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Ford Ranger PX 2012 Review

After a house, the second largest purchase most people make is a motor vehicle, unless you count a divorce or children. So most people have a lot of money tied up in a car, and of course cars being cars, quite a lot of emotion too. It’s not like buying a fridge, desk or a cat. With all that investment the vehicle has to provide value for money and one way to do that is to be versatile, able to do several different tasks and do them well. The car must also be dependably reliable, good at what it is meant to do, and ideally provide the owner with a certain joy of possession.

Of all those attributes the “versatile” part is the hardest for car manufacturers to achieve, especially when linked to value. Making a car a pleasure to own is easy, just let the British design it, although the “dependability” part is best glossed over. Making a car single purpose is relatively easy too, look at the Elise which exists for corners, the Defender which exists to carry a load, and the Prius which exists to give pusedo-greenies a sense of smug satisfaction. It’s when vehicles become multi-purpose is when things start to get difficult, and that brings us to the subject of Australian utes.

The utility was never really a pure workhorse. Legend has it some farmer’s wife asked for a car that could take the produce to market during the week and the family to church on Sunday, so the vehicle was already fulfilling dual roles. But utes were always focused on working – basic vehicles that didn’t cost a lot, able to carry a load and just keep going. Then over the years that started to change, and the 2WD utes spawned the likes of the high-performance HSV Maloo with gigantic engines, small payloads and a setup optimised for speed and handling, not load carrying.

The 4WD ute also started to change, moving from live axles front and rear to independent suspension at the front. Power increased from next to nothing to today’s 150Kw (and that’s from the diesels), and gear ratios from four to six or even seven, often delivered through sophisticated automatics. No longer did a diesel 4WD ute hold up traffic, and the word ‘lifestyle’ began to creep into marketing as the cars crossed over into the recreational and family transport markets. And that’s the context for Ford’s new Ranger, which represents the latest development of the offroading dualcab ute. This is no facelift, but a thorough rework of the Ranger with new engines, electronic driving aids, styling, interior and everything else and represents a significant investment by Ford in its ute. But how good is it? For that we need a point of comparison, and for the modern 4X4 ute there’s obviously its competitors, the other 4X4 utes, but it’s also fair to compare it against the 4X4 wagons. And that comparison starts as soon as you get in.

<img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" sites="" default="" files="" images="" rmp_9511.img_assist_custom-400x266.jpg"="" height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p>The first thing I do in a new car is look around. The Ranger’s interior styling is, to my eye, pretty pleasing. But this is a ute, so let’s talk practicality. The XLT model on test has height-adjustable, but not reach-adjustable steering. The seat height was height adjustable, and it was reasonably easy to find a good driving position. The steering wheel itself deserves special praise as it is beautifully finished with some sort of leather, as opposed to nasty plastic junk often found in such vehicles. The only other quibble for the seating is the use of a lever to adjust the seat rake angle, which is hard to reach with the seatbelt in the way. This may be a minor inconvenience if you have multiple people using the car in quick succession.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x166 " alt="Glovebox" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9542.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9542.img_... height="166" width="249"></span></p> <p>Any ute, or touring 4X4 needs to have a lot of interior storage for maps, sunnies, GPS kit, permits, iDevices, notepads, cameras and all the other essential touring clutter. In general, car manufacturers put form before function and don’t make enough of the available space, and this is also true of the Ranger even if it does a better job than most. Ford have provided a single, fairly generously sized glovebox, a centre console larger than most utes complete with a dual lid, another compartment down on the right next to the driver, door pockets that are usuable, lots of space under the front seats, and the second row tips forwards, so behind that you can put quite a bit of kit like most of your recovery gear. There’s also a sunnie holder in the roof. So there’s nothing wrong, and it’s better that most, but I would have liked to see a dual glovebox, a storage compartment on the top of the dash like in the Touraeg and most Subarus, and the pocket on the back of the front seats is a touch small. Also, and I’d like to direct this to all manufacturers – do not put the drinks holders behind the gearshift! If all you put in there is a Coke tin that’s fine, but a full-sized drinks bottle gets in the way. Land Rover moved the holders from in front of the gearshift to behind when they changed the D3 to the D4, and it’s quite noticeably inconvenient.</p> <table border="1" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" width="205"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img alt="" class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x166 " data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9523.