Several times I have visited the USA and to the Southern States in particular, where on every occasion I was amazed to discover the number of pick-ups. It seems that all ages are in love with this vehicle. We mainly associate them with work and much less as a leisure vehicle, but it certainly seems the other way round on the other side of the Atlantic.
This brings me to my latest test drive- the Ford Ranger which suits all tastes. In the early days of motoring, such vehicles were sold as a chassis only, and third parties added bodies on top, then in 1913, the Galion Allsteel Body Company, an early developer of the pickup and dump truck, built and installed hauling boxes on slightly modified Ford Model T chassis. Seeking part of this market share, Dodge introduced a 3/4-ton pickup with cab and body constructed entirely of wood in 1924 and in 1925, Ford followed up with a Model T-based, steel-bodied, half-ton with an adjustable tailgate and heavy-duty rear springs, this was billed as the Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body, it sold well and 34,000 were built. In 1928, it was replaced by the Model A which had a closed-cab, safety-glass windshield, roll-up side windows and three-speed transmission. Then in 1931, Chevrolet produced its first factory-assembled pickup and the rest is history as they say. No doubt the pick-up, a vehicle with many personalities, and Ford has the new Ranger which fits the bill. The latest version delivers more power, greater fuel-efficiency, enhanced refinement and advanced driver assistance technologies, as I discovered when I spent a week with a Wildtrak version.
Providing the power is a very efficient two litre EcoBlue diesel engine with selective catalytic reduction for optimised emissions, delivering up to a nine per cent fuel-efficiency improvement when combined with an advanced new ten speed automatic transmission. This powerful Bi-turbo version of the two litre EcoBlue engine delivers an impressive 213 PS and 500 Nm of torque, up by 13 PS and 30 Nm compared with the 3.2 litre TDCi diesel for greater load-hauling capability. With the Ranger comes choice, Regular Cab, Super Cab, and Double Cab body styles and of course no surprise, the new Wildtrak.
Ford’s SYNC 3 connectivity and FordPass Connect on-board modem technology head up the technology package. It’s the first vehicle in its class to offer Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and Intelligent Speed Limiter as standard. Active Park Assist is now also available, in addition to the existing range of advanced driving technologies designed to make driving less stressful and to help avoid or mitigate the effects of collisions. In real terms the version I tested had most of the creature comforts of a luxury saloon, my how the world of the pick-up has moved on. Double Cab, high-power new Ranger variants now feature Active Noise Control technology for improved refinement and range topping Ranger Wildtrak and luxurious Ranger Limited versions offer new premium features, including an easy-lift tailgate. Those who buy the Ranger to be used primarily as a workhorse will discover class-leading ability to wade through water up to 800 mm deep, and enjoy 230 mm of ground clearance. This Ford pick-up is clearly designed and engineered to comfortably handle extreme terrain. A 29 degree approach angle and 21 degree departure angle enable drivers to feel confident when taking on steep obstacles and off-road capability is matched by towing capability of up to 3,500 kg and payload capacity of up to 1,252 kg. We all like our mode of transport to have lots of appeal and the Wildtrak which I tested was not lacking in such. A strong on road presence with a revised front bumper design and a new grille, the central horizontal bar now split along its length into two slim sections. New premium colour options include Diffused Silver and Blue Lightning, and higher-series versions feature premium xenon headlamps and LED daytime running lights. Moving to the interior or some may see it as their office, it is comfortable with car-like features; the ten speed automatic transmission features a more upscale gear-selector knob. The Wildtrak stands out from the rest of the Ranger family with a special Saber Orange exterior colour, and a contrasting unique dark, titanium-effect finish for the trapezoidal grille and distinctive outboard air-intakes. The same titanium-effect accent colour continues to the side mirrors, door handles, side air vents and load-bed rails, for a bold and sporty appearance and the interior delivers a more upscale, sporting appeal; featuring dark-satin chrome elements, a gloss-finish decorative spear and upscale partial-leather seats embossed with Wildtrak graphics. Once onboard, there is a decided feel of security and the car-like controls aid in delivering a very enjoyable drive experience. My week with the Ranger allowed me to see now more clearly the value in owning a pick-up and I have to admit I am now a fan.