When looking for a replacement for my previous ute a little more than a year ago, I was set on getting the safest one available at that stage. The Ford Ranger was top of the pile, and therefore the search ended with a slightly used 2017 3.2 XLT 4x4 auto. My first auto, and it might be my last for a while. More on that later.
The thing that really impresses me with this Ranger is the great NVH suppression. It does make for an overall pleasant ride, especially on corrugated roads, even considering it's leaf-sprung. Our family has travelled roughly 9000km this year alone on gravel roads for camping/overlanding. The vehicle does carry a load very well. In town, fuel efficiency sits around 6.5L/100km, which is great. Fully loaded for overlanding, I average around 9.2L/100km, which again is great.
We have had no mechanical issues at all with this vehicle. We did however have a broken pre-filter (aftermarket) that had us stuck in the middle of nowhere. Long story short (on how I found an element), I got my hands on an old geyser element and cut the thermostat pipe off (8mm pipe) and bypassed the filter.
I have had some strange electrical phenomenons after extensive gravel road traveling, though. My one rear parking sensor screamed there was an object close-by for about two days, then it vanished again spontaneously. I've also had the indicators randomly start blinking at hyper-speed inside the vehicle (outside all lights worked and blinked at normal speeds), combined with the rear display showing I have a trailer hitched (I've never towed a trailer with this car). This issue also resolved itself within a week.
The power of the 3.2-litre diesel is nice, it's obviously no V8 Cummins, but it is up to the task of anything I need from it. It drives well in beach sand; I just manually select the gear I want, as sometimes too much torque gets you stuck.
In the dunes the auto reacts quickly to manual downshifts when you are running out of puff and the crest is so close... putting the brake and engine traction control off after every restart on sand does get a bit tiresome sometimes though.
In my country, Android Auto is just irritating. No apps work with it, except obviously Google Earth, but our mobile network is average and our data usage expensive. So why would I want to plug my phone in and out every time I get in and out the car? Updating the Sync 3 is also an issue... but I digress, this is more of a third-world country infrastructure trying to marry with first-world technology issue.
Another plus is all the aftermarket goodies available for the vehicle, making overlanding even more enjoyable and a lot safer.
So what do I think Ford can do better? Well, it is a very good vehicle for what it is, and I would recommend it to a certain demographic. Small things; there is no light around the keyhole where you start the car; the steering wheel obviously blocks the interior roof light so it's completely dark. You are then left to stab your steering column in the dark like someone trying to fight off an attacking leopard.
Tie-down hooks in the tub... there are not enough, for grocery shopping in town, or securing your things when overlanding. It's a safety issue, we need more low and high hooks please Ford.
So, after doing about 15,000km this year, I have come to the realisation the Ford is a great vehicle. The issue with it... is me. The auto is causing me to lose the skill of manually driving 4x4 tracks and dunes. It's like learning a new language, and then deciding I'm never speaking it again after you mastered it.
The vehicle has too many electronics – they make life so easy – but it creates a falseness somehow. The electric steering assist has caused me to eat through the stock front tyres (Michelin CrossContact) causing chunking because I turn the wheel (effortlessly) while standing still on a high traction surface to be able to reverse park (I do it everywhere).
When driving on gravel there's no switch to flip between air flow from outside to circulating air inside when someone is approaching at high speed and the dust looks like an A-bomb cloud behind him. You have to look down, somewhere between all the other buttons of niceties is that circulation button, where is it again?
I can go on, but I hope you see my point, and even see my utter foolishness. My foolishness reaches to the point where I am sitting now wishing there was a solid front axle alternative from Ford. I will sell this car, and I will buy from another brand, this vehicle is great, but it's too great for me.