A Note from the Editor: A stock image has been supplied with this review.
Title: Geoff buys a Ford Ranger - How I Came to Understand and Embrace the dual cab ute.
Recently when sitting at the traffic lights with my view completely obstructed by the behemoth next to me, I looked to the side at a massive wheel arch with leaf springs, drum brakes, and exposed welds clearly on view. As it pulled away in a cloud of diesel soot I wondered why. Why do people buy dual cab utes? I know that this type of vehicle is not marketed at me, a latte drinking urbanite with delicate soft pink hands, but I just don’t get it.
I will admit that I am not good at picking car trends. I thought there would be no reason for people to buy SUVs unless they had to go off-road. The weight and complexity of the 4WD gear would put people off. I was wrong. With hybrids, they seemed far too complex and expensive when a diesel gave better real-life performance. It appears I was wrong again. When he was alive my father was always quick to call people stupid when they did something he didn't understand, but I am not silly enough to think I am always the smartest person in the room. There must be a reason why dual cab utes took the top three places for best selling vehicles in the recent June VFACTS report.
Then I found out my brother-in-law Geoff had bought a black MY17 Ford Ranger XLT with the tech pack. My first reaction was a surprised “why?” The family vehicle had always been an SUV, four Mitsubishi Pajeros in a row, in fact. Geoff was a smart and sensible bloke and now even he had bought a dual cab ute. What was going on with Geoff and the rest of Australia? But then the more I thought about it, the more understandable it was. Geoff is a middle-aged bloke who although not a “tradie” works with his hands. He lives in the suburbs, is married with 2 adult kids, a small boat and dog. Upon reflection, he is the perfect demographic for a dual cab ute.
So with my curiosity piqued I asked him why, after four faithful Mitsubishi Pajeros in a row, he had now decided to buy a Ford Ranger? More importantly, why a dual cab ute instead of an SUV? Wouldn’t an SUV be more comfortable and better capable of carrying out all of the duties of the primary family vehicle? When asked, the answer was perfectly reasonable. Geoff works with heavy machinery and as such he regularly carries tools that are covered in grease and machine oil. When stored in the back of an SUV, the smell permeates throughout the cabin and the smell lingers. This, of course, does not happen with a dual cab ute which makes for a much happier wife in the evenings and weekends.
It is hard to argue with such a clear advantage in this particular case and there were more reasons to opt for the Ranger. Equipment levels are much higher when compared to equivalently priced SUV such as the Prado. I was surprised to learn that the Ranger offered an 8-inch touchscreen, adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, lane keeping assist, driver impairment monitoring, front and rear sensors with rear camera, keyless entry, Bluetooth, voice control, DAB and sat nav. The Ford Everest, which is built on the same platform as the Ranger was not as well equipped, and the thought of mucking around with AdBlue did not appeal.
Another Pajero was looked into before the Ranger, as this vehicle had served him well in the past, but the current generation dates back to 2006! This is absolutely ancient in car terms. When someone buys a new car, they do not want a 12-year-old design. Minor updates aside, Geoff would effectively be buying the same vehicle he has owned at least twice before. Where’s the fun in that? Looking at other dual cab utes Geoff was again impressed by the Ranger’s superior equipment levels compared to competitors such as the Toyota Hilux. And the Ranger looks better and has more grunt.
When it comes to the driving experience in vehicles like this, it is pointless to talk about the finer points of steering feel or throttle response. The high equipment levels and driver aids make the Ranger feel luxurious and the engine grunt takes care of the driver enjoyment. More surprisingly was my sister’s reaction. She is pleased with the room and comfort (at least in the front seats), and in terms of refinement finds no discernible difference between the Ranger and the previous Pajero.
So what doesn’t a dual cab do well? Rear seat room is not as good and there is no seven-seat option, of course. Anything in the tray is exposed to the elements, but this is fixed with a rigid tonneau cover. Other little niggles mentioned include the tailgate not locking with the central locking, which is not good with expensive tools in the back. This was sorted out with a $15 part from Jaycar that Geoff fitted himself. In addition to this, the tailgate is a bit heavy but much better after fitting a couple of gas struts. As I said these are “little niggles” but annoying after shelling out around $60,000 (list price anyway, even if no one actually pays this).
Overall the Ranger seems to fit the role of a general family vehicle very well, perhaps even better than an SUV in this case. Eighteen months down the track, my brother in law Geoff is very happy with his choice and perhaps more importantly, so is my sister and the rest of the family. And as for me, the next time I am blinded in the traffic by a large dual cab ute I will have a little more understanding as to why they are so popular.
Unfortunately, this will still not improve my view at the traffic lights!