In response to recapture market share for its Ranger pickup, Ford Group Philippines recently brought in the third generation Ranger, in the hopes that the pickup with passenger car acceleration will rescue the auto manufacturer's once-dominant light commercial vehicle sales.

Carlike acceleration, carlike braking

In a whole day event last week at the Batangas Racing Circuit (BRC), motoring journalists were grouped into threesomes and brought to three areas made to highlight the best in Ford's new diesel pickup.

This station required scribes to accelerate the manual transmission (m/t) WLC 2.5L 4x2 Trekker Ranger variant from rest to 100 kph, then drop to 80 kph, then stomp hard on the brakes when the front wheels pass through a pylon-filled, rectangular "brake box." There were two handicaps for this exercise – the engine should be still running when the pickup comes to a total stop and the pickup should not go beyond the brake box's 100 foot length. To this writer the first handicap was easy, but the second handicap made things complicated, considering the 4x2 Ranger's weight (2846 kg) and the 100 kph traveling velocity.

Surprisingly the pickup stopped within 90 feet and without the rear succumbing to oversteer, rivaling that of most passenger cars (PCs) under hard braking. Also, the WLC 2.5L 4x2's Duratorq diesel engine (141 hp, 330 NMs of torque, with variable geometry turbocharger and common rail direct injection) lived up to the task, launching the pickup from rest within 16 seconds. The downside was that second and third gear felt a bit notchy, but with added travel (the unit had less than 1500 kilometers on the odometer) the said notchiness is sure to disappear.

Handles like a car too

The second station proved that despite its length (5170 mm), width (1789 mm) and ground clearance (207 mm), the Ranger's handling is as good as PCs. Here participants drove a 2.5L WLC 4x2 m/t Trekker Ranger around a short course that used BRC's r-bend, Brian's corner (a 30-degree uphill lefthander) and a bevy of pylon-filled chicanes that reduced speed.

The Ranger's ladder frame proved to be stable throughout the BRC tarmac, with manageable understeer (complimented by the pickup's decent steering feel) occurring at 60-plus kph and little or no oversteer through the chicanes. The 330 NMs of torque at low engine speeds also came into play as they helped this writer go through the course's slow sections with little waste of time.

Delivers anywhere

The Ranger is branded as Ford's mailman – it delivers anywhere, anytime. This was the premise of the third station – to haul its 2966 kg curb weight (for the Ranger used, a 3.0L WEC m/t Trekker variant) around a gravel, mud, rock and water-filled course. Journalists present had to drive through the course in exactly seven minutes, with the closest elapsed time to seven minutes declared as the winner.

This writer had a fun time with the Ranger off-road, as he dumped the pickup in first gear and let the engine idle throughout the course. This pickup variant's 380 NMs of torque were enough to make it go through the course's gravel 47-degree incline and descent on idle (with nary a foot on the pedals), reminiscent of high-end sport utility vehicles with hill descent/ascent control and multi-plate clutches. The said 380 NMs of massive torque, a tightly packed limited slip differential, the aforementioned 207 mm ground clearance, large diameter (32 mm) dampers and longer leaf springs (1320 mm for the current model, 1200 mm for its predecessor) also made the pickup travel with ease through the area with rocks the size of the Ranger's tires, the muddy cambered turns and chest-deep mud pools.

Already the Dearborn (Michigan, USA)-based manufacturer has high hopes for its third generation diesel pickup. Gone is the Ranger that was basically a workhorse with little attention to small details such as interior ergonomics; arriving here instead is an industrious worker that provides detailed creature comforts rivaling passenger cars.

"The skill of the engineers behind the all-new Ford Ranger is that they have produced a vehicle that is well-balanced and a joy to drive –the best in its class. Such a result is not attributed to any single feature; rather, it's due to exacting attention to detail and the precise way that every system in the Ranger has been tuned to work together in harmony," said Mark Bill, the new Ranger's chief platform engineer.

"We see the new Ranger's customers as those who are real truck drivers who tend to use the vehicle's capabilities extensively. They are experience-seekers who travel further and relish adventurous and challenging excursions. They absolutely rely on their trucks to live up to these challenges. This pickup is a truck done right, a workhorse AND a lifestyle statement, with a 'Built Ford Tough' truck performance, toughness and flexibility to take everything thrown at it and the quality, refinement and modern features that would delight owners in ways that exceed expectation," added Bill.