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9523.img_... height="100" width="150"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><em>Second row gets height-adjustable headrests and three full seatbelts.</em></span></p> </td> <td> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x166 " data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8256.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8256.img_... alt="" height="100" width="150"></span></p> <p><em>Front door side pocket</em><span class="inline inline-right"><em> </em></span></p> </td> <td> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img alt="" class="image image-img_assist_custom-200x133 " data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8259.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8259.img_... height="100" width="150"></span></p> <p><em>Handy storage under the steering wheel.</em><span class="inline inline-right"><em> </em></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>I also think that Ford have largely wasted the area ahead of the gearshift which could have been made into a nice lidded storage system, but instead it’s all silly curves which leave your valuables exposed. There’s two 12v sockets in the front which remain live when the ignition is off, a third 12v in the second row, and even a weather-protected one in the tray. Good work!</p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9544.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9544.img_... height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p class="rtecenter"><span class="inline inline-center"><em>Clear dash display showing low range, rear locker engaged,</em></span> <em>second gear selected and DSC off.  The DSC comes off by default when low range is selected, and is de-sensistised when 4H is selected.</em></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x375 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9548.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9548.img_... height="375" width="250"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x375 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9550.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9550.img_... height="375" width="250"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><em>Plenty of room in the second row even by wagon standards, but the transmission tunnel means three adults will need to share footspace under the front row.</em></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><br> </span></p> <p>The rest of the interior is good to excellent. The radio works nicely, with easy to use buttons, the Bluetooth phone hookup is very good, all the switchgear is user friendly, there’s kid locks on the back and the thing is even easy to clean, as I found out when giving the car a wipeover with a rag before returning it. There’s actually room for two adults in the second row and as you can put your feet under the first row seats it is comfortable. The second row centre is another matter, as there’s the transmission tunnel to get in the way. All three rear occupants get full seatbelts, and the belts in the front row are height-adjustable.</p> <p>Opening the bonnet is a slight disappointment because it’s not gas-strutted, another little cost-saving measure. Doesn’t matter, because it’s all pretty good from there on.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9527.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9527.img_... alt="" title="" class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p>The air filter is easily accessible at the front and secured by a few clips, not screws, the air intake is drawn from inside the front guard – there’s that 800mm wading depth for you – the fusebox is easily accessible, as are all the other things that need checking. There’s a plastic cover at the front which when removed gives access to the radiator so you can clean it. The only worry is, as usual these days, where you’d put a second battery. A bit of relocation and rework would be required, but I’m sure the aftermarket will sort that out. The vehicle will detect water in fuel and warn you, and the owner’s manual says it’ll run B10 (10% biodiesel) but those figures are usually conservative so expect it to be able to do more. The general impression is of an engine worthy of a ute – strong, reliable and unpretentious – rather than the finely tuned but more refined powerplants found in wagons. You know what you’d rather have for touring.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><br> </span></p> <table border="1" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" width="200"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x166 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9545.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9545.img_... height="166" width="249"></span></p> <p class="rteleft"><span class="inline inline-right"><em>Bluetooth phone integration</em></span></p> </td> <td> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x166 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_0387.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_0387.img_... height="166" width="249"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><em>Factory towbar is a little low, but at least it protects the rear.