Review: Ford Ranger Wildtrak

Pros

  • Fuel efficient 2L diesel w/ 10-speed auto

  • Stylish functionality

  • Renown off-road handling

Cons 

  • No memory seats

  • Shifters on steering wheel in sports mode

There is a good reason why utes are now the top choice for Queenslanders, with the Ford Ranger on third spot in the top ten most sold cars in the state.

Sales of family-friendly utilities are skyrocketing because they offer the best of both worlds: practicality and luxury, loading capacity and comfort, rough looks and refinement.

The Wildtrak is a perfect example of this combination with it’s masculine and aggressive looks, coupled with a stylish interior, fitted with every luxury imaginable. It’s quiet and fuel efficient, but nonetheless powerful and boosts plenty of torque. Whether you park it on your worksite or in your garage, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak feels at home.

 

Initial Impression

Park the new Ford Ranger Wildtrak next to the old one and you won’t notice much difference in their appearance. Same styling, stickers, details and even the same rims. It’s the grill that has been split in two which gives the update away. And the new headlights, where the chrome strip has been replaced with an LED-light bar. Very smart integration by Ford. The fog lights also look slightly different, giving the Wildtrak a somewhat friendlier look. This might sound counter intuitive because most cars get a more aggressive styling when a new model is introduced, but the Ranger still has enough presence and a good stance to look the part of a sturdy ute.

Inside, you right away notice that the matt interior panels have made way for glossy ones. It’s a taste thing whether you like it or not, but it sure looks more flashy.  The seat got the exact opposite treatment, going from flashy orange with ribbed leather parts to a more conservative, smooth black leather with subtle orange stitching.

As this is the only main thing that changed in the new Wildtrak, we think that Ford understood more people weren’t too happy with the ‘eye-catching’ interior. Otherwise, they must have thought to not change a winning concept too much, keeping the same 8-inch screen, solid buttons and gauge cluster. A wise choice.

 

Driveability

Think of driving a ute and the first thought that pops in mind it probably a rough, noisy ride without any steering feel or handling. Nothing could be less true for the new Ford Ranger Wildtrak. It’s surprisingly quiet. Much of this is due to the already good sound deadening, but the change from the 3.2L diesel that has been in the Ranger since its first generation to a 2L bi-turbo diesel (delivering 157kW of power and 500Nm of torque) also definitely helps.

Talking about the engine, it’s a pleasure to drive. Enough torque to get off its feet or tow up to 3.5 tonne, yet it feels like you’re driving an suv – so smooth.   At no point, even when accelerating hard, did it feel troubled. The powerband is equally smooth delivered through the new 10-speed automatic gearbox. Put it in sport and you get a bit snappier response and some more revs, but we didn’t feel there was any need to do so.

As the Ranger has proven in the past – but we unfortunately didn’t get to test – it’s still one of the most impressive performing utes in the dirt as well. Locking diff, Hill Descent Control, 4x4 shift-on-the-fly and 800mm wading are just a few aspects that accentuate this clearly. This means that whether you drive in comfort on the road or push the Wildtrak to its limits off-road, we know you can count on it to get you home.

Where several (safety) features were part of a technology pack in the previous Wildtrak, things like lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and active park assist (plus reversing camera) now come standard. They’re definitely a welcome addition when looking at this ute to replace your suv to haul your family around and safety is of the utmost importance. We didn’t worry knowing the Wildtrak now also has auto-emergency braking and kept its 5-star ANCAP rating. At the same time, the road sign recognition kept us safe from speeding fines.

Liveability

The cabin of the Ford Ranger Wildtrak is a nice place to be. Not just for ute standards, but in general. It starts with the keyless entry and push-button start, which just make life a lot easier and should be standard on any car actually. The leather feels durable, but at the same time, comfortable. The heated seats will probably not be used much in Queensland, but are a nice extra. Ford didn’t change much in the interior, so the 8-inch screen is still in the same spot supporting Sync 3, which seamlessly connects with your phone. The navigation is also easy to use and has a smart ‘breadcrumbs’ feature to retrace your steps off-road.

An issue for many utes is the rear seat. Though good if you have small children that use their own seat, they become uncomfortable quick for anybody out of preschool because of the straight back. In the Wildtrak this is no different, but because of the plush filling of the seat, you can actually make yourself comfortable in the back as well. There’s plenty of space if you don’t go for the super cab, which in return gives you 30cm more cargo space in the tray. This space is now also more easily accessible because the tailgate comes with something Ford calls ‘life assistance’. What feels like a lighter tailgate – requiring 70% less effort to close – is actually nothing more than a spring doing the lifting for you. No sacrifice in quality or material and nothing mechanical that can break; just a well designed help.

Now if you think that all this comfort or driving aid makes the Wildtrak less rough, you’re wrong. Inside the controls still feels solid, the buttons sturdy and the steering wheel strong. Everything – from the cup holders to the handbrake – is in the right place, made out of durable plastic and gives you the feeling it can be man-handled on-the-go. The small storage area in the centre console is deep enough so bits and bops don’t fly out; the door pockets big enough for a work folder. Practicality with style.

 

Cost

The Ford Ranger comes in a lot of shapes and sizes. There is a lot of choice in drivetrain, engine and fit out. What starts out around $30k as a 4x2 single cab chassis with the 2.2L diesel, can be lifted for $6000 extra. Add a cab and you’re looking at the $40k range. The 4x2 XLT double cab with the 3.2L diesel puts you in the mid-$50k area. Any Ranger with 4WD starts in the mid-$40k, though the Wildtrak is best compared with the 4x4 XLT double cab with a 2L diesel, which sits in the mid-$60k.

Add a bit of change and you’ll find yourself in the 4x4 Wildtrak double cab with the 3.2L diesel and 6-speed automatic gearbox. The one we drove though was fitted with the 2L diesel and 10-speed auto (don’t be fooled by the smaller engine size for a premium, the bi-turbo delivers more power with better fuel efficiency) and sets you back almost $70k. Since we really liked the extra power, smooth delivery and got the fuel consumption down to 8L/100km, we definitely know which one to pick.

 

Conclusion

When you’re considering replacing your suv with a ute because of its practicality, but were afraid to sacrifice comfort, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak comes along as the answer. It literally offers the best of both worlds, with a smooth and quiet ride enjoyed from your leather seats, to an easy to operate tailgate leading to a spacious tray. Even your rear passengers can enjoy some form of comfort unknown to traditional utes. Since its DNA hasn’t changed, the Ranger still performs sublime off-road, yet you can now enjoy that with a warm bottom and be certain you’re drive home afterwards is as safe as it can be.

Interested in a test drive? Come and see the Motorama Ford team in Moorooka. The new Ranger Wildtrak comes standard with 5 year/unlimited kilometre factory warranty.