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After more than half a decade in development, what could well be the final-ever Australian designed and engineered volume vehicle is finally on sale.
We've been behind the scenes with Ford for nearly a year to get us to this point, where we can drive and review the fruits of their hard toil.
Replacing the popular PX III series, the T6.2 Ranger is not only a bestseller in Australia, but also the most broadly available Ford globally, reaching more markets than any other model.
Whether you call it a ute, truck or pick-up, the 2023 Ranger thus has the world of expectation on its one-tonne cargo bed, as it rises up against challenges as fierce as the Toyota HiLux, Isuzu D-Max, Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara. A lot's at stake here.
We already know what the 2023 Ranger looks like. We know what’s changed underneath. We know how different the interior is. And we know how much it costs and what you get for your money.
Now, for the first time, we’re about to find out what this year’s most important new-model drives like, out of captivity, away from nervous Ford executives, and out on Australian roads, in Rangers you’ll be able to order as you see them here right now.
Predictably, with the 2023 Ranger, you get more but you pay more than before, so listen up.
Bad news first.
The cheapest will now set you back nearly $7000 more, at around $36,000 before on-road costs. That’s partly because Ford has dropped the manual gearbox for Australia. It’s auto or it’s nothing.
But if you compare old versus new, today’s Ranger is – on average – only around $1100 more expensive like-for-like (not including the Raptor), and that’s acceptable, given how much more kit you now get, in a palpably improved vehicle. Additionally, the popular XLT actually still costs the same. Go figure!
As before, the Ranger comes in three body styles – two-seater Cab chassis, four-seater Super Cab chassis or pick-up for $2500 more, and five-seater Double Cab chassis or pick-up for $4500 extra.
Similarly, they’re available in either 4x2 rear-drive or four-wheel drive (4WD), and all offer a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, in either single-turbo (Si-T) six-speed auto or Bi-Turbo (Bi-T) 10-speed auto guises, as well as the long-awaited 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel also with a 10-speed auto.
The grade walk starts with the base XL from $35,930 before on-road costs, then moves up to XLS, XLT, Sport and Wildtrak, with the latter topping out from $70,190. We’ll cover off Raptor in a separate review.
Standard XL features include the surprisingly old-fashioned halogen headlights, a front tow hook, a 10.1-inch touchscreen with Ford’s latest Sync4 multimedia system, a digital instrument cluster, manual air-conditioning, USB-A and -C ports, cloth seats and quite smart-looking 16-inch steel wheels.
Note, too, that all Rangers score nine airbags, AEB autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and lane keep assist, while all pick-ups have blind spot warning and cross-traffic alert tech.
Next up is XLS, adding fog lights, alloy wheels, side steps and carpet.
Now, the Ranger is actually a story about two types of truck. Imagining a Venn diagram, the left circle is the XL and XLS for fleet and government orders and the right circle contains Sport, Wildtrak and Raptor for private and small-business buyers. And, right in the overlap in between, lives the XLT.
That’s why the XLT has such broad appeal. It’s the least-expensive version with the now Ranger-signature C-clamp LED headlights, and can also be identified via its chrome grille bar, pick-up tub bed-liner with illumination, a sports bar and 17-inch alloys. Little luxuries inside include keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, fancier interior trimmings, intelligent adaptive cruise control with full stop/go functionality and traffic-sign recognition tech.
Above that, the Sport ushers in contrasting blacked-out themes inside and out, two front tow hooks, 18-inch alloys, wireless charging, an Off-Road screen showing 4WD activation and other related settings, leather upholstery and a powered driver’s seat.
Finally, the always-in-demand Wildtrak gets its own grille, bumper, sports bar and wheel treatments, a trailer brake controller, side rails and a powered roller shutter for the tub and zone lighting all around the vehicle, while the cabin upgrades to a 12-inch touchscreen, ambient lighting, pull-out cupholders, a powered front passenger seat, front seat heaters, a 360-degree camera and active park assist.
Sophisticated Matrix LEDs and premium 10-speaker audio sound system can be had in the Wildtrak Premium Pack, while some other higher-grade Ranger features can be bundled up into option packs in lower grades as well.
There are also various off-road and towing packs, depending on grade.
Ford, it seems, has thought of everything to keep the Ranger the every persons’ midsized truck.
Given how much more kit is standard, in a comprehensively improved package, we must say the 2023 Ranger represents very strong value for money.
Marrying a big Ford F-150 truck-style nose to the existing Ranger's midriff couldn't have been easy, but the Blue Oval design team in Melbourne have created a balanced and harmonious design that looks good and stands out.