</em></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>The tray has plenty of strong tie-downs and the wheelarches don’t get in the way any more than they need to. Most people will be adding a canopy for touring anyway. The base is hard plastic and grooved. The tailgate is the standard ute affair, just a free drop-down. The factor towbar hangs too low to be ideal for offroading, and the trailer electrics are underneath, ready to be ground off on a rock although I’m told that will change.</p> <p>Payload is a good-for-class 1041kg for the XLT, and this underscores a ute advantage over a wagon - once a ute is loaded with all your touring gear it'll probably still be under its Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and thus road-legal.  Wagons typically run payloads in the 600-800kg range, and when you consider that has to include everything from the occupants to the dual battery to the heavier offroad tyres in practice a tourer really needs 800-1000kg.  Tow rating is good at 3350kg, although that's still below the best wagons such as the Discovery, new Grand Cherokee and 200 which can pull 3500kg.</p> <p>The tray size is generous too, at 1549mm long on the floor, 1560 wide and 1139 between the wheelarches. Stick a canopy on that and you cannot be hurting for storage room when you go camping or offroading.  The Ranger's external dimensions have also increased, which is typical for any new design, always seems to grow 20-40mm here and there.  However, the vehicle doesn't feel any less maneouravble than other utes, thanks to its good handling and user-friendly engine.   The turning circle is 12.7m which is by ute standards par for the course but not as good as wagons which can usually manage under 12, and that metre or so does make a difference.</p> <p>The Ranger is one of the first utes to achieve a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, which in theory means it's safer than the Mini Countryman, Range Rover Evoque and Jeep Grand Cherokee to name four new wagons which have only achieved four stars.  So very well done to Ford and this milestone means that one of the biggest concerns families have about utes, namely that you're more likely to die in one, is removed.  The Ranger has all the modern safety aids from stability control to curtain airbags.  By the way, next time you hear some nonsense about seperate chassis vehicles being unsafe mention the Ranger, which has such a chassis. It's about how the vehicle is designed, not the particular choice of chassis.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-350x233 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9539.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9539.img_... height="233" width="350"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x166 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9530.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9530.img_... height="166" width="249"></span></p> <p>Moving down and leaping ahead in time to the end of the test, it is rare and pleasing to report that no silly bits of plastic broke off. Many cars come with flares, spoilers, air dams and stupidly designed mudguards which end up parting company from the car, but no such issues with the Ranger. And there is what I would consider a single recovery point at the front of the car attached to the chassis rail. If you aren’t happy with that the rail is sufficiently exposed to bolt your own on, and you could fit points to both sides while you’re at it. Underneath the car everything is pretty well protected and organised, no doubt the result of all that rigorous product testing.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8670.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8670.img_... height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p>So the Ranger has stacked up very well against its competition before the key has even been turned. Once you do fire up the engine it is pretty quiet, only becoming a little gruff under load. It is not of the class of a top-end Euro diesel for refinement, but it compares well for noise and driveability with the latest wagon Japanese diesels such as those in the newest Pajero and 200 Series. The 470Nm and 147Kw mean it doesn’t need to rev hard, especially with six gear ratios and a pretty smart gearbox computer. Some of the upshifts aren’t the smoothest, but it’s quite liveable. What you do notice early on is the ride, and here we need three comparison points – the other utes, wagons, and the aftermarket. Compared to other utes the ride is on par or better. Compared to a wagon it is horribly harsh and fussy, and just backing out of my driveway was all it took for my practiced wife to assess the ride as “horrible”.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-left"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x375 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8399.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8399.img_... height="375" width="250"></span><span class="inline inline-left"><em><br> </em></span></p> <p>Compared to the aftermarket suspension it doesn’t measure up either, and a quick look under the car perhaps tells a little of the story. Leaf springs are crude, but they can be improved with greaseable shackles, poly bushes and other tricks to make them smoother. Vehicle manufacturers typically don’t bother, and Ford is no exception to the rule. The front suspension has very little travel, as we found when offroading, and therefore that needs to be stiff otherwise it’d constantly hit the bumpstops when loaded.