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Ford Ranger 2018 review

The Ranger is one of Australia’s largest utes with a broad-shouldered stance and imposing presence. (XLT model shown)
Mark Oastler
Contributing Journalist

26 Feb 2018 • 16 min read

Daily driver score

4.1/5

Tradies score

4.1/5

The Ford Ranger was Australia’s top-selling 4x4 in 2017. In the process it knocked off its arch rival for the first time, the Toyota Hilux, even though Toyota shifted more Hiluxes overall thanks to its long established strength in 4x2 sales, mainly to commercial fleets.

Even so, the Ranger’s success in toppling Toyota in 4x4 sales alone shows that Ford has hit a real sweet spot with Aussie buyers, particularly in the highly competitive dual cab ute segment which caters for both private and commercial customers.

Ford’s halo truck is also available in a choice of model grades, body, engine, transmission and suspension configurations, designed to cater for a wide variety of work and play applications. 

There are so many variants, in fact, that some potential LCV buyers may not be aware of them all,  so we thought it timely to have a closer look at the entire range of Ford Rangers in 2018.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Ranger offers a choice of two drivetrains – 4x2 or 4x4 – and five model grades comprising XL, XL Plus, XLS, XLT and Wildtrak (for detailed model descriptions see Snapshots).

We’ll start with the 4x2 buyer who is typically a commercial user, so most of the model grades and body/engine/transmission/suspension combinations are aimed at delivering the hardest working capability at the lowest cost.

The 4x2 range starts with the XL which is available as a single cab cab-chassis ($27,390) or single cab ute ($28,390) with the 2.2-litre TDCi four cylinder turbo-diesel and six-speed manual gearbox. These are the lowest priced Rangers in the fleet and the closest to the ground, as they are the only variants that use conventional height suspension, or ‘low rider’ as Ford calls it.

The next step-up, literally, in the 4x2 range is the XL 'Hi-Rider'. This offers the same high-riding suspension as the 4x4 model, resulting in extra clearance for those needing access to rugged work sites or just wanting the tougher-looking 4x4 stance.

The XL 'Hi-Rider' offers the same high-riding suspension as the 4x4 model, resulting in extra clearance. (XL Hi-Rider model shown) The XL 'Hi-Rider' offers the same high-riding suspension as the 4x4 model, resulting in extra clearance. (XL Hi-Rider model shown)

The XL Hi-Rider comes in a choice of single cab cab-chassis ($30,890 man/$33,090 auto), super (extended) cab cab-chassis ($33,240 man only), dual cab cab-chassis ($37,590 auto only) and dual cab ute ($36,390 man/$38,590 auto) body styles. Again the only engine available is the 2.2-litre.

Top rung on the 4x2 ladder is the XLT Hi-Rider, which brings added luxury features, lots of chrome and the larger 3.2-litre TDCi five cylinder turbo-diesel. Body choice is restricted to super cab ute ($46,690 auto only) and dual cab ute ($46,490 man/$48,690 auto). 

The 4x4 range starts with the base level XL in either single cab cab-chassis ($38,790 man only), dual cab-chassis ($43,290 man/$45,490 auto) or dual cab ute ($44,290 man/$45,890 auto). Like the 4x2 XL models, the only engine available at this grade is the trusty 2.2-litre.

Next up is the XL 4x4 with the larger 3.2-litre TDCi five cylinder turbo-diesel, available in single cab cab-chassis ($41,290 man/$43,790 auto), super cab cab-chassis ($43,790 man/$46.265 auto), super cab ute ($44,790 man only), dual cab cab-chassis ($45,790 man/$47,990 auto) and dual cab ute ($46,790 man/$48,990 auto). 

The XL Plus has been designed and equipped specifically for mining companies, government agencies and other rugged industry roles, with its expanded wiring harness, dual batteries, canvas seat covers etc. It’s available only as a 3.2-litre auto but offers a choice of three body styles – single cab cab-chassis ($46,180), dual cab cab-chassis ($52,960) and dual cab ute ($51,960).

