Ever more families are taking the work-and-play track into utes and the Ranger is best of the bunch. "The Ranger is the most car-like truck out there. The only thing that hurts it is the price, which means it can't be a finalist," Joshua Dowling said at the COTY judging.
With a broad, squared off snout that says ‘I’m a truck and proud of it,’ its no surprise it’s not being sold in the US, as it would take plenty of sales from the F-Series.
The big front-end isn’t pretty but it has presence and purpose, the latter being carried through its 5.3m of overall length to the high-sided and lined rear tray, which has tie-down points.
The cabin is roomy enough for four adults, and the engineering teams efforts to keep it well-insulated and quiet paid dividends. While the seats are a little flat there is good storage in the doors, centre console and beneath the rear seats.
The big Ford was engineered for the globe by the boffins at Broadmeadows and it shows as soon as you go for a drive. It has a decent ride quality, good body control and steering that doesn’t leave you wondering anywhere near as much as its predecessor, or some of its competition.
Only severe bumps unsettle an unladen rump and send a judder through the frame, but it all feels tighter and stronger. Twisting country roads (sealed or unsealed) are not beyond it either.
The six-speed automatic is the preferred transmission - the poor cousin to the Falcons ZF six-speed has a manual shift option but it was rarely required as the Sports mode acquitted itself well, removing much of the ‘snatch’ in the driveline that sometimes marred the manual.
For towing or off-roading, there’s a mass of grunt, with the rear diff lock equipped 4WD system making short work of most terrain. With 237mm of ground clearance, it’s only the compromised tyres that let it down in on some slipperier surfaces. More purposeful rubber would be a good replacement for the Jack of All Trades tyres that come standard.
Ford's new Ranger will give the HiLux some genuine competition, with passenger car safety and connectivity, as well as genuine off-road ability and muscular towing capacities some tough decisions to make.
Ford Ranger XLT dual-cab auto
Price: from $55,390
Engine: 3.2-litre turbodiesel five-cylinder
Transmission: six-speed automatic, four wheel drive
Power: 147kW @ 3000rpm
Torque: 470Nm @ 1500rpm
Fuel use/emissions: 9.2 l/100km, tank 80 litres; 246g/km
Brakes/safety systems: Driver and front passenger airbags, front seat side/thorax, curtain airbags, stability control (Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Traction Control, trailer sway control), rear parking sensors
Dimensions: Length 5351mm, width 1850mm, height 1821mm, wheelbase 3220mm, weight 2159kg
Wheels/tyres: 17in alloy wheels