Wild, wild, life.
Ford’s pick-up, the Ranger is still the best selling model in it’s sector. When you see a Ranger on the road, the version that stands out, is the top-of-the-range Wildtrak, which competes at the head of the UK pick-up sector against the likes of the Volkswagen Amarok Highline, Mercedes-Benz X-Class, Toyota Hilux Invincicle, Isuzu D-Max Blade & Nissan Navara Tekna. All of these plus the Wildtrak, exist solely to appeal to those regular pick-up users who want a higher specced load lugger, that still offers the practicality of a 4WD. This combination though doesn’t come cheap, with the entry level Wildtrak I tested, the 3.2 TDCi 200PS 6-speed manual, retailing at £28,746 + vat.
Ford updated the Ranger range in late 2016 with all models gaining a new Ford ‘family’ grille. The engines have been improved for greater efficiency, with the addition of StopStart technology. The suspension’s also been tweaked to improve on-road drivability & the revamp also includes significant safety upgrades & a remodelled interior featuring the latest Ford SatNav & infotainment systems taken from the Ford car range.
All Rangers get driver, passenger, thorax & driver’s knee airbags, a collapsible steering column, an advanced ESC stability control system, which offers Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Load Adaptive Control, Roll-over Mitigation & Trailer Sway Control. Add the Driver’s Assistance Pack which costs £1,350 & you gain Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Aid, Auto High Beam headlights, Traffic Sign Recognition & Collision Mitigation.
The interior is pleasingly laid out & very Ford car-like. Yes, there are some agricultural plastics on the door pockets, glove box & on the plastic lower down around the hand brake & gear lever & under the central armrest. But, generally the quality is good. The infotainment screen is easy to use, with both the Bluetooth & Sat Nav simple & effective to set up. All of the instrumentation is clear & concise & falls easily to hand.
The Wildtrak offers high spec as standard & this includes front & rear parking sensors, cruise control with speed limiter, heated front seats, Fords SYNC 3.8″ colour touchscreen, 18″ alloy wheels, DAB radio, Ford voice control & 2 x USB connection for external music devices, 8-way electrically-adjustable drivers seat with lumbar support, power-foldable heated door mirrors with puddle lights & integrated turn indicators, Dual-zone Electronic Automatic Temperature Control air conditioning, a 12v socket in the load area & one in the cabin.
External features include a titanium effect front grille, body coloured front bumper, titanium painted steel rear step bumper, aluminium roof rails, an aerodynamic sports bar, & back door & tailgate handles.
For company drivers the manual Wildtrak offers better than expected fuel economy with a combined of 33.6mpg & CO2 emissions of 231g/km. As a guide line, I averaged just over 27mpg in my week in the Ranger, although it was always driven unladen & mostly with just myself as a passenger.
For practical purposes, the Wildtrak Double Cab offers a 1,549mm load length with a payload of 1,199kg & you can tow a braked trailer of up to 3,500kg.
Of course, not being a building contractor or a farmer, I only got to drive the Ranger around my local area & I have to say I enjoyed it immensely even if I didn’t get out of 2WD. The 3.2 diesel engine offers 197bhp, perfect for those who need to venture off-road. The electronically-controlled 4×4 transmission fitted to my test model allows you to shift between 2WD & 4WD on the move via a small dial on the centre console, with a low range 4×4 mode you can utilise with the Ranger’s 28-degree approach angle or class-leading 800mm wading depth. The optional Off-road Pack, adds a locking rear differential with extra protection for the underside a well.
The Wildtrak wasn’t lacking for power, although it wasn’t as refined as you’d expect from such a large engine & tended to be noisy between 15 & 25 mph. On the motorway though, it relaxes a little & in cruise control takes one comfortably along on it’s 18″ alloys. On a long motorway journey, it was frankly excellent company. It’s comfortable too, with the 8 way electrically adjustable heated drivers seat with lumbar support a stand out. The cabin is also spacious & it will easily accommodate four adults.
How does the Wildtrak compare to the competition ? The improved spec, interior, suspension & fuel economy has made the Wildtrak more competitive that’s for sure. And it needs to be. With the likes of Mercedes-Benz spending a lot of time & money making the Nissan Navara that it’s based on, more luxurious, the competition at the top of the pick-up sector is fierce. For me, the new improved Wildtrak is one of the top three
Off road or on, a well deserved 4/5