Next rung is the XLS, which is designed to bridge the gap between XL and XLT with some practical and appealing additions. Available only as a dual cab ute with either the 2.2-litre ($45,590 man/$47,790 auto) or 3.2-litre engine ($48,090 man/$55,590 auto).

The XLT gets 17-inch alloy wheels. (XLT model shown) The XLT gets 17-inch alloy wheels. (XLT model shown)

Nearing the top is the well-appointed XLT with 3.2-litre engine in a choice of super cab ute ($52,390 man/$54,390 auto) and dual cab ute ($54,390 man/$55,590). The FX4 Special Edition, which is basically a dress-up pack for the XLT, is only available as a dual cab ute ($58,915 man/$61,115 auto).

Top rung of the Ranger ladder is the Wildtrak, offering a unique blend of interior and exterior appointments to justify its premium pricing. Only available as a dual cab ute with 3.2-litre engine, but in a choice of manual ($59,590) or automatic ($61,790).

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Ranger is one of Australia’s largest utes with a broad-shouldered stance and imposing presence, particularly in the tallest 4x4 and Hi-Rider models. 

No matter which variant you choose, they all share the same rugged steel ladder-frame chassis, expansive 3220mm wheelbase, sure-footed 1560mm track, 1977mm width, electrically power-assisted steering, front disc/rear drum brakes and 80-litre fuel tank.

Overall lengths vary from 5113mm in the XL single cab cab-chassis to 5426mm for the dual cab Wildtrak, along with turning circles from 11.9 metres in the base models up to 12.7 metres in the more meaty-tyred off-roaders.

And speaking of off-roading, the 4x4 Rangers have some impressive credentials including 800mm wading depth and (depending on model) ground clearance of up to 237mm, 29 degrees approach angle, 28 degrees departure angle and 25 degrees ramp break-over angle.

All Rangers share the same rugged steel ladder-frame chassis. (XLT model shown) All Rangers share the same rugged steel ladder-frame chassis. (XLT model shown)

You can also personalise Rangers with an impressive array of factory-approved accessories. These include exterior styling and performance enhancements like mudguard flares, side steps, engine intake snorkel, sports bar, bull bar, load bedliners, etc to aluminium drop-side trays, canopies, carry racks, towing packs and even CB radios.

Just be aware that a number of these ‘genuine accessories’ are supplier-branded items that are not manufactured or warranted by Ford. The warranty is therefore provided by the manufacturer of the accessory, which raises some potentially troublesome questions if you ever need to make a claim.

For example, we recently tested a single cab cab-chassis fitted with an aluminium tray supplied by Ford but manufactured by an outside supplier. The tray’s galvanised front mudguards rubbed on the rear tyres under heavy loads and were clearly in the wrong position. So who’s responsible – Ford or the tray supplier?

The single cab cab-chassis is fitted with an aluminium tray manufactured by an outside supplier. (XL Hi-Rider model shown) The single cab cab-chassis is fitted with an aluminium tray manufactured by an outside supplier. (XL Hi-Rider model shown)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

There are only two engines to choose from and logically the smallest, the 2.2-litre TDCi four cylinder turbo-diesel, is only available in the base model XL range. Even so it’s an excellent engine for this work-focused application, with 118kW at 3200rpm and 385Nm of torque from 1600-2500rpm providing ample get-up-and-go and pulling power that belies its relatively small capacity.

The larger engine, a 3.2-litre TDCi five cylinder turbo-diesel, brings an extra cylinder, a 1.0-litre increase in cubic capacity and bigger numbers, with 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm of torque which peaks between 1750-2500rpm. This loping, low-stressed unit has proven to be a hit with those that need to regularly carry or tow big loads.

The 3.2-litre TDCi five cylinder turbo-diesel produces 147kW/470Nm. (XLT model shown) The 3.2-litre TDCi five cylinder turbo-diesel produces 147kW/470Nm. (XLT model shown)

There’s also a six-speed manual gearbox and automatic transmission, with the auto available as an option in most model grades and in some cases (like the XL Plus) no manual is available. 

The manual features overdrive on sixth gear to improve highway fuel economy. The auto has overdrive on fifth and sixth gears for the same benefit, plus a manual sequential shift mode which can be most handy when hauling big loads, particularly in hilly terrain.

