|
|Transmission||10-speed torque converter automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||69.6kW/t|
|Price (MSRP)||$67,990 before on-road costs|
That’s about as much as you’d want to be paying for a dual-cab ute of any kind (especially when the T6 Ranger platform is due to be out to pasture next year).
Toyota’s HiLux Rugged X does pip it on price ($69,990 before ORCs), though flagship rivals such as the Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain ($63,900 before ORCs), Nissan Navara Pro-4X ($60,630 before ORCs) and the Volkswagen Amarok TDI580 Highline ($61,990 before ORCs) come much cheaper.
To do battle with the above, Ford equips the Ranger Wildtrak X with an 8.0-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, satellite navigation, reversing camera, bi-LED headlights, keyless entry, push-button start, ambient lighting, electric driver’s seat adjustment, part-leather upholstery and heated front seats.
A full suite of safety technologies is fitted as standard, including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, hill start assist, hill descent control, tyre pressure monitoring, an electronically locking rear differential and active park assist.
There's also support for Ford's FordPass Connect smartphone app, which allows owners to lock/unlock their Ranger, start its engine remotely, locate it when parked, and check fuel levels and tyre pressures.
In practice, the appointments above combine to create a very comfortable and connected ute to live with every day.
It’s a breeze to jump in and out of quickly, with keyless entry and ingress aided by those running side steps for shorter occupants. The cabin itself presents a cut above its competition; most surfaces are covered in soft-touch materials and orange accents help to break up a grey/black colour scheme.
Some will see the appeal of leather-appointed seats, though in my mind it feels like the stuff that would sag with extended use. I much prefer the hard-wearing, sports-like fabric that Ford used in Wildtraks of a few years ago.
In any case, the seats are very comfortable themselves and offer good side support and long-distance comfort. There’s a good amount of space up front to get cosy with, and the driving position is a nice and configurable, commanding position with good all-round visibility.
Ford’s Sync infotainment system is one of the easiest to use and most recognisable on the market. Switching between menu screens and functions is a breeze thanks to prominent shortcuts, and the customisability of the car can all be controlled through a simple settings layout.
It is worth noting that certain Sync 3 systems can be slow to respond on occasion, but it’s a known problem that is usually fixed with a hard reset.
|At a glance||2021 Ford Ranger Wildtrak X|
|Fuel consumption (claimed combined)||7.4L/100km|
|Fuel consumption (on test)||9.4L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||80L|
|Width (incl. mirrors)||2163mm|
|ANCAP safety rating||Five-star (tested 2015)|
|Warranty||Five-year, unlimited km|
|Servicing cost||$1551 (five years)|
|Colour as tested||Saber ($650)|
|Competitors||Toyota HiLux Rugged X | Volkswagen Amarok TDI580 Highline | Nissan Navara Pro-4X|
Speaking of customisability, it’s interesting that Ford has used a customisable dual-display instrument cluster for several years now, and few other manufacturers have rivalled the functionality or simplicity of the set-up. It’s still one of the best at-a-glance gauge displays in the dual-cab ute segment, which can show navigation, phone, and media information as well as digital layouts for engine speed, fuel level, and tyre pressure info.
Storage is well catered for with a large amount of door bin capacity up front, as well as a cubby in front of the shifter, two cupholders, and a sizeable centre console bin to hide precious items away. Equally, there’s a good number of storage spots for back seat passengers to utilise.
Back seat passengers are treated to good head room, a large amount of foot room and a comfortable squab on which to sit. Handily, there’s a 230-volt power point behind the centre console to charge devices with, as well as a single 12-volt outlet (2 x USB-A ports, 1 x 12V outlet in front row).
At the rear of the ute, the spring-assisted tailgate folds down to reveal a tub-lined tray, which features a power-operated aluminium roller shutter that makes keeping items secure easier (also seen on the regular Wildtrak). The feature won’t be to everyone’s liking, as some would prefer the load space without the cumbersome roller canister, though the shutter can be opened and closed using the key, a button within the tray, or via a button on the dash.
The load space is an almost square 1549mm (L) x 1560 (W).
Power comes courtesy of the 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel lifted from the Ranger Raptor. This engine can only be had with the Ford/GM-developed 10-speed automatic transmission, which I found to be a fair match, though some complain it overly hunts for the right gear around town.
I was impressed with the way the gearbox intelligently sets itself in the right gear in order to extract maximum torque for any given situation. Shifts are nearly as imperceptible as a continuously variable transmission, though there’s none of that constant noise and elasticity. It has a slightly narrower torque band than its large-capacity counterpart (3.2-litre five-cylinder), but is much smarter at staying between that band.
What wasn’t the nicest experience were some sudden drivetrain shunts when putting your foot into it, which jolted the cabin as the ute slotted into gear.
It’s not as jumpy off the line as the 3.2-litre, though the 2.0-litre is more responsive on the move and is more susceptible to changing throttle inputs. It is also quieter and more refined than its larger sibling.
There is ample overtaking power on the open road, and while we didn’t tow anything during its week on test, the level of grunt on offer was perfectly suited to rural touring as well as city dwelling.
While most of its time was spent in suburbia, it’s clear that, size-wise, the Ranger Wildtrak X is a better fit for wider Australia. It’s 5446mm long, and especially with the standard-fit tow hitch and nudge bar, the Ranger was a cumbersome thing to pedal around tight parking lots and one-way streets.
Consider, too, the 12.7m turning circle is wider than many of its rivals, and made for a number of painful three-point turns where you’d expect a clean U-ey.
Luckily the electric steering is a nice, light weight around town. So, too, the ride is very decent for a 4x4 dual-cab. It absorbed large bumps without fuss at the front end and only rattled slightly over the leaf-sprung rear.
On gravel roads, the Ranger eats up small ruts easily and irons over undulations confidently. The stability control calibration is remarkably good, always cutting in early to ensure the car doesn’t go too far out of shape. Ford has continually put mass amounts of testing and development into its Ranger ute, which ensures that it continues to meet the demands of all Australian conditions out of the box.
There’s no denying its 2257kg heft, but the Wildtrak X’s roadholding ability is impressive. It manages to control its weight well between rolling bends, not feeling overly top-heavy.
Throughout a week of combined driving on highway, rural roads, gravel surfaces and around town, our fuel-economy figure was 9.4L/100km. While this is two litres more than Ford’s official claim, it’s about par for other 2.0-litre Rangers we’ve had on test.
As with all 2021 Ford Rangers, the Wildtrak X benefits from a five-year, unlimited-kilometre factory warranty, 15,000km/12-month service intervals and Ford's 'Ford Service Benefits' program, which adds a free loan car come time for a service, roadside assistance, satellite map updates, and four years of fixed-price servicing, at $299 each plus, a slightly more expensive $355 fifth visit.
Safety credentials are borrowed from a 2015 ANCAP test of the broader Ranger line-up. It retains its full five-star rating, bolstered by active features such as traffic sign recognition, rollover mitigation, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam, lane-keeping aid and all-round parking sensors.
Make no mistake, the 2021 Ford Ranger is still a phenomenal package, and in lifestyle Wildtrak X guise it looks and performs near the top of its class. While easily one of the more expensive utes in its segment, the Wildtrak X is backed by an impressive amount of kit and has continually kept pace with the ever-changing ute market.
While many would have begun to feel their age by now, the 10-year-old T6 Ranger platform soldiers on as a high watermark for its rivals. If its 2022 successor can encompass all of the positives listed above while introducing a new lusted-after (and rumoured) six-cylinder powerplant, Ford should be onto another winner.