Nowadays auto manufacturers have given their brutes major makeovers, throwing in advancements in getting from point A to point B quickly (such as common rail direct injection), in providing a close-to-carlike ride, and in installing interior amenities that rival compact passenger cars.
One example of this big-time transformation is the Ford Ranger.
Step inside and you'll see an all-new interior that is also shared with the current Ford Everest. The black-gray interior is a major upgrade from the previous mode, while aluminum trim lining the instrument cluster, the leftmost and rightmost aircon vents and the center dashboard. The seats are comfortable, but rear kneeroom is tight. There are two six-volt outlets for external entertainment under the center dashboard. The audio entertainment is good but not great (due to a lack of treble effort), and the centralized power lock/unlock system is reminiscent of the Mazda 3's pull-push type system. Storage for small items is a definite plus with this pickup, as there are lots of places along the doors, within the center console, and in front of the shotgun passenger seat to place bric-a-brac.
But it is in hauling anything and everything that defines a pickup, and this where this tested Ranger (a 4x4 XLT 3.0L TDCi m/t model) excels. Two 80-90kg washing machines that needed to be brought from Cubao to Novaliches (Quezon City) and back for repairs were successfully loaded and unloaded, without damage to the cargo area's bedliner, the inner part of the tailgate or the two appliances. Nearly six feet of rope, along with six hooks located at strategic points within the pickup bed, bound the two appliances together to avoid tumbling about. Lesson: If you're using a pickup and you need to bring, load and unload large stuff for long distances, it is best to have at least five feet of sturdy rope and a companion (or maybe two) riding shotgun. You just might throw out your back bringing in and out the heavy loads from the pickup's bed if you do it alone.
Take to the road and you'll be surprised at the Ranger's acceleration. From rest the pickup (a P1.326 million variant) and can actually hang with or outsprint passenger cars (or even executive sedans) due to the massive torque. In fact, all you have to do to launch the vehicle decently from rest is dump the clutch, put the m/t stick in gear, tap the gas pedal and watch it go. Couple the huge torque with a fat powerband and little turbo lag and you have a rev-happy (but powerful) vehicle.
Transmission-wise the five-speed m/t has rather tall gearing, with a treacly throw feel commonly observed in vehicles with massive torque requirements. Second gear is very short but fourth gear is a reach; it is recommended that only third gear be used for overtaking and mountain passes. Speaking of mountain passes, throw the Ranger on sharp turns and traction breaks at 70 kph onwards, with a smattering of oversteer due to the vehicle's nature of rear bias. Should things get somewhat out of control, the brakes grab hard, and the umbrella-type handbrake (similar to the handbrake on the current Ford Everest and the early 90s Toyota Tamaraw FX) also provides decent grip.
Like its Ford Everest platform twin, steering is blunt but manageable and has moderate feel. The side mirrors are large enough to see approaching vehicles from the rear flanks UP TO THE second lane, and both interior and exterior lighting are bright.
With a serious upgrade in both interior features and performance, the new Ford Ranger can be considered as a hauler that is both rugged and elegant.