All 4x2 Hi-Rider models are also equipped with an electronic locking rear differential which can be most handy when traction is compromised, particularly when towing (off a slimy boat ramp for example).

All 4x4 models also get the locking rear diff in the part-time, dual-range transmission which features 2.717:1 low range reduction and shift-on-the-fly engagement. For extreme off-road conditions, automatic models have a 42.3:1 crawler gear, while those with manual transmissions have an even lower 52.5:1 crawl ratio.

How much fuel does it consume?

Given the diversity of the Ranger fleet, Ford claims a broad spread of combined fuel consumption figures. These start at just 6.5L/100km in the 4x2 XL single cab cab-chassis (2.2-litre/manual) up to a peak of 10.0L/100km in the 4x4 XL Plus (3.2-litre/auto).

We can’t claim to have road tested every 2018 Ranger model, but figures achieved during our ‘real world’ testing of several variants - taken from fuel bowser and trip meter readings - provide some reality checks against official figures achieved in ideal lab conditions.

For example, our recent test of an XL single cab cab-chassis 4x2 Hi-Rider with aluminium tray and 2.2-litre/manual resulted in 9.0L/100km, as compared to the dash readout of 8.2 and Ford’s official combined figure of 6.8. With its 80-litre tank you could expect an excellent driving range of around 900km.

We also tested an XLT dual cab ute with 3.2-litre/auto and achieved 12.2, which compared to 11.7 on the dash readout and a straw-sipping official figure of only 8.7L/100km. 

A week in a Wildtrak (3.2-litre/auto) produced a slightly better 11.5, which was very close to the dash readout’s 11.3 but well outside the 8.9 official combined figure.

So always take factory-supplied figures with a large grain of salt because in our experience they are typically around 2.0-3.0L/100km less than the vehicle typically achieves in the real world. And that doesn’t just apply to Ranger.

Once you understand that, it’s easy to (roughly) calculate what driving range you can expect from a tank of fuel.

How practical is the space inside?

Fortunately, the key figures in relation to load carrying and towing are pretty easy to understand, starting with the lowest-priced Ranger in the fleet. 

The XL single cab cab-chassis, with 2.2-litre/manual and low rider suspension, boasts an impressive GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of 2925kg thanks to its relatively light 1659kg kerb weight, which translates to a huge 1265kg payload. 

However, it also has the lowest maximum braked towing capacity of 2500kg and lowest Gross Combined Mass (tow vehicle and trailer combined) of 5425kg. That’s still a mighty fine GCM though, because it’s rated to tow its maximum braked trailer weight without having to reduce its maximum 1265kg payload. In pure workhorse terms, that’s a very practical and impressive combination of payload and towing capacities.

When you step-up to the 4x2 Hi-Rider and 4x4 variants, regardless of model grade, body type, engine or transmission, they all offer a higher 3200kg GVM and one tonne increase in maximum braked towing capacity to 3500kg. Plus a higher 6000kg GCM to go with it. 

While those figures certainly look impressive in brochures and advertising, there’s devil in the detail.

When stepping up to the 4x2 Hi-Rider and 4x4 variants, they all offer 3200kg GVM. (XLT model shown) When stepping up to the 4x2 Hi-Rider and 4x4 variants, they all offer 3200kg GVM. (XLT model shown)

For example the XLS dual cab ute with 3.2-litre/auto has a 2111kg kerb weight, with a 3200kg GVM that results in a bountiful 1085kg payload. 

However, if you wanted to tow the maximum 3500kg of braked trailer, you would have to reduce that 1085kg payload by a whopping 700kg to avoid exceeding the 6000kg GCM. And that would only leave 385kg of payload, about 300-350kg of which would be used up by the tow-ball download alone with barely enough left for a driver. 

Crunch these numbers for the heavier XLT and Wildtrak and they’re even more marginal. Fortunately, for most Ranger owners a towing capacity of up to 3000kg is more than enough, ensuring a sensible payload reserve.

