Blame this on the rising sophistication of today's motorist. They want all the combined benefits of comfort, luxury and dependability. And they want to bring as much cargo as they can, too. So, the once brutish workhorse of a pick up has now been fitted with car-like amenities that raise its level of appeal quite a few notches higher.
Previous reviews of the new Ford Ranger never fail to mention its "transformation" from utilitarian to stylish, with swanky interiors and upgraded doodads. All the while retaining its hauling capabilities once considered the most powerful of the lot.
And there's a lot of truth to this claim. The first time I got my hands behind the wheel of a Ford Ranger, it had all the trappings of a functional, no-frills pick up truck that gets the job done without complaint. It had plastic doormats and ruggedized interiors that make it easy for one to wipe all the mud off as soon as it gets back from whatever boondock or rough road it came from. And whatever mud or grime it accumulates only adds to the overall look of the truck. It looked and felt like how a pickup should be; sensible, efficient and, what else but utilitarian.
We took this Ranger almost everywhere back in those days: ten days on the road north, from Pampanga in the west all the way to Aurora in the east. On other occasions, we drove the Ranger up various mountain routes in Antipolo, the Cordilleras, and Pinatubo. We liked how it muscled its way diligently up and over steep climbs, its high-torque diesel engine making everything look easy.
Fast forward to its latest incarnation, the Ford Ranger has indeed come a long, long way. It now looks bigger, with oversize fenders, crystal lamp assemblies and big, wide windows. We liked it then, we like it again now! This new Ranger looks better than ever!
The Trekker variant, a 4x2 version that packs a similar punch when it comes to acceleration and overall ride quality, is a convenient "compromise" for those not too keen on investing on a 4x4. Take the five-speed automatic transmission version of the Trekker (a PhP1.026-million variant) out for a spin and you'll get what I mean when I say this baby is perfect for city-bound hauling tasks and whatnot.
It may not be a 4x4, which isn't entirely a bad thing. Its just a fitting compromise for a vehicle designed to carry stuff within city limits, and the occasional long drive to the province. For serious off-roading, it would be advisable for one to get a real 4x4. But then who does serious off-roading nowadays other than performance drivers and 4x4 hobbyists?
Ford's cutting-edge diesel technology is still the main value of the Trekker. The 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder DOHC 16V DuraTORQ TDCi commonrail diesel engine powers this pickup with rapid engine response and adequate fuel economy. Even for an A/T vehicle, this Trekker doesn't burn fuel like other big trucks.
The fun factor with the Trekker A/T is its ability to let the driver enjoy the ride. With its high ground clearance and treading on 16" alloy wheels, this pickup is ideal during monsoon season in Manila. Flooding city streets and crater-like road indentions were shrugged off by the Trekker, keeping driver and passengers safely ensconced in its comfy cabin.
The Trekker, despite its newly gentrified persona, still enjoyed cruising down EDSA on a stormy Sunday morning, running over mid-tire level puddles and water sprays. Good grip and no slip, all while the transmission remained on "D". This is when you start feeling its massive power, pushed by its huge torque and high rev muscle. Just enough to get out of sticky traffic situations involving a stationary jeepney in the middle and a big bus pulled over on the shoulder.
You also get a feeling of security and protection on board this truck, especially since its got dual airbags and side impact bars. Its not as bouncy as the previous Ranger, nor of the first-version Everest which shares the same chassis frame. Ford has improved the handling and suspension to make it a little more "passenger-friendly."
Other than this, it's the little things that help keep the Trekker right up there with other luxury pickup trucks in the same category. Its got items such as triple cup holders and the double lid centre console that allows one to stuff loose items like maps, facetowels, wallets and gadgets safely. There's an in-dash CD console with 4 speaker system, letting you listen to conventional audio CDs as well as mp3s.
For people who are so tired and bored with driving a passenger car, the Trekker A/T is a great diversion. I wouldn't mind owning one just so I can use it on the weekends, or when a typhoon hits town and rising waters render my old sedan useless.
Seriously, the new Ford Ranger Trekker A/T can hold its own in the tough pickup category. It's got a lot going for itself, one of which is it doesn't look anything like the rest of the pack. Like I said earlier, it looks like how a pickup should look like. And that's not a bad thing.