</p> <p>So the ride when unloaded is harsh, like its peers, and maybe Ford thought merely being as good as their competition was enough, instead of being as good as it could be. The car also floats a little too much at high speed over large bumps. But as with most utes, put a hundred kilos or so in the back and things start to quiet down a little. Still, I’d definitely be looking to see what ARB, Ironman and the others can do for the car. All that said, you do get used to it, in the same way you’d get used to living close to an airport or having young kids in the house.  I've even got proof the ride need not be that harsh parked my driveway, in the form of a Defender 110 which has a 1050kg payload, coil springs all round and live axles.  That car rides much smoother unloaded than the Ranger, even on light-truck mud-pattern tyres.</p> <p>So much for the ride. Next up is the handling, which is the responsiveness and predictability of the car to control inputs. And here the story is much better. Ford have done a very, very good job with the Ranger’s dynamics. The steering is quick for a ute, on a par with a wagon. That means you don’t need much lock to turn the wheels, unlike say the Triton which needs a lot of steering wheel movement before it wakes up. The car is entirely predictable, turns in beautifully, the steering is well weighted and you can feel what’s happening with the car. It is a joy to drive on any surface, but when you hit the dirt you’ll notice something else – the car cannot put power to the ground effectively in 2WD. The reasons why are covered elsewhere, and it’s not that there’s too much power, it’s the fact the car cannot transfer it to the ground largely because it’s not driving all four wheels. Lest you think that only happens when heavy-footed blokes get behind the wheel then think again, as my dear wife also had the electronics working overtime when she drove it on dirt. But she is used to an all-wheel-drive Discovery which can certainly put its power down. As a measure of the car’s power if the auto kicks down on a dirt road even at 70km/h you can spin up the rear wheels. To give Ford it’s due, the electronics don’t slow the car by slamming on the brakes killing momentum, but more chivvy it into line here without slowing you down so the calibration is a job done well.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8854.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8854.img_... height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><em>Ranger about to demonstrate its inabiity to use its wonderful engine powering out of slow-speed, corrguated dirt-road corners.  It just can't use all its power unless it's in 4WD.  Why it isn't an all-wheel-drive is <a data-cke-saved-href="/rmp/blog/why-vehicle-manufacturers-do-not-make-perfect-cars" href="/rmp/blog/why-vehicle-manufacturers-do-not-make-perfect-cars">explained here.</a><br> </em></span></p> <p>The simple remedy is to slip the car into 4WD which restores momentum and stops the traction control and stability control working on the exit of every corner, particularly uphills with corrugations, or even just accelerating away from a standstill. Once into 4WD high the Ranger’s stability control goes into a dirt-road mode which permits a bit more slip, but the improved progress is more due to the extra grip than reduced electronic assistance and while it’s not a rally car, it’s certainly a very quick vehicle on dirt and importantly, a real pleasure to drive. This is helped by the gearbox, which has three modes. There’s a normal Drive mode which is adaptive, so it “learns” your driving style and if you hustle along will start to delay upshifts and downshift earlier. It is however a bit slow to select the right gear on the exit of a corner, which is surprising seeing as the Ford Territory nails this perfectly every time. Moving the gearshift over to Sport improves sets the gearbox for the late/early shifting without learning, but what you really need is the manual mode, and that’s one of the best on the market. The shifter is one of those that when you select say third you are in third, not a Toyota style where selecting third means the ‘box can use first, second and third. And the car will let you have the gear you want if at all possible, then hang on it to it as long as it can – unlike the Nissan Navara which pretty does whatever it wants regardless of your input. The Ranger’s gearshift indicator number even blinks apologetically at you if it can’t manage a gear you’ve requested, and you can pull away in second low or second high, not just first. Take note, Nissan! So top marks to Ford for a manual-mode auto gearbox the way it should be.<span class="inline inline-right"><br> </span></p> <table border="1" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" width="200"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-200x133 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8271.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8271.img_... height="133" width="200"></span></p> <p><em>Parking sensors, and a display telling you what you're likely to hit.</em></p> </td> <td> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x166 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8875.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8875.img_... height="166" width="249"></span></p> <p class="rteleft"><span class="inline inline-right"><em>Nice large mirrors</em></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p> <span class="inline inline-right"><em><br> </em></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><br> </span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-350x233 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8323.