Every Ranger gets the same base menu of cabin storage options including bottle holders and storage pockets in the base of both front doors, an inset storage tray in the centre dash-pad, a single glovebox and a centre console with front storage cubby, two cupholders and a lidded storage box.

Up front in the Ranger you'll find a base menu of cabin storage options like a single glovebox and centre console with a front storage cubby. (XLT model shown) Up front in the Ranger you'll find a base menu of cabin storage options like a single glovebox and centre console with a front storage cubby. (XLT model shown)

For dual cab models, rear seat occupants get bottle holders and smaller storage pockets in the rear doors plus two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest. There are also storage pockets on the rear of each front seat.

What's it like to drive?

We’ve driven a lot of Ranger variants and the core values remain consistent across the fleet. These vehicles may be manufactured in Thailand because it’s cheaper to build them there, but the design and engineering is proudly Australian.  

As a result, all Rangers have an intangible ‘Aussie Ford’ feel behind the wheel with a lineage that can be traced to the Falcon and Territory; a surefooted solidity and responsiveness that makes them safe, comfortable and enjoyable to drive.

It’s hard to find fault in the overall driving experience aboard a Ranger. They all share the same  electrically power-assisted, variable ratio steering (although reach adjustment on the steering wheel like the HiLux would be nice) which can be turned by a fingertip at parking speeds but becomes increasingly firm and responsive as road speeds increase. 

The front disc/rear drum combo provides reassuringly strong and consistent braking, regardless of payload.

All Rangers have an intangible ‘Aussie Ford’ feel behind the wheel with a lineage that can be traced to the Falcon and Territory.

And the ride quality is commendable, given the heavy-duty leaf-spring rear end. Sure, it will give you a kick in the back over bumps when empty or lightly loaded (particularly the cab-chassis variants when fitted with an aluminium tray) but that is unavoidable given the sprung-to-unsprung weight ratio designed to carry heavy loads. 

Put a decent payload over the rear axle, though, and the ride quality improves dramatically. And the closer you get to peak GVM, the smoother and more compliant the ride becomes, just as it’s designed to do.

Both engines – the 2.2-litre four cylinder and 3.2-litre five cylinder – are excellent turbo-diesels, that are matched with manual or automatic transmissions and final drive ratios tailored to get the best out of these engines, either when running empty or loaded to the gunwales. 

We’ve completed several extended road tests at or near GVM with both engines and transmissions and never found any wanting for performance or efficiency, when performing the duties they are primarily designed to perform. 

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

All Rangers share a maximum five-star ANCAP crash safety rating following assessment in September, 2015.

Passive safety features include driver and front passenger, front, and seat-side airbags (dual cabs also get full length side-curtain airbags), three-point lap-sash belts and headrests for all passengers plus top tethers for child seats on the two outer rear seating positions. 

Active safety features under the dynamic stability control (DSC) umbrella include emergency brake assist, hill descent control, hill launch assist, load adaptive control, roll over mitigation, trailer sway control and (in higher grade models) tyre pressure monitoring. 

An optional ‘tech pack’ adds adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert, driver impairment monitor, lane-keeping aid and lane departure warning, but there’s no auto emergency braking (AEB). Hopefully that will be included in the new Ranger, due in 2019.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

There’s a three year/100,000km warranty plus a five year warranty specifically covering any bodywork perforation caused by corrosion. There’s also the extra cost option of an extended warranty for an extra three years/200,000km. 

Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km whichever occurs first, with capped price servicing costs currently ranging from $400 to $640. 

If the vehicle is serviced at participating Ford dealers 24/7 roadside assistance is available for up to seven years/105,000km.

It’s no surprise the Ranger is doing so well in Australia. It offers a formidable combination of good looks, excellent steering, braking, ride quality and load-carrying ability, five star safety and a wide choice of different engine, transmission, body and model grade combinations designed to suit every budget and user requirement. Hopefully, reach adjustment for the steering wheel and AEB will be included in the next Ranger which will make a great truck even better.

Does Ford's Ranger line-up represent Australia's best light commercial range? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

$44,914 - $100,000

Based on 899 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.1/5

Tradies score

4.1/5
Price Guide

$44,914 - $100,000

Based on 899 car listings in the last 6 months