The current Ford Ranger has been around Malaysia since 2012 and is quite a familiar sight. First launched in 2011 it has captured a fair number of people who like driving pickup trucks. This 2014 version of the Ford Ranger is the same as it was when it first came out some two years ago. However, Ford basically improved it with the addition of traction control (ESP) and ISOFIX baby seat anchorage points.
The variant I tested recently was the 2014 Ford Ranger 2.2l XLT 4X4 Automatic ‘Hi-Rider’ double cab that gets these two new features as standard as well as tons of other stuff that most of us are used to in other normal passenger cars. Pickup trucks these days are as well equipped as ‘normal’ passenger cars with its dual airbags, a great sound system with bluetooth connectivity, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, cruise control, auto rain sensing wipers, auto headlights and more.
The Ford Ranger, internally called the T6 by Ford, is a medium sized pickup truck. In the double cab form tested it cuts a pretty good profile in terms of styling. Much improved compared to the earlier Ranger, the current Ranger’s styling is dominated by the front and its grille. Three horizontal chrome strips with the blue oval logo in the middle makes up the front. You get fog lights on the lower part of the nose / bumper and the sides get nicely protruding wheel arches that accents its chunky looks even further. The mix of something quite large with nicely flowing lines makes this Ranger quite a good looking pickup truck. In terms of styling, I have to say that the Ford Ranger is one of the best looking pickups out there in the market to date.
It is also a global market vehicle. This means Ford sells it in Europe, Latin America, Asia and everywhere except America where they get something slightly bigger called the F150. By slightly bigger I have to say it is only quite so as this Ranger isn’t really ‘medium sized’. Try parallel parking one in the standard Malaysian parking and it will fill up the space right till the ends of it. The only reason Ford does not sell the Ranger over in America is that it isn’t produced there. And any pickup truck that isn’t made over in America gets hit with a 25% import duty which would make it economically unfeasible to do so. So the Ranger is a largish pickup truck. But driving it isn’t all that difficult as I shall explain shortly.
Engine, Transmission and Brakes
The Ford Ranger 2.2l XLT Automatic is powered by Ford’s Duratorq TDCI engine. The 2.2 liter four cylinder direct injection turbo (variable geometry turbo) diesel engine makes 150ps and an all important 375Nm of torque. Very useful pulling power in a 4×4 pickup truck. And by pulling power, the Ford Ranger can tow up to 3,000kg or carry up to 1190kg worth of stuff on its flat bed. All from a 2.2liter engine that is Euro 2 complaint.
The transmission is a 6 speed automatic that has driver recognition software which adapts to the driver’s style of driving. It also has something called grade control logic that enables the transmission to downshift and allows engine braking in order to assist the Ranger in slowing down or to keep the vehicle in control in certain situations.
The Ford Ranger is also equipped with electronic on the fly shift when it comes to switching from the default two wheel drive (via the rear wheels) to four wheel drive whilst on the move at speeds up to 120kmh. It also has something fun built into the rear transaxle, a limited slip differential. Very useful in keeping power on the road but something that allows its 375Nm to light the tyres with wheelspin (and oversteer) every time you use full throttle in a slightly dusty, sandy or wet corner. This is where the traction control comes into play. In the Ranger without traction control, it is so much easier to light up the tyres, enter into oversteer or start drifting at roundabouts. This variant reins in the extra hooligan in the Ranger and allows for sensible driving. Of course, deactivating traction control is just a press of a button away.
One last fun item in terms of the drivetrain is the Hill Descent Assist and Trailer Sway Assist that is programmed into the traction control system together with roll-over mitigation. Press the Hill Descent Assist button and the Ranger does the hard work of keeping the vehicle from sliding sideways (especially the tail) down any sort of slippery slope. The Trailer Sway Assist is useful from preventing trailer slap when you accidentally drive too fast with a trailer on tow. Very useful stuff if you actually get the Ranger for what its meant to do.
