I’d been scrolling through CarAdvice for some time leading up to buying my WildTrak in the hope of reading an owners review on the new PX3 WildTrak before pulling the pin. After realising no one had written one up yet I thought I’d pen my own review with my initial impressions of the WildTrak for the short time I have owned it. I may write up long-term owner review down the track if there are any developments that warrant a mention. On that note, let’s get stuck into it.
After six glorious years in my old faithful Holden ute, and having grown tired of abysmal fuel economy and only 2 seats, I finally decided it was time to part ways and upgrade to a newer, more spacious and economical ute. I’ve had a few dual-cab ute’s on my shortlist; namely the Amarok V6 Ultimate for its refinement and power, the Colorado Z71 for its looks and reliability, and the Ranger WildTrak for its revered reputation for being a remarkable all-rounder. Thankfully, having mates with the aforementioned utes in varied levels of trim made it easy for me to get familiar with the underpinnings of each, without the pressure of a pushy car salesman looking over my shoulder. As refined as the Amarok felt behind the wheel, I couldn’t get past the cramped rear seats which were likely sacrificed in aid of a deeper tray, and the lack of rear side curtain airbags and other tech that are coming to be expected as standard; particularly given the Amarok’s price of admission. The Colorado’s Duramax engine felt lively and keen, and the whole package was tough as nails, but the infotainment system felt dated and the cabin to me just didn’t feel that special for a flagship model (without considering the HSV Sportscat). There wasn’t anything severely wrong with the interior, it just felt bland and underdone; for me an appealing interior is integral to my day-to-day enjoyment. However I will note that I wasn’t at all fond of the Colorado’s steering wheel; it was reminiscent of a circa 2005 Astra. That left the Ranger. The grunt from the 5-pot engine coupled with the electric steering made the Ranger feel nimble and much smaller than it actually is. With the tech, interior, looks and performance on offer, I found the Ranger to present the best value proposition. So my mind was made up. Yes the Ranger has its shortcomings, but none were so significant that I wouldn’t be able to live with them; but more on that later.
Having frequently driven my mate’s 2015 PX2 Ranger, I had grown quite familiar with the performance to be expected of the 3.2-litre engine, and was keen to test out the spritely new 2.0-litre bi-turbo for its advertised improvement in fuel economy, power and refinement. Many will always believe that there is no replacement for displacement, but I was open-minded about the new engine, and decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. After going for a test drive in a bi-turbo XLT, my mind was made up. $1,200 for a more refined and powerful engine seemed like a small price to pay; particularly when that cost may one day repaid itself through the anticipated long term fuel savings from the more efficient engine/transmission combination.
I had originally settled on purchasing a new XLT, but after pricing one up with the safety tech packages and other OEM accessories, it came very close to WildTrak pricing. The black and grey trim on the WildTrak also proved more alluring to me than the chrome trim on the XLT, which was what, in the end, won me over – if that wasn’t already obvious. I ordered the 2.0L bi-turbo WildTrak in Magnetic (Ford’s take on a gunmetal grey) with a black nudge bar, black wheel pack, rubber tray mat and Bridgestone Dueler D697 A/T tyres instead of the standard Bridgestone Dueler D684 H/T tyres. I would have preferred the option wheels to be matte black like the Raptor wheels but I can live with gloss black; they’ll look plenty matte with a layer of dust and dirt on them! Ford offers an assortment of tyre options at various price points, but I settled on the tried and tested D697 due its reputation for being a great all-rounder with regards to all-terrain ability, fuel economy, durability and longevity, road noise, and cost.
