Halfway through a model's shelf — or showroom — life is the time when the manufacturer implements a few upgrades and design updates. New tech, new style idioms, changing consumer demands and more have accelerated the pace in which brands introduce the new models, and those midway through their model cycles have to push to keep up with the younger competition.
Such is the case for the Ford Ranger, one of the Philippines' best selling pick up trucks, and we try out the new, top of the line Wildtrak 4x4 model to see how the blue oval has improved on the Ranger.
The current generation Ranger was originally launched in 2011 and immediately proceeded to set the bars in its class in terms of style, comfort and performance. Of course, the body is essentially the same, but the new upgraded model gets a new style statement with a larger, more imposing grille, reshaped headlamps, new wheels, and a host of other improvements. This Wildtrak version is the top spec variant, and as such comes with plenty of touches that set it apart from the regular Rangers like the roll hoop (cosmetic, really), the bedliner, the Wildtrak decals, the dark gray grille (instead of chrome), and many more.
The T6 Ranger has, in my opinion, one of the best interiors in its class, yet Ford still upgraded the cabin significantly for this facelift. The dashboard is very new and is a more “ruggedized” version of the one found in the new Ford Everest. The steering wheel is, likewise, new, along with the gauge cluster which has a speedometer front and center, flanked by two LCD screens that can be set to display all kinds of data using the 4-way switches on either side of the wheel. What truly grabs attention is the new center console, which now gets Ford's new SYNC2 multimedia entertainment and connectivity suite. Being a Wildtrak, this cabin comes with their signature black hue (from the leather to the plastics) with orange accents.
Sitting in the driver's seat, it's easy to get impressed with the cabin, but it's not all about aesthetics and tech as Ford improved upon their powerplants. The Wildtrak, like the 4x4 models of the standard Ranger, can be specced with a 2.2-liter TDCI; an engine that, with variable geometry turbocharging, common rail direct injection and a host of other improvements, now makes 160 PS and 385 Nm of torque. This version, however, is the 3.2L variant, and as such it gets even more power at 200 PS and 470 Nm of torque. Mated with a 6-speed automatic gearbox and a 4x4 drive system, this Wildtrak should have plenty of power to get ahead, regardless of terrain.
Around the city, the Ranger Wildtrak drives like the best-seller that it is. The gearbox is smooth and refined; same goes for their excellent suspension system that makes for a surprisingly comfortable drive for a pick-up. Absorption is great and the manners of the truck on our predominantly ribbed concrete roads almost lends the feeling that this is a top of the line 7-seat SUV rather than a load-carrying pick-up. Of course you only need to look at the rearview mirror to see the big bed at the back; perhaps a worthy accessory to get would be some kind of a bed cover for security.
On the highway, the Wildtrak is rather smooth as well, but it is in the fuel economy that it performed like the overachiever that it is. During our test, the Wildtrak's efficiency was at the 9.3 km/l mark (18 km/h average speed), an improvement of 0.2 km/l over the previous 3.2L I drove. On the highway it did 13.6 kilometers for every liter (96 km/h average).
Take the Wildtrak off-road and it will really strut its stuff. Apart from the great performance of the 4x4 system, the new model gets a long list of standard tech to make off-roading easy and accessible to even the most ham-footed of drivers. I personally prefer the multi-mode terrain management system they put in the Everest, but the Ranger Wildtrak didn't really need it. The 4x4 system makes sure all four tires are doing their best to grab whatever surface is underneath, and the safety features like the traction control and stability control perform double duty as driving aids on the dirt. Just don't expect the Wildtrak to perform like a dedicated off-road machine given that it comes with highway tires, but a quick trip to a tire shop and you can opt to get all-terrain rubber.
Overall, the Ranger Wildtrak performs as advertised, and at PhP 1,679,000 it's already a great choice compared to other trucks and even against crossovers. What was truly impressive was how Ford really went to work on making a holistic improvement on their tough truck, ensuring it will remain strong and competitive even when pitted toe-to-toe against younger competition.