In the hotly contested 4x4 utility segment there are a number of choices available all with their respective pros and cons. None however seem to 'get it right' like the PX Ford Ranger.
Unveiled at the 2010 Australian International Motor Show after a blank sheet design and engineering project by Ford Australia for the international marketplace, the Ford Ranger was immediately the class leader in interior space (especially the all-important rear seat room), packaging, towing capacity - the list goes on. Ford Australia's design and engineering team had seemingly engineered out all of the shortcomings of the Ranger's rivals.
Fast forward to 2013 and I was finally in a position to purchase my Ranger - an XLT Supercab 4x4 with the 6 speed manual transmission and 3.2L inline 5-cylinder turbo diesel motor. In a nutshell the XLT is the second highest trim level in the four tier Ranger line up and contains all of the usual comfort type features in the utility segment while adding higher end features such as dual zone climate control and rain sensing wipers just to name a few.
The Ranger offers excellent on road manners with neutral and reassuring handling characteristics along with a rather comfortable ride quality and excellent sound insulation - indeed more car like than its direct competition. The comfortable and commanding seating position provides an excellent forward and side view of your surroundings, however rear visibility is rather poor due to the physical size of the vehicle - annoyingly a rear view camera is not standard which results in a strong reliance on the standard rear sensors when parking.
Technology is the Ranger's strong suit however featuring a number of standard comfort and safety features which are simply not available in many vehicles within this segment. Features such as an excellent dynamic stability and traction control system, rollover mitigation, trailer sway control, hill descent control and an electronic diff lock just to name a few.
The 3.2 litre inline 5 cylinder diesel motor is a real torque monster with a seemingly unrelenting wall of torque offered up from 1500-3000rpm. The strong torque characteristics are well matched to the standard 6 speed manual transmission which offers a direct and relatively short throws, however it is worth noting that the transmission can be very notchy when cold requiring careful changes until the oil warms up sufficiently. Fuel economy is best described as excellent offering a real world average of approximately 9L/100km and dropping down into the 6s during highway runs.
With the raft of assistance features designed for off road use, along with the high ground clearance it is hardly surprising to find that the Ranger is very capable off road, only let down by the standard road biased Dunlop Grandtrek tyres which offer very little grip in slippery conditions. The four wheel drive system is easy to operate via the console mounted control knob and high range can be selected on the fly up to 100km/h - low range requires the vehicle to be stationary before it can be engaged.
Value for money in this segment is a matter of great subjectivity, however given the level of standard equipment, comfort and performance I feel that the Ranger is worthy of its purchase price. Ford has cleverly said in their marketing that you can buy cheaper alternatives or better sellers, but you cannot buy a better vehicle and I feel this is true. It is worth noting that there are some excellent run out deals going at the moment on the PX Ranger with the incoming updated PX2 only a couple of months away.
Taking all aspects of the vehicle into account the ownership experience so far can be described as positive - over the 34,000km to date the vehicle has travelled it has never let me down, nor had any issues whatsoever and the dealership experience for servicing has been positive. The Ranger is included in Ford's Capped Price Servicing arrangement making it easy to judge maintenance costs should you choose the Ford dealer network for servicing.
I get asked a lot whether I would recommend the Ranger - my answer?