Front, side-on or rear, there isn't a jarring line on the truck. The slightly wider tracks and longer wheelbase also aid the Ranger's proportions.
Our only comment is that the halogen light set-up on the fleet-focused XL and XLS looks a little messy, lacking the clarity and attitude of the XLT-up C-clamp LED graphic.
On the other hand, the base XL's slotted steel wheels and unadorned body looks clean and crisp.
Ford's local design team really pulled out all the stops inside, too, addressing many of the outgoing PX III series' shortcomings, while simultaneously lifting the technology and ambience dramatically.
Compared to before, the general architecture remains the same – the windscreen position, the door apertures, the glasshouse. This is not an all-new truck, but a thorough overhaul of the previous design, with new sheet metal and other changes. For some people, that’s reassuring.
Yet there are real big-ticket changes, kicking off with an all-new dashboard, door cards, seats and trim. Now you'll finally find a reach-adjustable steering column, so more people can get more comfortable more of the time behind the wheel. And that’s a huge bonus.
The touchscreen choices really dominate the cabin – measuring in at 10.1 inches in all but the Wildtrak, which jumps up to a 12-inch item. It also operates the latest SYNC 4A system, and that's a first for an Aussie Ford.
The new Ranger also gains USB-A and USB-C ports, as well as a wireless charger from certain grades upwards.
Additionally, there’s been a concerted effort to boost usability. For instance, grades through to the Sport now feature a shelf above the glovebox. Ford's research showed that front-seat passengers tend to struggle to find suitable storage for phones, wallets and other loose items when riding up front, and they end up either forgetting them in gloveboxes or cluttering up cupholders. We've all experienced it. The exposed shelf is for just such items, and a tangibly functional bonus.
Similarly, the 1960s Ford Falcon-style interior door handles are a single-action squeeze-and-push out to open – great when you have your arms full exiting the vehicle.
Moving on to the rear seats, you will find face-level air vents for the first time in Ranger in XLT up, the seats have been redesigned for added comfort and support, as well as the usual amenities like overhead grab handles, map pockets and centre armrest with cupholders in higher grades.
The general fit and finish in the Ranger is as per expectations in these launch cars, with hardly any squeaks and rattles, other than a multimedia glitch in one test car that wouldn't sync with our phones.
The driving position is now second-to-none; the seats are amongst the best experienced in any truck, even after hundreds of kilometres, driving from the city out to rural areas, providing ample comfort and support with minimal fatigue; and vision remains solid. with large mirrors and the option of handy 360-degree camera.
Downsides? For some people, using touchscreens for functionality can be confusing; at least Ford has has made essentials like volume and climate controls as hard buttons and knobs, so you’re not so distracted using these. The 12-inch screen's extra depth makes accessing the USB ports directly underneath awkward. The pull-out cupholders struggle with broader cup bases as their clamps are too narrow. And we experienced a glitch with connecting the phone and climate control system in separate cars. Ford, please make sure the quality is up to the high prices you're charging.
Breaking down the model walk, there are key differences between each model to help you make up your mind.
The XL, for instance, is a workhorse. Minimum frills, hard-wearing cloth, vinyl floor, a manual handbrake, easy-access dash storage – that sort of thing. But, remember: you also get air-con, a digital dash, camera and touchscreen, as well as all the essential safety, including a front centre airbag.
The XLS is more of the same, but with side steps, carpet and livelier trim. Still pretty basic though
If it’s your own money buying a new Ranger, then start at XLT, because of the keyless entry/push-button start, leather wheel, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav and electric park brake, while your family or friends will appreciate the rear-seat air vents and centre armrest with cupholders.
The newly-permanent Sport grade, meanwhile, ushers in leather, a powered driver’s seat, ‘off-road screen’ and wireless charging, while the Wildtrak ups the ante with the larger touchscreen, 360º view camera, ambient lighting, pull-out cupholders, a powered front passenger seat and front seat heaters.
And let’s not forget the pick-up part of this Aussie-engineered truck.
Ranger now comes with a box step for smaller-statured people reach things more easily in the tub.
Moving to the back, the tailgate retains its lift assist, and opens up to reveal a cargo area capable of taking a Euro palette for the first time. And there are now new box caps to help protect the fresh metalwork.
Ford’s engineers have also made things easier for people who need to work out of the back of their pick-ups.
For example, and depending on grade, you’ll find a bedliner with moulded slots to help keep items in place, a 12V outlet, illumination under the box caps, load bearing aluminium side bars to secure items to, latching points on the box caps for accessories like canopies and cross bars, and external tie-down rails with sliding cleats for odd-shaped items.
