Road tests

New Ford Ranger Thunder 2021 review

Special edition Ford Ranger Thunder gives award-winning pick-up a mean and moody makeover

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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The Ranger Thunder is the ideal choice for buyers looking for a unique pick-up that offers a bit more style than a Wildtrak, but doesn’t suffer from the payload compromise experienced by the top-spec Raptor. It delivers a decent driving experience and a similar level of kit to the Wildtrak, while the black and red additions create a distinctive look for only a couple of hundred pounds more than the Wildtrak version.

We’re big fans of the Ford Ranger here at Auto Express. It’s our reigning champ in the pick-up class in our New Car Awards, and now Ford has launched the special-edition Ranger Thunder for buyers who want a truck that offers even more style.

The Thunder is based on top-spec Wildtrak trim, so it’s packed with kit but also gets some unique styling flourishes to help it stand out. Chief among these is the Sea Grey metallic paint, which is complemented by black 18-inch alloy wheels and gloss black plastic trim with red details. That includes red ‘nostrils’ for the grille, which are likely to be a love-it-or-loathe-it addition. Further back, the aero bar in the pick-up bed adds subtle red stripes and LED bed lighting, while the red Thunder badges on the doors and rear tailgate complete the exterior revisions.

Inside, the Ranger Thunder gets black leather seats with red stitching, while red thread is also added to the steering wheel, the top of the dash and the gearlever gaiter, all of which are trimmed in leather. Standard kit is the same as you’ll find on a Ranger Wildtrak, so this pick-up is as well equipped as a top-spec SUV, while cabin quality is on a par with that of a family 4x4 and far removed from the Ranger’s commercial-vehicle roots.

On the road, the Ranger Thunder is pretty accomplished. The punchy 210bhp diesel is the most powerful four-cylinder unit you’ll find in any pick-up, and while the optional 10-speed auto fitted to our truck may seem like overkill, it takes the strain out of driving.

It’s the same gearbox you’ll find in the sporty Mustang, so it isn’t overwhelmed by the Ranger’s power or 500Nm of torque, although you’ll hardly ever see it shift up into ninth or 10th, even on the motorway. It kicks down smoothly when you need more power, and it shifts up through the gears without fuss, too.

One area where the Ranger has the measure of its rivals is its ride. Many pick-ups tend to suffer from bounce, thanks to stiff rear suspension that’s set up to cope with a one-tonne payload in the bed. The Ranger still meets this weight requirement, but the suspension is less unsettled when running empty. As a result, the big Ford’s ride is nearly SUV-like in its composure. It’s not quite as resolved as the now-defunct Mercedes X-Class, but only the recently revised Toyota Hilux comes close to matching it.

The front suspension does most of the work to keep occupants comfortable. It absorbs all but the worst bumps, while the truck’s tall ride height means you’re able to cross speed bumps faster than you would in anything smaller, without having to worry about unsettling passengers.

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Overall, the Ranger Thunder is an accomplished pick-up, and it offers pretty good value, too. At £40,474, this auto model is only £234 more than a Wildtrak, and it’s nearly £10k less than a Raptor. But unlike that model, the Thunder is able to carry a one-tonne payload, so it’s still classed as a commercial vehicle.

That means road tax costs £275 – £200 less than it is for a similarly equipped 4x4 for the first five years – while Benefit In Kind costs for company car users work out to about a quarter of that for a similarly priced SUV, thanks to the flat rate that CVs enjoy.

Model: Ford Ranger 2.0 EcoBlue 213PS Thunder auto
Price: £40,474
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel
Power/torque: 210bhp/500Nm
Transmission: 10-speed auto, selectable four-wheel drive 
0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
Economy: 36.7mpg
CO2: 201g/km
On sale Now
Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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