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8323.img_... height="233" width="350"></span></p> <p>So the Ranger’s handling is of the highest ute order, but what about the when you’re just motoring along? It’s good there too, not requiring much in the way of corrections even in a crosswind. The cruise control is good, even holding speed downhills, and the gearbox doesn’t hunt – as it shouldn’t with all that torque and six ratios, rarely requiring a change and happy to use its torque curve rather panic about staying precisely in the powerband. We also did a 60-100 4th-gear acceleration test against a 198Kw petrol 5-speed Navara and the Ranger won that very easily. The Ford is quiet too, with around 1800rpm at 100km/h. The mirrors are nicely large so you can see everything, and the car is very much one you could use to cover a long distance drive. The trip computer has two tripmeters, average fuel consumption, instant fuel consumption, range and temperature which you cycle through by pressing a button on the display. A small point, but it would have been better to have that control relocated to the control stalk out of the steering column.</p> <p>The range is pretty good on the Ranger, thanks to an 80L fuel tank which is pretty decent for its class and should give you around 750-800km from each fill.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-left"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-350x233 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8877.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8877.img_... height="233" width="350"></span></p> <p>Of course, 4WDs aren’t just about cruising, and sooner or later they’re into low range. Here the Ranger is, for its class, very good but still doesn’t quite match the capability of a wagon such as a Pajero, Prado, Discovery or 200. The reason utes don’t match wagons is the relatively long wheelbase common to the breed and the limited front suspension travel, plus a larger turning circle and long rear overhang. But the Ranger does well as it has <a data-cke-saved-href="/rrmp/blog/ranger-2012-technical-driving-analysis" href="/rrmp/blog/ranger-2012-technical-driving-analysis">brake traction control</a>, a nicely controllable engine with smooth torque delivery and a remapped throttle for low-range work. The XLT model also offers a rear locking differential, and there’s hill descent control. The gearing is low too (crawl ratio TBA), so the car is very controllable. The Ranger’s clearance is also good for a ute, as the photo with a Navara shows.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8909.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8909.img_... height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8935.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8935.img_... height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><em>Clearance is good compared to the Navara and predecessor Ranger models.</em></span></p> <p>In fact, the Ranger scrambled up a steep, shaely, rutted slope that the Navara couldn’t manage and it wasn’t for lack of trying. The difference was the Ranger had better clearance and traction control which worked effectively at medium to high revs in second low.  Unfortunately, the traction control calibration still need a little work.</p> <p> </p> <p><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8558.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8558.img_... alt="" height="266" align="bottom" width="399"></p> <p><span class="inline inline-left"><em>The Ranger going nowhere.  It has all four wheels on the ground but the weight isn't equally distributed.  Despite that, the traction control should be able to pull it fowards, but it doesn't work that well.  In this case the rear locker did the trick as the rear right wheel had lots of traction.  Of course, a little more momentum could have worked too, but a measure of a car's offroad capability is how slowly it can tackle terrain.  But all that said, the Ranger is pretty good for its class.</em></span></p> <p>Despite all the positives, the Ranger could be better. The traction control is slow to activate when crawling over rocks in first or second low, and once it does it doesn’t transfer enough torque over to the wheel with traction. The car couldn’t pull itself out of the cross-axled situation show in this photo, and any modern traction control should be able to do that with ease. This was quite noticeable when compared at the same time to a VW Touraeg – not exactly a direct competitor, but traction control is traction control. To make it worse, my experience with the VW is that its electronics are behind those of the 200 Series and Discovery 3/4.</p> <p>The second missed opportunity is with the rear locking differential, which disables traction control on the front axle. Given the front’s very limited articulation the car easily lifts a front wheel and that means the car becomes in effect rear wheel drive only. Mitsubishi have done the same with their cars, and owners have got around it and re-enabled traction control on the front axle with the rear locker in, which, not surprisingly, dramatically improves capability compared to just the rear locker and no front traction control. If Ford had kept traction control on the front with the rear locker in, and improved the low-speed response of its traction control the Ranger would be pretty much keeping up with wagons.