First drive of the new tough truck from Ford, the Ranger; both 2.2-litre and 3.2-litre engines with 150bhp and 200bhp. Keep on truckin'!

First drive: New, 2012 Ford Ranger pick-up truck

Monday, 6 February 2012 4:32 PM

2012 Ford Ranger

The new-for-2012 Ford Ranger pulls off that tough truck style, and backs it up with off-road grunt and on-road comfort

The all-new, 2012 Ford Ranger pick-up truck doesn’t share one common part with the old one and, depending on your taste in all things trucky; that might be a good thing. The Ranger of yesterday was mechanically sound ‘n’ solid, though some might say a tad challenged in the looks department. But not any more!

The new Ranger’s got that tough truck look with a fresh, angular and aggressive new front-end – that much is pleasantly obvious – but there’s much to discover under the taught new skin, too. Modern Duratorq TDCi diesel power, automatic and manual transmission choices, serious towing power and a raft of new mud-plugging driver-aiding electronics, all converge to take the 4×4-fight to the competition.

So, with a mixture of hills, mud, water and tarmac laid ahead like a perilous pick ‘n’ mix of horsepower-sapping surfaces, it’s time to test new Ranger’s metal.


First impressions:
The UK-established Japanese trucks – Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara and Toyota Hilux – mostly rule the truckin’ roost, and now the newest kid on the muddy block; VW’s new Amarok, has hit the market hard.

Picking your next new truck on looks alone isn’t likely, but at least now the Ford Ranger has levelled the aesthetics playing field.

Three cab styles will be offered; Double, Super and Regular, and four trim levels; XL, XLT, Limited and Wildtrack. Today, I’ll be trying out the double cab five-seater in both XLT and Wildtrack trims, powered by the 2.2-litre (150bhp) and 3.2-litre (200bhp) engines, with 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmissions. On the rough and on the road.


Into the interior:
Trucks have to do it all these days; from hauling bricks to shopping trips, so interior space must be large and tough, yet well-appointed.

Climbing into the new Ranger and it’s immediately obvious that this is a much more of a car-like affair, with a familiar latest Ford look to it.

Firstly, the top-of-the-range Wildtrack interior greets me with full leather, sat-nav, rear parking camera and a decent amount of space. VW’s Amarok, the most recent newcomer to the truck market, has the most spacious and well-packaged interior of any truck I’ve tried recently; if a little bland-looking, and the Ranger feels about as airy inside as the Amarok.

This £28k Wildtrack truck gets some quality-feeling leather, a modern look and layout to the controls, some slightly too-hard-touch plastics and plenty of adjustment to the driver’s seat. Only tilt adjustment to the steering wheel, though.

The XLT sits lower down the trim tree than Wildtrack and looses out on the leather, sat-nav and camera, but still enjoys MP3 compatible Bluetooth stereo, cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers, air-con, and that all-important adjustment to the driver’s seat, for a sniff over £23k.


The 3.2-litre 200bhp TDCi drive:
Straight into the wilderness behind the wheel of the Wildtrack Ranger, with a 5-cylinder, 3.2-litre, 200bhp and 470Nm (torque) turbodiesel motor under the hood; all wrapped up in £480-worth of optional Wildtrack Orange metallic paint over 18-inch “machined” alloys.
I’ll try not to scratch it!

The 6-speed manual gearbox in this Ranger is firm and snicky to use and all the foot controls feel about right at “medium” weight, and most importantly the 5-cylinder engine spins up with peak torque from low in the rev-range; 1700rpm, to be exact.

We’re off-road and the going is pretty slippery and we’re on road-biased tyres, but the grip and torque, I can feel, are there to use. This isn’t a Paris – Dakar monster truck; more a farmer’s, plumber’s or builder’s tool, and I could imagine it ploughing through mud and water (up to 80cm) with ease, and that class-leading towing power of up to 3,350kg (with a braked trailer) is surely impressive to those that heavy-haul. It’ll carry around 1,340kg in the back, too.

New Ranger’s electronics allow you to switch between high- and low-ratio transmission while on the move, and there’s the usual two- or four-wheel drive options. Less usual – and more modern – are electronic traction control and hill descent systems that help keep the engine’s big torque under control. The idea is that the new Ranger is easier and safer to drive, regardless of your 4×4 experience. Although, to make best use of its off-road skills, new owners should read the handbook to learn the switches.

On the road and the bigger Ranger motor hauls the (unloaded) truck off the line with gusto (10.3secs to 62mph), and a nice whoosh from the turbo, with both the manual and 6-speed automatic gearboxes suiting the versatile engine’s characteristics nicely. Unless I was considering a serious off-road life for my new Ranger, I’d go for the auto – it makes driving this truck a totally relaxing experience. Ford quote a combined economy figure of 29.7mpg and 249g/km of CO2 (manual) and 27.1mpg and 274g/km of CO2 (automatic), all in Double Cab trim.

On-tarmac suspension behaviour is as enjoyable as the engine is torquey with very little truck “shake and shimmy” evident as I haul up to 70mph down winding empty back lanes. Yes, it’s not totally car-like – coil suspension up front, leaf springs out back – but I for one don’t want a truck to feel totally like a car, but I do want it to feel calm and in control over bumps and the new Ranger feels refined to the right level here.


The 2.2-litre 150bhp TDCi drive:
The 3.2-litre might be the king of the torquey-jungle with its 470Nm of thump, but unless you’re really hauling some heft you might not even notice the difference, as the 2.2-litre with 375Nm of torque makes a strong enough name for itself.

Again, the 6-speed manual gearbox felt firmly accurate – there is an automatic too – and unladen acceleration was decent. I even switched off the traction and pulled a few donuts on some gravel, where the engine torque dispensed with the traction with ease and the modern chassis kept quiet control of the sideways situation. It was a lot of fun, but don’t tell Ford!

The 2.2-litre motor, again in Double Cab trim, with 150bhp – 125bhp is also available – is quoted by Ford to deliver 33.2mpg on the combined economy test, and emits 224g/km of CO2. The 2.2 also enjoyed its bigger brother’s smooth and composed on-road manners.


Ten second sum up:
The new, 2012 Ford Ranger not only looks the part, it goes the part, too – both on- and off-road. The Ranger has the Japanese trucks firmly in its sights and at last has the style to compete, and pound-for-pound, price-wise, its modern take on technology and customer-researched equipment levels might just deliver what modern truck-users want.


Prices and availability:
The new Ford Ranger range starts at £15,515 for the Regular Cab XL 4×2 2.2 TDCi 125PS and rises to £25,040 for the Double Cab Wildtrack 3.2 TDCi Automatic. Prices do not include VAT. Available now.

Words & pics: Daniel Anslow / Ford

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