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Would you be surprised to learn that the pick-up has been around for some one hundred years; Daimler being the first to produce such a vehicle. Ford has played a major role in the evolution of the pick-up; the first popular vehicle of this type was the Model T Runabout of 1925.

As a result of this pick-up sales across the USA spread like wildfire and it steadily gains popularity in Ireland (North and South) and around the world, it is the favoured form of transport for many. We probably see it as primarily a work vehicle, which it certainly is, but for example in the USA it is much more. There, you will find it widely used as a leisure vehicle and quite often the principal vehicle of the family. I have been very lucky on a number of occasions to visit the Deep South of the USA and there I witnessed countless numbers of such vehicles and, may I add, mainly for leisure use. Here. it is the fashion to drive a hot hatchback or a sports SUV; in the states you are very much in fashion behind the wheel of a pick-up. It’s not uncommon to witness way out custom jobs and the Americans really love their pick-ups not simply as workhorses but as leisure vehicles. Ford is a major player in this sector of the market and their Ranger line-up has proved and continues to be extremely popular.

Recently, I spent a week with a Ranger Thunder ( not available in all markets), which at first glance looks as if it has just driven off a movie set with its distinctive livery. Based on the Wildtrak, its dark grey exterior gives it a certain mean but yet purposeful look as it rides on black bespoke eighteen inch alloy wheels. A smart touch is the use of contrasting red accents around the front grille and the rear roll bar. There is no mistaking this member of the Ford pick-up family with the Thunder logo on the bottom of the doors and on the tailgate. There is a black rear bumper, skid plates, fog light surrounds and door handles and the theme is continued with the headlights and brake lights positioned in darkened bezels.

The tastefully executed interior sees the exterior theme carried over which features mainly black with sports style red stitching on the seats, steering wheel and instrument panel. Right at the heart of the Thunder is not a massive capacity engine, instead its Ford’s well tried two litre twin turbocharged Ecoblue four cylinder diesel and the manufacturer states re performance rest to 100kph (62mph) in nine seconds with a top speed of 180kph ( 112mph.) and the emissions figure is 201g/km. With over 200bhp at the command of the right foot, the Thunder is not lacking and gear changes are smooth thanks to a ten speed automatic transmission and the sport mode adds to the drive experience. A choice of drive settings enables the toughest terrain to be challenged. I have test driven a variety of such vehicles and to date, the Thunder for me comes out on top; with a very smooth drive aided by an absence of engine noise, it delivers a car-like drive feel. Even on bumpy and rough surfaces it coped well, however its not as nimble as an SUV and frankly, I didn’t expect it to be.

When it comes to towing (3,500kg nmax) and I suspect many will use the Thunder as a workhorse; on the farm, building etc the list is long. Being a double cab you have that added passenger carrying ability and still loadspace for any other task in hand. I can recall some of the early pick-ups I tested and while they were ideal for work they lacked very much in creature comforts. Not so with this Ford all of the goodies are onboard, sat nav, an excellent in vehicle entertainment system, heated seats and so the list goes on and on. While you may have hesitated at the thought of owning such a vehicle, a test drive could help make that all important decision. The Ford Ranger Thunder did present me with one of the motoring surprises of this year. All that I asked of it was accomplished, a vehicle truly for all tasks and all seasons. As is often the case with press vehicles, this Thunder had a number of options fitted; Thunder Load Bed Pack, Driver Assistance Pack with Park and Trailer Tow Pack. Looks are important when choosing a set of wheels and this member of the Ranger family has a lot of street cred. I really did enjoy my days of Thunder.

Ian Lynas