Essentials and Conveniences
We’re very much fans of trucks.
What’s not to like? We like the rugged platforms trucks use. We like the elevation to tower over obstacles. We like the versatility of the cargo box. We like diesel… well, until lately because of fuel prices.
Trucks were originally intended to be utility vehicles that an owner would use on a farm, on a job site, for a hardware store, and many more. That’s really the allure of trucks, but it comes with trade-offs specifically with comfort. A set of leaf springs isn’t known for ride comfort, but one cannot deny that it’s the preferred choice for heavy hauling.
But that’s been changing, as pickup truck manufacturers are working to dial in a bit more comfort. People do like using trucks for everyday driving like an SUV; I know because I’m one of those people. This trend in the Asian pickup truck market really started with the 2006 Mitsubishi Triton/Strada, and it proved to be a hit with customers.
Ford was really the first to follow suit with the T6 Ranger in 2011, and that proved to be an even bigger hit. The T6 offered what traditional truck customers wanted with a pickup, but also provided a more forgiving ride and the convenience of technology. So successful was the Ranger that they kept at it for a full decade.
That means the new generation Ford Ranger has a lot to live up to. We’ve already tested the Ranger Wildtrak 4x4 and found it to be impressive… actually, maybe too impressive. In our opinion, Ford may have gone a bit too techie for the Wildtrak variants (especially with the screen-activated diff lock) but that’s alright. Maybe the lower XLT variant is more Goldilocks for us. Not too tech-forward, not too classic a truck, but just right.
As before, the XLT sits right in the middle of the Ford Ranger lineup. The Sport and Wildtrak versions are higher up, while the XLS and XL sit below. But if you look at the truck on its own without knowing higher variants exist, it doesn’t seem like you went for a mid-grade variant.
You may get some of the Wildtrak niceties like the sports bar, the bed rails, decals, wheels, and LED taillights, but you’ve still got that beefy Ford Ranger look with the tall ground clearance even with the slightly smaller 17” wheels. All Rangers are now specced to be high riders; meaning the ground clearance of all variants in the country is 235mm and all have a maximum water wading of 800mm. The only real significant mechanical downgrade versus the Wildtrak 4x2 is the use of drum brakes in the back. If anything, we find it strange that the Sport variants use rear drums too.
Yes, this is a 4x2 version, and you can easily confirm that by looking under the chassis. Actually, that’s where a lot of the significant changes are from the previous T6; yes the platform is still very similar, but there are a lot of upgrades. The chassis has been strengthened, and the rear axle’s suspension has been altered to have the shock absorbers bolted onto the outside of the frame rails. This affords the vehicle more control of the axle as it articulates (read: improved leverage).
The other major difference is when you look at the front axle; it’s moved forward by about 2 inches. The difference that makes is under the hood: there’s just more empty space because of it, and the fact that they no longer have the main fan mounted onto the engine and driven by the belts. The extra space is useful for several reasons: one is for electrification (meaning bulkier hybrid systems) while the other is to fit the larger V6 in the Raptor which we don’t have yet.
The engine is 2.0L turbo diesel, unlike the previous XLT that used the 2.2L turbo diesel. Despite the smaller size, this engine makes more power at 170 PS (previous XLT: 160 PS) and more torque at 405 Nm (previous XLT: 385 Nm). The performance of the engine isn’t as high as the 210 PS and 500 Nm as the bi-turbo 2.0L on the Wildtrak 4x4, but we believe it’s better not to push the figures as high. It’s also good that Ford used the 6-speed automatic instead of the 10-speed in this version. Sometimes it’s better to hold back for reliability.
The bed is perhaps our favorite feature of the new Ranger series. The one on the XLT may not have the nice helper spring, the tie-down bars, and the rear outlets, but it’s very much functional. There are removable covers on the bed rails so you can mount accessories of your choice; we didn’t check if it was threaded under there, but that’s easy enough to sort out.