Plus, there’s zone lighting available on higher-grade models, using the many LEDs around the vehicle for useful nighttime illumination operable remotely via the FordPass app.
Even the tailgate is a workbench, with two clamp pockets to secure project materials and a built-in ruler for convenient measuring.
Additionally, there’s that powered roller shutter for added security.
Finally, all Rangers offer a maximum towing capability of 3500kg. Payloads vary from 934kg to 1441kg, depending on model and grade.
Overall, this is a familiar and yet fresh interior application, as well as a palpably improved workhorse. For most people who are thinking whether they should upgrade to this latest version, even just a few minutes should convince them of the progress that Ranger has made.
The Ranger is available with three engine choices – two of which are new to series. All of them are mated to an automatic transmission. You can’t buy a Ranger in Australia with a manual gearbox any more.
Here is the line-up.
Let’s start with the XL workhorse. Powered by the 2.0-litre four-cylinder single turbo-diesel, it replaces the old 2.2. Despite being smaller, it pumps out more power and torque at 125kW at 3500rpm and 405Nm between 1750-2500rpm respectively, and is only offered with a six-speed auto.
Controversially perhaps, the thrashy old 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel has been binned, for a revised version of the 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel (dubbed BiTurbo in Ford-speak). Mated to a completely overhauled 10-speed automatic, it delivers 3kW less power at 154kW at 3750rpm, but the 500Nm torque maximum (between just 1750-2000rpm) remains, while shift quality is smoother and calmer.
Of course, all eyes will be on the big new 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel that's distantly related to that found in Australia's Ford Territory.
Available in the XLT, Sport and Wildtrak only for now, it has few peers with outputs of 184kW at 3250rpm and 600Nm at 1750-2250rpm.
The V6 sends drive through to a new electronic on-demand four-wheel-drive system, with full-time 4WD that varies drive to the front or rear wheels as required. It includes six driving modes: Normal, Eco, Tow/Haul and Slippery for on-road driving, and Mud/Ruts and Sand for use off-road. Each alter engine throttle, transmission, braking, traction and stability controls.
There’s also an electronic rear differential lock which can be activated via the SYNC 4A multimedia screen, for improved off-road traction.
Ranger 4x4s with either 2.0-litre engine stick with the standard part-time 4x4 set-up that offers 4x2 (rear-drive), 4x4 Low range and 4x4 High range.
The good news is that – model-for-model – the new Ranger officially drinks less diesel than before.
This even applies to the V6 turbo-diesel, which is a whole half-a-litre per 100km more economical than the old 3.2.
Similarly, according to the official combined average figures, both 2.0-litre engine varieties use slightly less diesel than their previous model equivalents, demonstrating the efficiency gains new Ranger has made over the old model.
Ford says the lower numbers are mainly as a result of engine tech upgrades, revised transmissions, significantly better cooling properties and detailed aerodynamic improvements all over and under the vehicle.
Here are the combined average fuel consumption figures for the 2023 Ranger in Dual Cab guise: 2.0-litre single turbo-diesel 4x2: 7.6L/100km, for a corresponding 199 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions and an average distance range of 1053km; 2.0-litre twin turbo-diesel 4x4: 7.2L/100km, for 189g/km of CO2 emissions and average distance range of 1111km; and 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel 4WD: 8.4L/100km, for 222g/km of CO2 emissions and an average distance range of 952km.
We we unable to perform our own pump-to-pump consumption test at the launch, but the trip computers told an interesting story: between 9.2 and 9.5L/100km for the V6 and 9.4 and 9.7L/100km for the 2.0-litre twin-turbo. All were Dual Cab 4x4, remember.
Fuel tank size remains the same as before, at 80 litres.
Ford has yet to reveal new Ranger's ANCAP crash-test rating, but the company expects another five-star result.
There’s no denying that there’s been a significant advance in safety across the range.
Key changes include the introduction of nine airbags, featuring two knee airbags up front as well as a front-centre (or far-side) airbag to reduce front occupant head collision in a lateral impact. There are also side and full-length curtain airbags fitted.
On the active safety front, every Ranger also includes AEB (operation range as yet undisclosed), lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning with road-edge detection and rear-parking sensors, while pick-up versions add cross-traffic warning and blind-spot warning.
Note that, fitted with a factory Tow Pack, the blind-spot warning also extends to the segment-first Trailer Coverage, meaning the driver can dial in the length of the vehicle towed for extra blind-spot protection, especially when changing lanes on the motorway.
A 360º camera is standard on the Wildtrak.