I know many Rangers are bought with the intention of jacking them up and slapping on a set of muddies on 20+ inch wheels, but I won’t be going down that avenue as I think it looks superb in its stock configuration with OEM accessories. Plus, I wouldn’t be able to get past the ostentatious and overly gaudy look of muddies on 20s, not to mention the impracticality when it comes to fuel inefficiency and road noise – given I’ll be driving predominantly on black top. A lift kit is also unlikely to be in my near future as the Ranger barely clears my garage roller door as it is, and I’m also unlikely to be doing any off-roading serious enough to warrant a lift. The only aftermarket modifications I have undertaken (if that’s what you would call them) have not been performance based. I had Vini and Anna down at Adelaide Paint Protection clear coat and tint my Ranger with a Gtechniq Crystal Serum Ultra ceramic coating and Suntek CXP window tint; I would highly recommend them for any Adelaidian looking for superb customer service and a stellar final product.
I’m super thankful Ford opted for a more subtle trim in the new PX3 WildTrak. I never could quite understand the appeal of the ghastly bright orange upholstery trim in the PX2. The new leather trim with orange stitching provides a great balance between a premium feel and sportiness. Yes, there are hard plastics around the place, but I find the cabin to be an overall comfortable place to be and quite pleasing to the eye. The Ranger has most of the standard amenities we would expect of a 2019 model vehicle. The most noticeable absence to me was the lack of blind-spot monitoring; I would presume that if a vehicle is advanced enough to have autonomous emergency braking and semi-autonomous parking, it would almost certainly have blind-spot monitoring as a standard inclusion. The lack of second row air vents is also worth mentioning, although this has yet to be an issue for me personally. A heads up display would have been a welcome addition, but I can certainly live without one. In comparing the drive of my PX3 to my mate’s PX2, I definitely notice the reduction in road noise penetrating the cabin. Ford’s active noise dampening works wonders and adds to the Ranger’s already venerable reputation of being a superb tourer. Sync 3 proves to be a user-friendly and welcomed upgrade to the Ford line up, although Sync 2 wasn’t terrible. The improved interface and faster execution pushes Sync 3 further in the right direction. One of the standout improvements from Sync 2 to Sync 3 is the sat-nav address search bar. Rather than having to enter the suburb, street and number in different sections, you can now search for an address through a search bar type arrangement which provides predictive text suggestions as you type, similar to a normal Google search bar. The keyless entry and push-button start/stop is also a nice tech amenity, albeit one we have also come to expect as standard in this day and age.
With regards to the exterior, the addition of daytime running lights, HID low beam lights and LED fog lamps are a vast improvement over the archaic and antiquated halogen globes. It’s only a shame they didn’t update the halogen high beams. Yes, the mixture of halogen, HID and LED seems a bit odd and counterintuitive, and yes, cutting-edge LED would have been ideal, but the HID low beams are a functional improvement and a welcome step in the right direction. LED taillights would also have been nice in keeping with what is generally on offer these days, but they’re nothing I can’t live without. I’ve remedied my dislike of the high beam halogen globes with an LED high beam kit from Australian-owned and made Stedi, which have proven to be a vast improvement, particularly when country driving at night. The LED high beam kit and the auto high beam function made driving in country pitch black darkness much more comfortable. The Ranger was able to recognise the headlights and taillights of other cars from distance (as well as streetlights) and was able to perfectly time when the high beams were switched on and off, so as to not blind other motorists.
Having years of experience with the weight of an unaided tailgate, I was super excited by the PX3s new spring-aided tailgate, particularly when the tailgate on a dual cab ute sits a lot higher compared with the low tailgate of a sports ute that I had grown accustomed to. It didn’t disappoint. Being a frequent camper, shooter and occasional removalist (under duress of course), the spring-loaded tailgate makes life so much easier when it comes to lugging gear in and out of the tray, particularly when you find your hands preoccupied and your elbows end up nudging the tailgate shut. Being used to a traditional hard tonneau with cargo height limitations, the roller shutter tonneau is a welcome addition for me – even if, when retracted, it takes up room in the tray that a hard tonneau otherwise wouldn’t. It is also worth noting that the locking mechanism on the roller tray uses a traditional key. While the tailgate locks and unlocks with the central locking, the roller shutter tonneau does not. As most are probably aware, with the current generation Rangers, the width of the tray between the wheel arches can handle a standard 800mm x 1200mm Euro pallet, but there’ll be no joy with a standard 1165mm x 1165mm Aussie pallet, as it falls short by a bee’s phallus (about 25mm in this case). While frustrating and potentially a deal breaker for those who need a dual cab for that purpose, I can’t foresee it being an issue for me – but it’s something worth mentioning nonetheless.