The Ranger’s interior is more car like than the previous generation of Ford Ranger. It sits high up and allows you 800mm of water wading capability (which was useful when it rained heavily and parts of Glenmarie in Shah Alam flooded up when I was driving it in that vicinity). You climb up onto the passenger cabin and hold on to a leather wrapped steering wheel that has control switches on it. Seats are fabric and are comfortable. It took less that a minute for me to get comfortable (all manual adjustments with the usual front and back, seatback adjustments). The plastics used are hard to the touch but nicely textured. Fit and finish is good with everything feeling heavy duty and robust. Nice touches include a hook on the dashboard beside right air vent for those contractors having to carry their ‘teh tarik’ drinks in the plastic bags provided by the local ‘mamak’ stall. You can sip your drink whilst getting stuck in traffic. The overall feel of the dashboard is very 2014. The meters and the infotainment screen have a nice blue when lit up and are legible. No squinting to know how fast you’re driving or what station is on.
Basically the front seating and driving position are good. But at the rear, an improvement over the earlier car and better than some other pickup trucks (this Ranger interior beats the crap out of the Toyota Hilux hands down) is still quite lacking in accommodating people at the rear. Not in terms of legroom but in terms of the angle of the seatback. One of the better ones no doubt, but when you add the fact that most pickups, including this Ranger, have heavy duty rear leaf spring suspension, it gets pretty choppy and uncomfortable when the road surfaces are bad. Aside from that, the interior of the Ford Ranger double cab is good for what you pay for. Oh, Ford really gives you a decent 6 speaker audio system too. I believe that Ford’s tie up with Sony for sound systems is really paying off. Even in this RM99,465.80 pickup you can rock n’ roll pretty well or even pump up the volume for some dance numbers. Connectivity is pretty good too.
Driving the darn thing
It’s a Ford. The thing about all Fords these days is that they handle pretty well most of the time. I have never met a terrible handling Ford in recent years. Even the previous Ford Ranger from the early 2000s was a fun drive. This Ranger is however huge but is easy to drive and maneuver. The steering has a nice feel to it and is nicely geared. It only feels huge if you are in a tight spot like when there are cars double parked and you are in a narrow lane (this happens usually in front of a bank).
A friend and I decided that the roads in and around Janda Baik in Pahang was the best place to try out the Ford Ranger and on the turns and bends as well as juts and ruts the vehicle performed admirably for a pickup truck. Work within its limits the Ranger just flows well through corners with the nose gently pushing wide on tighter or faster turns. You could add more power to reel in the nose or back off on the throttle. Both feel quite natural once you get the hang of its height, width (it is wide) and overall size. Of course one never forgets how much higher you are in such a vehicle. So again, within its limits its pretty good. We even managed some minor off-roading (utilizing the high and low gears of the transmission – which is also on the fly shifting too) and nothing basically troubled the Ranger. And once you need to stop, the brakes in the Ranger are up to the job although initially one may find them a tad bit spongy. ABS works well and brake assist keeps the vehicle straight and true. And when you are on the move again the torque allows quite spirited driving if one wants to push it faster than usual.
The Ranger’s automatic transmission shifts smoothly and is quite responsive. One less chore to think of and all that torque does not make it a slouch. Automatic or not I managed to hit 100kmh from nought in under 12 seconds and hitting 140kmh on the highway is all too easy. Note that this is the norm in most of the current crop of direct injected turbo diesels, with all the driver aids and driver comforts you’re way over the speed limit if you’re not paying attention. I however have to say that at low speeds the power of the engine confuses the transmission. It sometimes feels like its 375Nm is rearing to break free and can’t decide whether it has to be in first or second gear. I suppose this is a problem when you have a lot of torque to play around with. Not a big issue as it only happens in certain situation at car park searching speeds, but it does affect low speed refinement a little.
As mentioned above I think the traction control actually helps most people who opt for the Ranger. I have drive a few Ford Rangers previously and they are notoriously fun if you’re into tail wagging. This one has 375Nm and if it is a little slippery you can get a whole lot of rear wheel spins and/ or tail wagging if you’re hard on the throttle. Traction control isn’t that obtrusive and allows a little bit of slip before you see that rapid blinking of the traction control warning light coming on in the meter cluster. Of course, you could turn it off. Ford allows you that choice. But if you are always hard on the throttle, I would suggest keeping it on. Especially if you like barreling down the highway at speed. It is so easy to suddenly lose sight of how fast you are going in one of these.