Two ISOFIX latches and a trio of anchor points are fitted to the rear seat in Dual Cab models.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
Nothing too interesting or ground-breaking here.
Ford says that owners will pay $329 for the first four general services for up to four years or 60,000km, whichever occurs first. That's $30 higher than in the old PX III Ranger equivalents, by the way.
If there’s just one word to describe the difference between old and new Ranger, it’s ‘smoother’’.
Since 2011, the Aussie designed and engineered midsized Ford pick-up has remained right up there for driving enjoyment and overall comfort, seeing off many newer rivals.
Now, many of the old rough edges have now been ironed out.
Production hiccups and delays means we’re only driving 4x4 pick-ups, and from XLS up, so that means either the 154kW/500Nm 2.0L BiT diesel or intriguing new 184kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel. Both are mated solely to a 10-speed auto.
Let’s start with the 2.0 Bi-T first.
With the all the changes that Ford has made, it is now smoother, less jerky and more responsive than before. It produces more power than the 3.2L five-cylinder turbo diesel it replaces, it’s way quieter, and it doesn’t have that thrashy, noisy and droney feel when floored at higher revs.
It’s a lot more civilised. Acceleration is strong, you put your foot down and the thing really does thrust forward, and it maintains that level of muscle as you drive along.
Additionally, because the engine is lighter than the old 3.2, or maybe it's due to the completely redesigned front end with the pushed out front tracks and long wheelbase, but somehow the new Ranger seems to steer with more agility than before, with higher levels of feel and feedback coming through. There’s a greater sense of confidence and control that you don’t quite get in any other midsized pick-up. Again, typical Ranger traits, but further refined for this application.
The 2.0 BiTurbo is also really tractable. You wouldn’t think it’s fitted with such a small-capacity engine, thanks to its big-hearted feel.
However, speaking of big hearts, the 3.0 V6 turbo-diesel is the main event in the new Ranger.
Reminiscent of the classic Ford Territory TDCi turbo-diesel of the 2010s, it is slick and sophisticated, yet offers more punch than Australia’s only locally-built SUV ever managed.
In a nutshell, the V6 amplifies the acceleration and performance of the 2.0 BiTurbo, thrusting forward with determination, accompanied by a more stirring V6 soundtrack.
Additionally, the 10-speed auto is even more relaxed, and with greater torque levels to draw upon, it’s both more responsive to throttle inputs and less likely to hunt through the gears. Better around town, stronger out on the open road and more reassuring when you need to overtake, especially at speed or blasting up a hill.
For this and other reasons, the $3000 premium paid for going the V6 is definitely worthwhile, and backed up by better fuel consumption figures than achieved by the ancient 3.2 five-pot turbo-diesel.
Moving on, regardless of engine choice in these higher-spec series, the new Ranger’s (electric) power steering is light yet direct, with an easy, natural and progressive action that does much to bridge the gap between truck and car. It’s so good, in fact, that we’d prefer a sports setting that offers the choice of a bit more weight, but given we’re in an XLT or Wildtrak, workhorse capability and off-road prowess respectively are the name of the game here.
That said, the new Ranger’s ride quality is quite remarkable. Even with wheel sizes increasing by an inch across the range, that suppleness that has long been unique to the Ford – even in the rough stuff over demanding Australian conditions – has been enhanced. You feel isolated yet in control, without lateral or bouncy movement that comes with some longer-travel alternatives.
Combined with that newfound refinement, robust performance, slick steering and supple ride quality, the latest Ranger cements its hard-won reputation as the best vehicle dynamically of its type available in Australia and possibly anywhere in the world. Certainly, out on the Victorian rural roads, and regardless of powertrain, the Ford 4x4s barely put a foot wrong.
The time of reckoning is truly here for the new-gen Ford Ranger.
For over a decade, the previous model was near or at the top of its class. Of course, it wasn’t without fault, but few people would argue that it nailed areas like packaging, driver enjoyment, comfort and styling.
From today, the Ranger improves on all of these attributes. No matter where you look, it's very clear that a lot of effort has gone into making this truck better than most.
And that's before you drive the now-smoother, quieter and more responsive 2.0L BiTurbo, let alone the punchy new 3.0L V6, that finally brings the muscle to match its civilised road manners. That's what we'd have – an XLT or Sport with the bigger engine and 4x4.
Now all Ford has to do is ensure it achieves the right level of quality and reliability. Only time will tell.
But one thing seems certain: the Ranger appears to have pulled clear ahead of the midsized truck pack. What may be history’s final-ever Australian designed and engineered vehicle shows the world how it’s done.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel, accommodation and meals provided.
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