<span class="inline inline-right"><br> </span></p> <table border="1" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" width="200"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x166 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8488.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8488.img_... height="166" width="249"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><em>For mud you're best off with the highest gear possible, controlled momentum and traction control.  In the case of deep mud and the Range that may well be third or fourth low, given the six-speed 'box and ready torque, as opposed to the old-school thinking of second low.  For flat, easy work like in the photo 4H works well.</em></span></p> </td> <td> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img alt="" class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x375 " data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8269.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8269.img_... height="300" width="200"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><em>Hill Descent Control and rear locker switches.  Oddly, there is no dash display for HDC, nor any speed indication.</em></span></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p> If you’re crawling the Ranger over rocks and it comes to a halt because diagonal wheels are in the air, then you can engage the locker and if there’s lots of traction on the one rear wheel with any grip you will go forwards. If there isn’t enough grip, and often there won’t be, both rears will spin, and the front won’t be helping. That’s the only time the locker is any use, as for just about every other situation you’ll be going faster and then traction control is more effective. Ford indicate the locker is for use in mud, but my tests and previous experience indicate you’re better off with traction control. The locker works up to 30km/h, way beyond the speed at which it would be useful to engage.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><br> </span></p> <p>An interesting little Ranger trick is to hold the stability control button down for five seconds. This completely disables traction control, but not HDC or HAS. I’m not sure why you’d ever want to kill traction control, but the option’s there if you want. I used it to see the difference between driving with it on and off, and there is a difference even at low speeds, just not as much as there should be.</p> <p>When you’re offroad a little more clearance always helps, and while the back end could certainly go up say 50mm I’m not sure the short control arms in the front would support a similar increase, maybe only 20-30mm. Still, add slightly taller tyres which the gearing and engine could certainly handle and you’d have a pretty capable offroader, and one much, much better than an older ute with a weaker engine and no traction aids.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-350x233 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9102.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9102.img_... height="233" width="350"></span></p> <p>The Ranger is also nicely controllable in descents. The long wheelbase helps, the low gearing is excellent and there’s Hill Descent Control (HDC) which is a bit quick for rocky descents but works well enough when it’s easier going. You can always activate the rear locker too, but unfortunately that disables HDC. For rocky descents I’d use the locker and the rest of the time the engine braking, with selective use of HDC in slippery conditions. It’s nice to have the options.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img alt="" class="image image-img_assist_custom-350x525 " data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8923.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8923.img_... height="450" width="300"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x166 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9113.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9113.img_... height="166" width="249"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-250x166 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9060.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9060.img_... height="166" width="249"></span></p> <p>One point worth mentioning here is the transfer case activation. It just works, and that’s unusual. All you need to do move from 2H to 4H is twiddle the dial and lift off the accelerator, and from 4H to 4L just go into neutral and it shifts, every time, without fail, instantly. Other vehicles, and I think here of the Colorado/Isuzu and Navara are much more finicky, requiring a few attempts on occasion before they shift and indeed after exiting one track a companion Navara had to stop while the driver played with the throttle and gearshift to get the thing out of low range. And going further on this point, during the ten days I drove the Ranger and covered over 1500km it never once, ever, missed a beat.</p> <p>Not a single hesitation to start, no error codes, no delayed responses, nothing broke, not even a mudguard got ripped off and in general the car earned my trust. That’s really, really important and not a feeling I get from every press car. Ford did a lot of testing with this vehicle and I reckon it’s paid off. In fact, so much did I trust it that when a friend organised a last-minute night drive I didn’t hesitate to take the Ranger. When you head off into a state forest at around midnight with the express intention of looking for tough tracks with hardcore, experienced offroaders then you don’t want to be taking just any old car, but I was happy with the Ranger.