If there's one thing Ford knows how to do (and do very, very well), it's making pick-up trucks. F-150, F-350, Super Duty... Ford has been making them all in various sizes and for various purposes. Enter the Ford Ranger.
The ASEAN Ranger has been around for a while now, having undergone several redesigns to keep it up with the times. The basic "can-do tough truck" formula has been preserved: a rigid frame chassis, twin cab body mounted atop with an extra long truck bed, heavy duty tires riding on a sturdy suspension set up, and propelled by diesel power.
For the 2009 version, Ford updates their pick up with a face that, Ford claims, better suits the urban scene. The new face is an extensive redesign with new wraparound lights, a fresh grille (reminiscent of the Explorer Sport Trac), and capped underneath with a newly shaped bumper. The hood now features a great bulge to hint of the power underneath while the flanking fenders receive new vents (from the Escape) with RANGER etched onto the fender lamps.
Apart from the new face, the body is fundamentally the same as before. The interior also remains quite unchanged with the tall truck dash design equipped body hugging sport seats (now with new fabrics). The AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo now gets an auxiliary input port for your personal media player or iPod, while interior gauges are now backlit in deep red; quite cool, albeit the red needle is rather hard to distinguish from the red backlight. The classic Ford steering wheel still fits the palm easily while every control is easy to get acquainted to from the first time you sit on the pilot's seat. What I find strange is that Ford didn't add some niceties like climate control (as opposed to a manual aircon), a more extensive multi-information display (perhaps with a compass, fuel economy read out, fuel range, etc.), or even just a set of stepboards would have been nice.
Honestly, I'm still not sold on the new style, as the previous (2006-2008) Ranger's brutish face -with its unapologetic boxy look, imposing grille and strong demeanor- was, in my opinion, the coolest and most powerful looker of the trucking herd. I'm glad, though, that they didn't water down the Ranger's strongest suit: the drive.
Under that power bulge, there's an extra powerful, 2.5-liter DuraTORQ TDCI turbo diesel engine with 143 bhp and a mass-moving 243 foot-pounds of torque available (the 4x4 gets a 3.0L motor with a variable turbo for 156 bhp and 280 lb-ft). For a diesel, throttle response is great and, thanks to a class-leading 5-speed automatic driving the rear wheels, acceleration is smooth and progressive, while retaining fuel consumption at the 15 kilometers per liter mark.
You allow yourself an almost evil smirk of satisfaction, knowing that you're driving one of the more powerful trucks around. The Ranger can do a 0-100 km/h dash just a shy under 14 seconds, and easily push the envelope up to 170 km/h easily. Suspension duties are taken care of by a front double wishbone set up, while the back has a rigid axle riding on leaf springs. It won't win test drives based on ride comfort or plushness, but will hold its own for handling tests, err, hands down.
Being a Trekker variant of the Ranger, this truck is blessed with one of the tallest ride heights in the class. The extra vertical stance means you can power over any obstacle and let the Ranger stomp authority over anything and everything. Rocks or deep ruts? Punch through it. Water in your way? Well, the bigger the splash, the better. You name it, the Ranger will do it. And this is just the well priced (PhP 1,070,000) 4x2 Trekker, imagine the possibilities of having drive to all four wheels and an extra 500cc of displacement.
With the Ranger, Ford really sticks to tried and tested Ford credos. The driving characteristics certainly made every day with it exciting. The chassis and suspension makes it a truly can-do truck, and definitely feel that they're built (Ford) tough. Call me old fashioned, I just wish the new design looked as tough as before.