Anton Andres / Anton Andres, Jose Altoveros, Kelvin Christian Go, Brent Co | May 10, 2017 17:23
Small change, big difference
What's this? Another Ford Ranger review?
It shouldn't come as a surprise because Ford quietly updated their pickup late last year. This comes just after two years since the facelifted model was released in the market. For this update, they included more tech but after spending a few days with it, it felt like Ford went beyond just an infotainment upgrade. Allow me to explain.
But first, let's start with the looks. I will spare you the hassle of looking for the differences as there are none. It gets the same bold front fascia we first saw in 2015 and it still looks good two years later. The glossy dark gray grill, complemented by the slim headlights give it a butch look. The extra Wildtrak goodies give it a bit more flair and even though it's not finished in the signature Pride Orange paint, this shade of Metropolitan Gray still brings out the nice lines out of this truck.
This being a pickup, let's talk about the bed. It measures in at 1,549 mm long, 1,560 mm wide and 511 mm tall. These numbers mean that the Ranger has the biggest bed in its segment. What makes it more impressive is the fact that it isn't even the biggest pickup in its class. For those who do plan to make full use of the bed, Ford rates payload capacity “up to” 1,300 kilograms. To put that into perspective, you can load up the Ranger up to the weight of an A-segment car and fill up all the seats.
It's the same story on the inside too. No changes were made to the interior and it still boasts that rugged look the Wildtrak offers. To remind you that you are in the top-dog Ranger, there's Wildtrak stitching on the backrests, as well as fabric and leather combination seats. As for space, lots of room in front and still offers a fair amount of leg, toe, hip and headroom at the back.The power seat is a nice touch for the driver while the 230v inverter is a handy feature for long treks and campsites. If anything, the Wildtrak eggs you to explore the great outdoors.
What is new in the Wildtrak is its infotainment system. Now with Sync 3, I found it much less confusing to use compared to the old Sync 2 system. The main menu is much clearer now and the options are logically arranged at the bottom of the screen. It now also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to cut down on driver distraction. The cabin of the Ranger has, for me at least, been ergonomic but the upgrade to Sync 3 just boosts the ownership experience.
We've grown accustomed to the Ranger Wildtrak's Duratorq engine. As a refresher, the Duratorq found in the four-wheel drive Wildtrak is a 3.2-liter, inline five turbodiesel that produces 200 PS and 470 Nm of torque. A six speed manual is standard should you choose to row your own but what we have in our tester is a six-speed automatic with manual mode. This update does bring in a rear-locking differential for those looking to take the Ranger into tougher terrain.
I mentioned that this silent update went beyond the Sync 3 upgrade and I felt it the moment I turned the wheel. When I first drove the facelifted Ranger in Mayon two years ago, I noticed that the steering was light, almost too light for a pickup. That's not to say that pickups should feel heavy to lug around but I found it lacking in feel, overboosted and a little too darty for big truck. In this update, Ford added more feedback through the steering wheel and it just changes the way the Ranger feels.
In the city, it still retained that accurate steering while adding a little more weight to the wheel. I also admired its relatively tight turning circle for a pickup and the barrage of sensors and a reverse camera made maneuvering a lot easier. If you don't want to depend on these systems, the Ranger boasts good visibility, aided by the generous greenhouse and large side mirrors.
It's on provincial roads is where I felt that tweak to the steering system. Thanks to more feedback, I felt more confident driving on winding roads. The benefit of more feedback is you no longer have to guess where the front wheels are pointed. The more you know what's going on in your car (in this case, truck), you can feel more secure when the going gets rougher. It may be a minor thing for some but this minor tweak changed my already good impression of the Ranger into an even better one. Granted, it's no Mustang but the Ranger is perhaps one of the nicer pickups to drive in its segment. Only the lack of telescopic adjustment dents the otherwise impressive package.
Not only does it drive well but it rides well too. Given the leaf-spring arrangement at the back (the pickup truck norm), it rode better than the SUVs of the past and, to some extent, the present. After taking it on a long drive, my passengers didn't feel beat up after the trip. They were expecting a harsh ride but were pleasantly surprised when the trip was over.
There were no qualms about its performance either. Thanks to the extra cylinder, highway cruises were hushed in the Ranger. With 470 Nm of torque, you'd expect the Ranger to push you back to its seat but it wasn't the case. Instead, it delivers that power in a smooth, relaxed manner. If you do need to hustle, a swift jab of the accelerator is all you need for a quick overtake. Despite me slogging through traffic and leaving it idle for a photo shoot, it still returned 8.7 kilometers per liter at a lowly average pace of 16 km/h. That figure jumps to 14 kilometers per liter on the highway at an average of 90 km/h.
For me, what sweetens the deal for the Ranger Wildtrak is its standard safety equipment. There's lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, traction control, stability control and a generous amount of airbags. The first four features I mentioned were especially helpful on the highway and it makes the task of driving a pickup a lot more, well, crossover-like. Perhaps a bit more enhancements to noise isolation will make the Ranger even more so.
Prices have gone up since the first update back in 2015. From Php 1,679,000, it has jumped to Php 1,709,000. Yes, it sounds pricey but take into account the amount of standard equipment you get for the money. It has a much improved infotainment system, offers bags of safety equipment, has 200 horsepower, a high payload capacity and a large cargo bed. Yes, there are more affordable alternatives but some don't quite have the equipment levels, or the numbers, to match or surpass the Ranger.
It's difficult to find the weaknesses in the Ranger since the first update back in 2015. It's still the same case two years later.