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8712.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8712.img_... height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><em>Ford claim a very impressive 800mm wading depth for the Ranger.  This is around 650, but the bow wave makes it look deeper.  Here the Ranger's ready throttle response and nice linear torque delivery made modulating the throttle easy so the bow wave could be kept under control.  That was using second low.<br> </em></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-left"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-350x233 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_9010.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_9010.img_... height="233" width="350"></span></p> <p>Any ute also need to tow, so we hooked the Ranger up to a camper trailer and a then 2200kg caravan. As expected given the power and handling of the vehicle, neither trailer was a problem for it and the combination handled beautifully, with the auto changing shift points both up and down. The only issue with the camper was, again, lack of traction on dirt surfaces where the car really needed to be in 4WD. The Ranger has TSC, or Trailer Sway Control <a data-cke-saved-href="/rmp/blog/ranger-2012-technical-driving-analysis" href="/rmp/blog/ranger-2012-technical-driving-analysis">(more here</a>) and is rated for 3350kg braked. The large mirrors are useful when towing too, as they almost show the rear wheels of the vehicle. For most cars I’d fit blind-spot mirrors, but the Ranger doesn’t really need them. Interestingly, the owner’s manual advocates use of low range to manoeuvre trailers, but given you can’t select low range without 4WD that would lead to windup and transmission breakages on bitumen, so I’m not sure what Ford meant by that advice which in my view is best ignored.</p> <p><span class="inline inline-left"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-350x525 " data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9052.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9052.img_... alt="" height="450" align="right" width="300"></span></p> <p>The problem with summarising the Ranger is context. It is a shame that Ford has put all that effort into the car and stuck with old-school part-time 4WD, drum brakes and leaf springs so from that point of view the car needs to be rated very much in the “can do better” category. However, if you consider the car from the point of view of how good can you make a car with those old-school design features then Ford has done a very good job indeed. But the real evaluation is against the competition, and here the Ranger does well too. It handles superbly, tows well, boasts a 5-star safety rating, is more than competent offroad and has a useful interior. It does nothing badly, and most things well and for that reason I would recommend buyers shortlist it should they be looking for a new ute.</p> <hr> <p> </p> <p><em>.</em></p> <p><strong>Related links </strong></p> <ul> <li><a data-cke-saved-href="/rmp/blog/4x4-utes" href="/rmp/blog/4x4-utes">The 2012 ute market</a></li> <li><a data-cke-saved-href="/rmp/blog/why-vehicle-manufacturers-do-not-make-perfect-cars" href="/rmp/blog/why-vehicle-manufacturers-do-not-make-perfect-cars">Why manufacturers don't produce the best cars they can</a></li> <li><a data-cke-saved-href="/rmp/blog/ranger-2012-technical-driving-analysis" href="/rmp/blog/ranger-2012-technical-driving-analysis">Ford Ranger electronic driving aids</a></li> <li><a data-cke-saved-href="/rmp/blog/ford-ranger-2012-ute" href="/rmp/blog/ford-ranger-2012-ute">Ford Ranger 2012 specification and pricing</a></li> <li><a data-cke-saved-href="/rmp/blog/mitsu-flex" href="/rmp/blog/mitsu-flex">Triton, Pajero, Challenger flex</a></li> </ul> <p><strong>External</strong></p> <ul> <li>F<a data-cke-saved-href="http://www.ford.com.au/servlet/Satellite?c=DFYPage&cid=1248921242476&pag... href="http://www.ford.com.au/servlet/Satellite?c=DFYPage&cid=1248921242476&pag... target="_blank">ord's XLT accessories</a>.  Nothing of real interest apart from the tonneau cover. I don't know if the snorkel is properly waterproofed.</li> </ul> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8932.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/IMG_8932.img_... height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><em>Old and new Rangers, both XLT specs.  The PX looks much more modern inside and out, and it's certainly more capable.  The parkbrake has also been changed from a pull-out to a conventional lever.</em></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8289.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8289.img_... height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><em>The Ranger and a Navara D22 which is no</em></span><em>where near the capability on or off road, refinement or any other criteria you care to mention.  Except of course the D22 isn't a $55k driveaway ask</em></p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8987.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_8987.img_... height="266" width="399"></span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-right"><br> </span></p> <p><span class="inline inline-center"><img class="image image-img_assist_custom-400x266 " title="" alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9600.img_... src="http://www.peppernet.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/RMP_9600.img_... height="266" width="399"></span></p><p></p>