THERE'S an old saying in the bush the bigger the vehicle, the smaller the obstacle.
It's an adage that could well have been written for Ford's second-generation Ranger.
- IN A WORD
- Make: Ford
- Model: Ranger XLT 4WD
- Price: $53,390
- Road test: JOHN PARRY
In size, muscle, on and off-road ability, equipment, towing ability, handling, comfort and convenience, the Ranger raises the bar for both work and play.
And it's ahead of the game in safety.
The XLT crew cab four-wheel drive on test came with stability control, six airbags, anti-skid brakes, roll-over mitigation, hill-start assist, traction control and trailer sway control.
New from the ground up and longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, it is big, but not bulky, and tough, but not tiring, with a smart but sensible interior.
It is easy to drive, comfortable and confident, has a long list of useful features inside and out and will tow a class-leading 3.35 tonnes.
The XLT comes with the most powerful engine in the range. The 3.2-litre, five-cylinder turbo-diesel produces an impressive 147kW and 470Nm of torque, or 21kW and 127Nm more than the market-leading HiLux.
When working, the engine emits a gruff but subdued growl, and it cruises quietly on the open road, pulling 1900rpm at 100km/h in sixth.
Fuel use on test was 8.8l/100km overall and 7.4l/100km when touring.
The six-speed manual (on test) has widely spaced ratios offering more than one gear for any occasion.
Unloaded, it would pull away in second and could be split-shifted (1-3-5 or 2-4-6 or any combination) without protest.
First gear is a low 19.3:1 to give strong step-off under load in high range and the ability to creep along in first gear and idle off without stalling in second.
Off road, the Ranger has the grunt, clearance and wheel travel to clamber over and through most obstacles, even with the basic-looking towbar attached.
Again, the gear ratios provide a wide choice. Four-low is a stump puller and able to crawl along at a little above idle and reel in momentum on steep descents almost down to stall speed.
Hill-descent control is speed adjustable using the cruise control buttons. It will operate with the transmission in neutral, though it takes a bit of bravado to try it on steep descents.
Shifting from 2H to 4H to 4L and back again was trouble free, but the gear-shift lever on the test car remained sticky even with 8000km on the clock.
A shift indicator encourages the driver to shift into a higher gear for optimum economy, though in practice it soon becomes second nature.
The suspension compromise is as good as you'll find in this class, with acompliant ride and disciplined handling.
Inside, the cabin is long and wide with generous head, leg and hip room, quality trim and a host of storage bins. The dash is clear, logical and intuitive and the main dials are easy to read.
Large rear doors on the crew cab open wide and give easy access to the well-padded seats, which have a decent rake on the backrest, class-leading leg room and storage bins underneath.
Attention to detail includes Bluetooth with voice control, aero-designed mirrors to cut wind noise, a subtle lip on the tailgate to reduce drag and side airbags with pressure sensors in the doors that "hear" a potential crash before panels start to deform.
On the practical side, the exterior is easy to clean with no stuck-on bits - the wheel arches are built in like a HiLux, not added on like a Navara or Amarok.
The tub is equal in volume to the Amarok, but is deeper and narrower. It has six tie-down points, each rated to 750kg, and a recessed 12v socket and drink holders in the tailgate.
On paper, the $53,990 XLT crew cab diesel manual is $2400 more than the comparable SR5 HiLux and doesn't come with the SR5's standard satellite navigation.
However, the extra equipment in the Ford more than compensates.
The biggest problem for the Ranger is getting here.
Supply problems in Thailand continue to frustrate Ford. The first shipments were all dual cabs. And though some single cabs have since arrived, the bulk of the single and super cabs won't arrive until April-May.
When the rollout is finally complete, there will be 20 models - two petrol and eight diesel in 2WD, and 10 4WD all diesel.