With my transmission experience limited almost entirely to 6-speed manuals, my baseline for automatic transmissions is somewhat lower. Overall my experience with the 10-speed automatic has been positive. I haven’t noticed it struggling to find the right gear or shifting too early or late, even at low speed. The manual gear shift buttons on the side of the shifter seem a bit unnatural to me but aren’t a huge issue given I’m unlikely to use them unless towing a significant load. Sport mode was a surprise for me though. When compared to Drive mode, it typically selects a gear lower, holds that gear a little longer between shifts, and when it does shift, it does so faster. It makes for a surprisingly energetic transmission which proved quite enjoyable and exciting when touring through the back roads of the Fleurieu Peninsula, although expect your fuel economy to take a slight hit. Some will surely disagree, but I don’t feel like the engine is undercooked. I haven’t had any behind-the-wheel experience in the Ranger Raptor, although I’ve read many reviews about how underdone the 10-speed bi-turbo feels. I feel like the engine suits the more subdued personality of the WildTrak. Yes, it can’t compete with the Amarok’s V6 with overboost in terms of straight line acceleration, but I haven’t had an issue overtaking at highway speed and find the 2.0-litre bi-turbo to be plenty powerful for my needs, and far more enthusiastic and refined than the ever capable 3.2L. In terms of fuel economy, against the claimed combined fuel economy cycle of 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, I managed 8.9L/100km on a recent trip touring the Fleurieu Peninsula with 4 adults, a packed tray and some spirited driving in Sport mode. Not bad given the mileage claimed by Ford would have been under optimum conditions with no passengers, an unladen tray and highway terrain tyres. However, under day-to-day conditions with a fairly even mix of urban and highway driving, I achieved an average of around 9.6L/100km; not terrible but still nowhere near the claimed 7.4L/100km. Steering-wise the Ranger feels light at low speeds but firms up appropriately at high speeds. When driving my partner’s car I couldn’t believe the weight of the hydraulic steering wheel. You may be able to better feel what the car is doing with hydraulic steering, but I find electric steering is certainly more fuel efficient and comfortable day-to-day (although this is me comparing only two cars and obviously does not speak for the broader market). The Ranger leaves you yearning for little, but having come from a sports ute, I do miss the deep, trembling cold start rumble – although I’m sure my neighbours don’t! I have yet to do any serious towing or off-roading so I won’t provide an opinion on that front, although I may comment later in a long-term owner review.
What I noticed soon into my ownership of the Ranger was the great ride height and comfort. After being in a sports ute for so many years and having the impact of every tiny road imperfection reverberate through to my very core, I was astonished at how composed the Ranger was over rough and uneven road; I don’t think I could bring myself to ever go back to a sports ute, not that its even really an option anymore.
I know this thesis-length review will be too long of a read for some, but I wanted to provide context around my particular scenario, including the decision making process and how fit-for-purpose the Ranger is for my needs and lifestyle. Like any dual-cab, the Ranger does have its shortcomings in the form of a lack of blind-spot monitoring, odd sports shifting arrangement and archaic halogen high beams. However none of these are significant enough for me to regret my decision in the slightest. The WildTrak may not do any one thing superbly, but it does a lot of things damn well, and that’s enough for me. With all of that in mind, I’d definitely recommend the bi-turbo PX3 WildTrak to anyone looking for a solid, comfortable dual-cab packed with plenty of tech and stellar looks. It’s not hard to see why the Ranger regularly sits at the top end of the dual-cab ute segment.