The Techie's Truck
Game changer is a phrase that Ford just loves to use or allude to.
They did it for the Fiesta, then the Focus, the EcoSport, so on and so forth. We can't blame them for doing so; those vehicles did elevate what customers can expect for the price.
With the Ranger T6 that they launched in 2011 here, that was also the case. We never thought that a truck would be a platform for the latest in automobile technology; it was the first in its class to offer a fully integrated infotainment system (with voice command, no less) in a time when the leader in the segment didn't even have ABS. That's why many rival automakers started offering more features in their vehicles like cruise control, stability control, better connectivity, and many more. We have Ford to thank for literally changing the game.
Times have changed though. Many rivals have caught up, there are many more affordable crossovers in the market that are starting to really attract customers, and there seems to be an unending series of global challenges that are making unit supplies more difficult to come by.
So Ford did what we always knew they'd do: they moved the goalposts again.
We spent quite a few days with the next generation Ranger in Wildtrak trim, and we can confidently say they accomplished that mission. My inbox is actually full of questions from readers and viewers alike regarding the new truck, and to give you the short answer: yes, the Ranger is good, but I have some reservations. We'll get to those a little later.
The new generation Ranger is bigger. The truck is longer, wider, and taller. There's even more ground clearance than before at 235mm but Ford says the water wading is still 800mm; maybe they just gave it more height to give drivers extra room for error.
But really, it's in the curb appeal department where I think Ford knocked it out of the park. This is a handsome truck, bar none. I like what Ford did with the face; it looks strong and proper, especially with those C-clamp DRLs and that big black grille. I like the wider sidesteps, the larger fender vents, and the black (or really dark gray) 18” wheels. I think the folks at my local carwash said it best: “Sir, ang angas!”
Mind you, I said new generation, not all-new. That's deliberate because Ford made it clear that this Ranger isn't actually all-new. This is still a T6 platform Ranger, and that's why a lot of the things are familiar. The engine on this Wildtrak, for instance, is the same: the 2.0L Bi-Turbo. Even the gearbox is the same: the 10-speed auto. Other variants have the standard turbo 2.0L and either a 6-speed auto or manual.
Don't mistake that just because they retained the two major mechanical bits in the truck meant that Ford took the easy way out. For one, Ford focused on revising the suspension and chassis to refine how the truck behaves on the road. The rear dampers, for instance, have been moved outboard of the chassis to allow for better leverage and control of the rear axle. The front axle has also been moved forward by 2 inches to give more room inside the engine bay for larger engines (e.g. the V6 for the Raptor variant) and for future electrification plans (e.g. hybrid). Also if you look at the engine bay, you'll spot that they saved a lot of room by going for an electrically-powered radiator fan unlike before.
Not focusing on the mechanical bits also meant that Ford was able to divert more thought into how customers use their trucks, particularly with the truck bed. They made it bigger and wider; it can fit a Euro-sized pallet (1000mm x 1200mm) which means you can use a forklift to load up the truck. The Wildtrak variant also comes with a pair of side rails that are strong enough to pull myself up by using the box steps on the side of the rear cargo box. Yes, this truck has a recess for your shoe so you can step up and access the bed from the side.
But what's really fantastic is the ability of the rear bed to function as a mobile workbench; a trait that really appeals to me. There are two power outlets in the back; the 12-volt you can use for charging or powering smaller devices, but the 230-volt outlet you can use for charging cordless power tools if you're at a job site.
What I like is that the width of the Ranger's bed is 48-inches; that means it can carry a 4x8 plywood board if you tie it down properly. And if you visit a home depot to pick up a 2x4 that measures either 8 or 10 feet long, you can actually use the bed to cut it down to size by clamping it down on the clamp pockets built into the tailgate. This is something we've seen in the much larger F-150, and thankfully Ford put it in the smaller Ranger. This is a truck that can really be put to work, and I can absolutely appreciate that.
Of course, it's the interior that Ford also seriously stepped up. This being the Wildtrak means it has the full leather interior with that signature orange stitching all around. It's such a sharp color combination, which goes with that full-color digital instrument cluster as well as the main infotainment screen that looks more like an iPad than a car audio system. More on that later.
The dash is a bit busier than before, but like the bed, it's much more functional than ever. There are compartments and pockets for everything. There are the two cupholders on the center console, but what's really nice is the pair of cupholders that are very neatly tucked into the dash. Upper and lower glove compartments are present, and there's a pad in the middle that is perfect for loose stuff you may have in your pockets. You can put your phone there if you so wish, but the proper place for it is the wireless charger under the climate control panel.
Okay so now about the main screen: by far this is the best in the class because it's fully integrated into everything. A lot of the features of the vehicle are integrated into the SYNC system, the response of the system is fast and the resolution is crystal clear. It also has the wireless versions of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It simply outclasses many of its rivals by a big margin. The Navara is perhaps the closest to this in terms of overall integration, followed by the D-Max, then Strada, then Hilux. The reason is that the latter three source their systems from local suppliers. That's fine, but it just doesn't achieve the same level as a factory-installed unit like what is in the Ranger Wildtrak.
Once on the road, one thing is apparent: this new Ranger doesn't seem to be as comfortable in terms of the ride as before. It feels firmer, and that's after I had set the pressure to the correct ones for the front (30 psi). I think Ford was beefing up the Ranger for heavier loads rather than outright comfort, which is fine for a truck. Thankfully the seat comfort makes up for it. Actually, even the rear seat is nice, and it does come with some nice charging options, including a 230-volt outlet in this variant.
The steering is on the light side compared to a lot of trucks in the market. I would still contend that the Strada has the best handling out of all the trucks in the class, but the Ranger is right up there. The performance of the engine is also good; this is already a proven package, so that's a good thing. Power is good, and the 10-speed auto makes up for the size of the engine, particularly with torque density at low RPMs. That's also why we were getting good fuel economy numbers: 9 km/l in the city and close to 15 km/l on the highway. Not bad, and we could probably do better if we tried. Fuel economy will go down if you load up the truck with cargo.
The thing I really am wary about with the Ranger is the technology. It's great that Ford offers a lot of tech in all their vehicles, but in a truck that could be a tricky proposition, especially one that is meant to go off-road.
It's this simple: the more electronics, the more possible points of failure. While I'm impressed with that main screen, I'm dreading the day it goes down for any reason. My reason is simple: in all the trucks I've tried, the electronic diff lock is a physical button or a switch on the dashboard, but in the Wildtrak it's a digital button on the screen. If the screen goes down, then there goes your diff lock. Not fun if you're in the middle of nowhere.
Don't get me wrong: the Ranger Wildtrak 4x4 is a very capable truck, and I've put it through its paces on a difficult dirt course and on some rocky terrain. It does work, and those many terrain modes also function well to optimize the traction available for the driver. What I'm concerned about is the reliance on too much tech because off-road is a difficult challenge on the mechanical parts... and even more so on the electronics.
This is the way that Ford is going for the Ranger Wildtrak and it's the same for the new-generation Everest. These trucks are great, and I think Ford priced these vehicles well. As it stands, this Wildtrak 4x4 with all the trimmings is retailing for PHP 1,875,000. That's a good price considering the level of technology available in the truck.
Personally, I would have preferred if they held back just a little bit. There's no need to use a new gizmo on a truck just because you can. Sometimes simpler is better for the long term.