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Ford Ranger XLS 4x4 2.2L auto dual cab 2016 review


Daily driver score

4/5

Mark Oastler road tests and reviews the Ford Ranger XLS 4x4 2.2L auto dual cab ute with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Ford Ranger buyers are spoiled for choice, with double the number of models available than its Toyota HiLux arch rival. Where Toyota offers three basic variants (Workmate, SR and SR5), Ford's latest facelifted and refined PX MkII range has six to choose from including XL, XL Plus (industrial/mining spec), XLS, XLT and the top-shelf Wildtrak.

The XLS is a model created in direct response to buyer demand for a Ranger dual cab 4x4 ute that combines the XL's back-to-basics specification with a visual step-up from the typical 'poverty pack' perception of entry level models.

Design

As its name suggests, this is the entry level XL with some extra 'Stuff' added comprising 16-inch alloy wheels instead of painted steels, front fog lamps instead of empty blanks, carpet instead of a hose-out vinyl floor and (trumpets please) even front floor mats.

As you'd expect it has all the active and passive safety features which underpin every Ford Ranger plus 'mobile office' essentials including Bluetooth, AUX/USB/iPod integration and SYNC 1, plus stereo radio with single MP3-compatible CD player.

However, given that all HiLux utes – including Workmate – are now fitted with a reversing camera as standard equipment, the lack of this vital safety feature in Ford's working class rival is a glaring omission. So too the lack of reach adjustment in the steering wheel, which comes standard on all but the lowest spec 4x2 HiLux models.

About town

The XLS option is only available on Ranger 4x4 Dual Cab utes, but you do get a choice of either the 2.2 litre four cylinder or 3.2 litre five cylinder diesels with either six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

Our test vehicle had the 2.2 litre TDCi engine which as a result of Ford's PX MkII refinements has seen mild boosts in power and torque over the previous model. Peak power is now 118kW at 3200rpm (vs 110kW at 3700rpm) and 385Nm at 1600-2500rpm (vs 375Nm at 1500-2500rpm).

In stop/start city traffic and daily suburban duties, the ratios in the six-speed automatic feel well matched to the torque characteristics of this engine. We have heard complaints from PX 'Mk I' 2.2 auto owners about a lack of throttle response from a standing start, but didn't detect any problems here.

With three to four (sometimes five) adult occupants on board, it's a competent and comfortable servant in this role. Ford's new EPAS electric power-assisted steering is excellent and the handling is predictable and sure-footed, with a ride quality that is surprisingly supple given its heavy duty springs and shocks.

On the road

Although having one less cylinder, 85Nm less torque and 1.0 litre smaller capacity than its 3.2 litre sibling the difference in performance is negligible with or without a load. Given the 2.2 and 3.2 share the same 3200kg GVM, 6000kg GCM and 3500kg tow rating, this should be expected if Ford has done its homework properly.

With our combined payload of just under 750kg, the XLS proved to be an excellent load lugger.

During our test we loaded 650kg into the load tub, which with a 92kg driver ticketed 2860kg on the weighbridge. That was still 340kg below its impressive 3200kg GVM, so it could have taken another three big adults on board and still been running legal. Rear suspension compression under this load was 60mm with the front rising only 5mm in response, maintaining a firm front tyre footprint and steering feel.

With our combined payload of just under 750kg, the XLS proved to be an excellent load lugger. On the freeway with cruise control on, it sat on the legal maximum 110km/h at just under 2000rpm, which is bang in the middle of its 1600-2500rpm maximum torque curve.

When we ventured onto some back roads the 2.2 engine displayed its hard-working Ford Transit heritage on a long climb with a steep 12 per cent gradient, easily maintaining the 60km/h posted speed limit and keeping the engine in its peak torque zone with firm and decisive downshifts to lower cogs when needed.

It was less impressive on the way down, though, when we shifted to Sport mode to manually hold a lower gear and test its engine-braking effect with a heavy load on its back. The 2.2 could not provide enough retardation on its own to stay beneath the speed limit, requiring regular firm brake applications to stop the engine spinning freely on over-run towards its potentially damaging 4700rpm redline.

This is something to think about if you're planning to regularly haul big payloads or tow heavy trailers in hilly country, because although modern small capacity turbo-diesels are great at climbing, they're not so impressive when descending. Without either a 'jake' compression brake or exhaust brake fitted, they can't offer the same powerful engine retardation inherent in petrol engines.

We didn't venture too far off-road, given the appalling weather conditions at the time and the highway-biased tread pattern of the standard 255/70R16 tyres. However, with its locking rear differential, Hill Descent Control, 230mm ground clearance and class-leading 800mm wading depth, the Ranger's rough country credentials are impressive and well proven.

Average fuel consumption at the end of our multi-role test was 10.5L/100km, which compared favourably with Ford's official combined 8.1L/100km laboratory figure given the variety of real world test duties it was subjected to.

The XLS 2.2 litre auto 4x4 Dual Cab ute's extra bling puts it a cut above its base model XL equivalent. The privilege of adding an S to the end of the XL badge comes at a $1300 premium ($47,790 XLS vs $46,490 XL) which is still a considerable saving compared to the $50,290 required for the 3.2 litre XLS. And there's the added cost benefit of better fuel economy according to Ford (8.8L/100km 3.2 vs 8.1L/100km 2.2). Put simply, the smaller XLS is a five-seat genuine one tonner which not only offers a good-looking sub-$50K entry into Ford Ranger ownership but feels just as capable as its larger-engined sibling for less money.

Do you think the XLS gives Ford an edge over its rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Ford Ranger pricing and spec info.

$15,990 - $58,850

Based on 1360 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5
Price Guide

$15,990 - $58,850

Based on 1360 car listings in the last 6 months