Ford reinvigorated its one-tonne ute when it took the reins from Mazda, with its one-tonne PX Ranger development. While the previous Ranger/Courier utes were good vehicles, the move to the PX Ranger (and its close-cousin, the Mazda BT-50) stepped up power, refinement and overall ability to a whole new level.
The big news for caravanners was the boost in towing capacity – the Ranger, soon after the introduction of the PX, got a 3500kg towing capacity making it one of the best in the class.
The PXII Ranger tested here is the premium model in the range, the Wildtrak Double Cab. The Wildtrak gets all the external bling that buyers expect in a top-shelf ute, such as an aluminium hoop bar, roof rails, chrome rear bumper with parking sensors, cargo liner, locking tray shutter and locking tailgate, side steps and 18in alloy wheels. The list goes on from there with a SYNC2 infotainment system with a high-res 8in touchscreen, navigation with traffic management channel, adjustable speed limiter, 230V inverter, tyre pressure monitoring system, projector headlights, tray light, dual colour 4.2in instrumentation screens, privacy glass, leather interior, power driver’s seat and heated front seats.
It is pretty easy to get comfortable behind the wheel in the Ranger, with the fine adjustment afforded by the power-adjustable seat. The steering column has rake but not reach adjustment, which might be an issue for some. Vision out is really good, and the side mirrors are so big that those towing small caravans will be able to see behind them.
The rear seat room is very good in the Ranger, with three adults able to sit in reasonable comfort – for short trips, at least.
While the new technology in the Tech Pack is generally a positive, the forward collision alert is too sensitive for city driving. What is quite a safe distance from the vehicle ahead is interpreted as an imminent collision and the warning chime and visual warning is too easily set off.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The choice of five cylinders for the Ranger’s turbodiesel engine is unique to Ford, and it appears to offer the fuel thrift similar to a four-cylinder, and the power and torque approaching that of a six-cylinder. It fires up to a relatively quiet idle but, like all five-cylinder diesels, it is a bit gruff as you increase revs. That’s not really a problem, and you can forgive almost anything the engine does when you’re served up its large platter of mid-range torque. Throttle response between 2000 and 3500 rpm is instantaneous and very strong.
The six-speed auto changes gears with authority and a degree of smoothness not always evident in a self-shifter. The ratio spread appears to suit the engine, too.
The Ranger’s suspension is a traditional dual-cab ute setup, with independent, coil front suspension and live axle, leaf-spring rear suspension tied to a separate chassis. It shouldn’t ride or handle particularly well but the Ford engineers have worked miracles with this truck and made it one of the most dynamic, smooth-riding utes on the market.
We had a low ball weight of just 180kg, and the Ford shouldered this weight without flinching, barely dropping at all at the rear. Ford hasn’t done anything to improve its factory-fit towbar – it is still set very low, and with the trailer plug attached underneath the bar that is very hard to get to. Offroad departure angle is affected when using this towbar and the trailer plug is susceptible to damage.
However, the ute is a really stable towing platform; there was no yawing or pitching with the van behind, and performance was very good.
The Ranger steamed up our test hill at 90km/h, with the last, steep part of the ascent at nearly full throttle, but still maintaining speed.
The Ranger’s engine braking is excellent, pegging speed on descents with the 2200kg van behind. The auto’s manual mode is also easy to operate.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The PX MkII Ranger has taken all the goodness of the PX and overlaid it with a smart facelift and beneficial technology. The Ranger is also a very good tow vehicle, but at this premium level, you certainly pay for it.