Slabs of square-edged sheet metal have earned the latest Ford Ranger a reputation as a tough-looking pickup. The launch of the range-topping Wildtrak has buffed that image with creature comforts more often found in high-end cars.
The result is a good-looking, go-anywhere five-seater — just don't expect your significant other to be impressed if you take it bush and scratch it.
Explore the 2012 Ford Ranger Range
The best things in life may be free; everything else costs. In the case of the Wildtrak, it costs more than most — but there's more to appreciate, from the leather-trimmed and heated seats to satnav, voice control of the sound system and airconditioning and a trick reversing camera that displays in the rear-view mirror. Prices start at $57,390 for the six-speed manual, so most buyers will be up for $59,390 plus on-road/dealer costs after ticking the box for the six-speed automatic. Its only competition is the $56,990 Nissan Navara ST-X and Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate at $58,490.
The five-inch multi-function colour display isn't huge but the recessed position makes it glare-proof, the voice controls for the Bluetooth/sound system/airconditioning actually understood me and the guidelines superimposed over the reversing camera's view are dead accurate. Ford says there are 23 stowage spaces and it comfortably dealt with the debris a four-member family typically loads into a vehicle.
It's hip to be square, based on the reaction to the Ranger line-up and the Wildtrak in particular. The design is Broadmeadows-based; Ford and Mazda shared the engineering duties but then went their own way in skinning the vehicle. Ford is winning that fight, based on sales figures against the BT-50.
The interior is class-leading, too. Supportive seats front and rear means the side bolsters counter what little body roll the Wildtrak has and the controls are fairly intuitive — it took less than a minute to pair two phones, connect an iPod and map a destination on the satnav.
The dual-cab Ranger/BT-50 are the best-crashing vehicles in this class, with an ANCAP assessment of 35.72 out of 37. Holden's Colorado is next at 35.09, followed by the VW Amarok at 32.99. The crash protection body notes the risk of serious chest injury was slight for the Wildtrak against marginal for the Amarok. The Navara only rates four stars. Standard safety kit on the Wildtrak runs from six airbags to ABS with stability control, emergency brake assist and rollover mitigation.
Vehicles this large shouldn't handle as well as the Wildtrak does. The firm suspension cuts down the expected body roll. The trade-off is a slightly jittery ride over small road irregularities, like the metal strips that join overpass sections, but it was no worse than the mid-sized sedan sharing the Carsguide garage that week. And the physical size means it has a 12.7 metre turning circle, so it's not the easiest thing to park in a suburban shopping centre.
The rear camera offsets this but the two guinea pigs Carsguide put behind the wheel (male and female) didn't enjoy trying to gauge the pivot point when reverse parking. That's the price you pay for a 5.35m vehicle that will carry five people, tow 3.35 tonnes (the towbar is standard) or haul a tonne of dirt in the rear tub. The flip-side is they liked the interior, were impressed with the acceleration and loved the attention the Wildtrak received on the r oad.