Access is made easier because there are cutouts on the bumper that serve as steps to access the bed from the side. But what we really like is that the bed is bigger. Ford smartly widened the track (the distance between the rear wheels) to be able to move the wheel arches in the bed. What you have now is a full 48 inches between the wheel wells, meaning it can fit a European pallet or a 4x8 plywood board. You won’t be able to close the bed with a board, but you can always strap it down. This XLT also has clamp pockets which you can use to secure 2x4 boards for cutting at the job site. Being a weekend woodworker, this feature makes me really jealous.
The interior can be assessed in many different ways. If you’re hopping in from a previous XLT, it will feel like a major upgrade. If you’re hopping into this XLT after checking out the Wildtrak variant on the showroom floor, it’ll feel like a slight downgrade because you’ll notice a few things differently. If you’re jumping into an XLT from any other truck, then it will likely feel impressive.
It’s a foregone conclusion that Ford outdid themselves with the new Ranger’s interior, and that’s an across-the-board assessment. The new interiors are very much functional with a wide variety of storage compartments and pockets, the controls are easy to get familiarized with, and there is an impressive array of tech features. Despite being a mid-variant for Ford, some may find this XLT being more comparable to top-of-the-line variants of other trucks from other brands. We only need to look at the iPad-like screen that is dominating the dashboard, and it has wireless Apple Carplay, wireless Android Auto, and even wireless charging.
Still, there are some changes worth noting. Gone are the dash-mounted cupholders that neatly tuck away as well as the upper glove compartment. The upholstery isn’t leather like the Wildtrak models, but that’s alright. Gone are the rear seat amenities on the Wildtrak like the 230V, USB, and USB-C outlets as well as the rear seat A/C vents. The A/C is also just an A/C and not an auto climate control system.
The 10” iPad-like screen is also 2” smaller than the one on the Wildtrak, but it’s not a big deal either. What is somewhat more of a big deal is the change with the center console; if you look closely, it seems like a carryover from the previous generation. It’s not a big deal either; they probably did that because this one comes with a standard lever handbrake (which we prefer on a truck) as opposed to an EPB.
It just so happened that during our time with the XLT, we also had the Wildtrak (hence the comparo video review above). That presents some nice conclusions too: the XLT doesn’t drive any different from the Wildtrak 4x2. Wheel size is different, but the way it drives over roads in the city is the same. The truck also feels just as tall as the Wildtrak; you can enjoy it every day like you would an SUV. The Navara probably has better rear suspension manners for comfort, but only just.
The engine’s performance is just right for the truck. The torque is right there at 1700 rpm, so it does handle the vehicle well. Prod the throttle and the transmission responds quickly and doesn’t have the "gear hunting" that the 10-speed tends to do. Yes, a 10-speed auto is nice, but in urban driving where speeds and traffic vary greatly, a 6-speed is just right. The fuel economy on the Ranger XLT is great too. In urban driving conditions, we expect somewhere around 9 km/l, but on the highway, it goes up closer to 15 km/l.
What surprised us was the maneuverability and the refinement. Ford did a good job with the vehicle because interior noise is kept to a very nice minimum. But it’s the maneuverability for such a long and wide truck that is unusual; there are no official turning radius figures that we can find locally, but it seems to turn tighter than I remember. Parking is easy too because while it may not have a 360 camera, the XLT does come with a rearview cam; that’s very useful.
The only thing that Ford really needs to improve on is service and the reliability of its electronics. They like going for tech-loaded trucks, meaning more electronics. The more they go in that direction, the more possible failure points you have on a vehicle. And we’re already seeing some issues that customers are experiencing; we even experienced a minor gremlin with the main infotainment screen.
Still, at PHP 1,374,000 the XLT may well be our new favorite in the Ranger lineup if you’re in the market for a can-do truck. It covers all the bases of what you need and what you want. This can do it all except for going for serious off-roading. Need to haul? This has you covered with the proven (and improved) platform with the payload rating to match; the previous generation can handle over 1000 and we don’t expect this to be any less.