Last month, Ford sold over 600 Rangers in the Philippines, a testament to the health of the pick-up truck market in the country.
The Ranger has always been one of Ford's best-sellers just behind the EcoSport compact crossover. As someone who's never driven a pick-up over (extra) long distances, I was curious as to why the Ranger has been snapped up by many since it's launch in 2011. It was time to find out what makes the Ranger such a huge seller in the country.
The model you see here is the updated 2015 model, and Ford sent us all the way to Caramoan to put its pick-up truck through its paces. Ahead of us lay almost 180 kilometers of on and off-road driving in the province. To put the Ranger to the test, Ford had decided to set up an off-road trail to the foot of Mayon Volcano. More on that later.
Our meeting point was at Ford Manila Bay and we were shuttled to the airport for the seaplane ride to Caramoan. Once there, Ford paraded twelve 2015 Rangers in front of us, and boy does it look sharp. With a more aggressive grill and a clamshell hood, it would appear that the updated Ranger was ready to take on whatever we were about to throw at them. With five mountain ranges to cover, we had to get going before it got dark.
We left the starting point at around 10:45 AM to start the three hour on-road stint. “On-road” for this trip however was a relative term because the road was so pock-marked, it could eat up small sedans for breakfast. With the Ranger's suspension however, we were breezing through the “pavement” thanks to its re-engineered electronic power steering.
The winding road was not just filled with craters either. We had to go through low-traction uphill hairpins and S-bends thoughout the drive. On the road, the Ranger was surprisingly capable as I noticed myself smiling when I nailed corners just right. Sure, it's no Mustang but this is probably one of the better handling trucks around, never feeling wayward and stayed planted despite the road's repeated attempts to upset the chassis. I was behind the wheel of the 2.2 liter 4x2 Wildtrak and I never saw the stability control panic. The only times the traction control kicked in was on dusty, uphill hairpins.
This thing is tough. We were driving on the pock-marked roads like we were driving sedans. We took the bumps at (reasonable) speeds and not a single rattle or squeak came from the Ranger. After about 80 kilometers of rough roads, the remaining 90 kilometers we much smoother as we approached Mayon. At this point, I started to see why people love their Rangers. It's was car-like enough to drive on well-paved winding roads as if it were a Focus. During overtaking the surge from the 2.2 Duratorq reminded me of the 2.0 TDCI Focus from back in the day.
After a break, off-road guru Beeboy Bargas made an appearance which signalled the part where things were about to get tougher: It was time to trail to the foot of Mayon. He soon explained that we will be driving though volcanic ash which was finer than sand. After preparing ourselves, it was time to hop in the top-spec 4x4 model, the Wildtrak 3.2 Duratorq.
After a light trail, it was time to switch the trucks into 4-Low for the inclines and better control for the uphill sections. We crossed streams and made good use of and the punchy Duratorq and the Hill-Descent Control feature. Volcanic ash was no joke. Walking on it made me wish my legs had traction control as I found myself sinking my feet in volcano dust. Even the Rangers could sink in the ash if you lose momentum, but it's no problem if you maintained a certain speed.
The trail soon got a lot more difficult as we drove though mounds of ash and dried up lava. Again, the Ranger sailed though, making this a very easy truck to drive off-road for a beginner. With the help of 4-Lo and the torque-rich TDCI diesel, we were going where few pickups or SUVs has gone before: the base of Mount Mayon. It may have been more suited for ATV's and dirt bikes but the Ranger just kept going. When we stopped for the photo-op, all seven 4x4 Rangers were covered in ash and not a single one got stuck.
It was soon time to head back to our stop for the night, Misibis Bay. It was time to rest up and gather up all the thoughts and impressions from the day's drive. This truck has impressed me a lot and it became clear to me why the Ranger has all the makings of a best-seller. It can take on the daily grind with ease after the amount of abuse we put on the trucks. It can take you to breathtaking views and get you close to nature with little fear of getting it stuck. It's a consummate all-rounder with car-like comfort and tough truck durability.
The Ford Ranger is like the diver's watch of the automotive world. It's hugely capable for you to bring it on adventures and stylish for you to wear on a daily basis. With the Ranger taking on Mayon, Ford's new truck is more than ready to take on the many new challengers in the pick-up class.