So why is the Ranger tail happy you say? Actually all pickup trucks are tail happy if it has power. You see, whilst the front may have double wishbones and coil springs, the rear is a very traditional heavy duty leaf spring axle. This means stiff springs that it must have in order for it to carry over a ton of cargo on its flat bed. So when the tail end is empty, there is less traction. Less traction over the drive wheels means slippage if too much power is applied. So traction control makes sense in pickup trucks.
And speaking of leaf springs and suspension, the Ranger for a pickup truck rides like a pickup truck should. It may drive like a tall car, but it is a little choppy over bumpy roads. Among other pickups like the Hilux, Triton and even the Navara the Ford is actually one of the best if not the best in terms of driving pleasure. You have a trade-off here I suppose. Handling, cargo carrying capability over a little bit of ride comfort. Yet it isn’t rough or crude. It is just choppy on bad surfaces. More to the passengers at the rear than to the people in front. How bad you ask? Well, your kidneys won’t be affected. If you aren’t wearing a bra or have man breasts you won’t be affected too. It is just on the choppy side of a nuggety ride. Not the first word in comfort, but certainly not unbearable for normal commutes. Heck, we managed a trip to Janda Baik and back to Petaling Jaya in a space of three hours (with lunch in between) and we did not end up feeling beat up by the Ranger.
Overall refinement of the Ranger is good with minimal wind noise under 120kmh and only some ruffling at around 140kmh. Road noise at the highway speed limit is also minimal on the standard 255/70/16 tyres. As for the turbo diesel engine’s refinement, it would only sound diesel-ish above 4,000rpm. But by about 4,500rpm the automatic would shift up. Earlier if you’re driving normally you wouldn’t really notice any clatter from the inside. It does act like a normal turbo diesel though, giving all of its power by 4,000rpm in one lump sum. Any engine revs after that is a lost cause. Maybe its a good thing its coupled to an automatic as the electronic brain may be smarter at shifting most of the time.
So, if you like climbing up into the passenger cabin, like a commanding view from up high, love some tail out antics, into lots of torque and like carry bags of cement, sand or stuff from Ikea, the Ford Ranger XLT 4×4 is for you. If you want the ultimate in car-like refinement, you’re not going to get it here of course. But it does a lot of things properly well. It even consumes about 9.9liters per 100km with a very heavy right foot. The specs say 8.1liters per 100km (for both auto and manual Rangers ). Under 9liters per 100km is realistically achievable in my opinion. So its 80liter fuel tank could go a long way before refills.
The Good: A lot of gadgets, great sound system, traction control, fun to drive factor, engine performance, interior and exterior styling, huge by Malaysian standards (good road presence), good economy for its performance and size, babies and toddlers get ISOFIX ready points
The Bad: choppy ride, rear seat back angle could be improved, gearbox hesitant at low speeds, huge for Malaysian standards (bad when everyone doubleparks and lanes are narrow)
Conclusion: A lot of pickup truck for RM99,465.80 (private owner).
Ford Ranger 2.2l XLT Automatic 4×4 Hi-Rider
2.2liter TDCI featuring a variable geometry turbo -150ps at 3,700rpm, 375Nm at 2,500rpm
Main features includes:
1. Water wading tolerance of 800mm (600mm for standard 2WD models), 28degree angle of approach and departure to any slope with a 25 degree ramp over angle
2. Electronic stability programme (ESP) that gives greater control and safety, on-road and off, with features such as trailer sway control, hill launch assist, hill descent control, rollover mitigation, locking rear differential and adaptive load traction control
3. Twenty built-in storage spaces, a locking glovebox, and a 12-V power point in the centre console
4. Manual air condition control, an on-board computer, cruise control and audio controls on the steering wheel
5. Rear park assist sensors (very needed as it is huge by Malaysian standards), auto rain sensors, auto lights
6. Cruise control, voice control and Bluetooth audio streaming, USB and iPod connection
7. Dual front airbags
8. For stopping power: emergency brake assist, ABS and electronic brake-force distribution are complemented by gravel road logic, features 302x32mm rotors up front clamped by twin-piston calipers and the rears – 295x55mm rear drum brakes
9. Towing capacity up to 3000kg
10. Models with the 2.2-litre diesel have a payload capacity of up to 1190kg / 1.18 cubic meter cargo bed capacity
11. 80-litre fuel tank