Ford Ranger Wildtrak: long-term test review

First report: our award-winning Ford Ranger truck has been thrown in at the deep end

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Verdict

The Ranger has already proved to be an impressive piece of kit, thanks to its strong engine and great manners on the road. It once again proves that trucks like this are perfect if you need a vehicle that combines comfort with load-lugging durability.

  • Mileage: 891
  • Economy: 31.0mpg

Sod’s Law was truly in play over the past few months, because, after years of running pick-ups on the Auto Express long-term fleet, when I moved house recently I was between trucks. As a result, all those trips to the recycling centre with the clutter built up after decades of product testing, motorsport and living in a house had to be tackled in the family SUV, and the interior trim is still bearing the scars.

For load lugging there is little to beat a pick-up, with its near-indestructible load bed and car-like interior for more delicate items. So collecting our Ford Ranger, the magazine’s current pick-up of choice, from dealer manager Simon Lewis at Gates of Harlow FordStore in Essex couldn’t come soon enough. And even though the house move has been completed, I’ve a packed programme of track days and speed events planned for the rest of the year.

I wasted no time putting the Wildtrak to work hitching up my trailer and Caterham Seven racer for a track day at Brands Hatch after less than 24 hours on the fleet.

Even before I hit the road, I was appreciating the advantages of a pick-up for this sort of activity. All the dirty, smelly bits are carried in a separate space designed to be knocked about a bit. So spare wheels and tyres are not on the back seat, but in the load bed and they don’t need to be kept in bags to protect upholstery. Fuel and filling kit is also out of the way, keeping the interior free from the whiff of super unleaded.

Loading isn’t so easy with the high-set load bed, but once everything is in and pushed to the bulkhead, there’s a fair bit more space to play with than in most SUVs.

On the road there’s a really solid feel to the Ranger. The steering is well weighted, but not heavy, although the tight confines of where my cars and trailer are stored has exposed a pretty large turning circle.

Our Wildtrak is fitted with the 210bhp 2.0 EcoBlue twin-turbo diesel, so it never seems like it is working hard, even when towing. While less-powerful trucks can do the job, they always need lots of throttle and high revs. This isn’t the case in the Ranger. My relatively lightweight trailer and cars keep the braked towing weight below the Ford’s 3,500kg maximum, and the truck purrs up hills with a touch of extra throttle, usually without the need to drop a gear.

The 10-speed automatic transmission sorts itself out pretty well, and I’ve yet to find it hunting for the correct gear. While not bad for a truck, the transmission isn’t the smoothest, as on a light throttle the up changes can just be felt. Ratios can also be selected via a button on the side of the shifter, but I’ve not found the need to use it yet.

The cabin spec is largely as you’d find on many SUVs. I’ve still to explore all the features, but it has Apple CarPlay, which delivers what I need from an infotainment system – sat-nav, sounds and phone. There’s a mass of features to still discover, but Ford’s system is one I’m not that familiar with, so navigating around it has been less than intuitive.

Apart from the standard kit, we’ve added a few options. According to sales executive Noel Quinn, our truck’s £600 Sea Grey metallic paint is the most popular for the Ranger. It certainly looks good with the £120 Boulder Grey 18-inch wheels. With plenty of experience of pick-up truck accessories, a hard top is essential, so the Ranger has one fitted at a cost of £1,920, while the essential Trailer Tow Pack is £480. We added a hitch drop plate, too, so that the trailer runs level with the tow ball height, rather than nose-up.

There’s also the Driver Assistance pack with park (£1,380) that brings adaptive cruise control, driver alerts and auto high beam. It also adds active park assist. The adaptive cruise works well on motorways, but it could be quicker to respond when traffic speeds up.

The first few days with a new car usually brings an “I’m not keen on that” moment, but I’ve yet to have one with the Ranger. Let’s hope that continues.

Model:Ford Ranger 2.0 EcoBlue Wildtrak auto
On fleet since:July 2021
Price new:£40,616 (£45,116)
Engine:2.0-litre 4cyl, twin-turbodiesel, 210bhp
CO2/tax:242g/km/£275
Options:Sea Grey metallic paint (£600), Boulder Grey alloy wheels (£120), Driver Assistance Pack with Park (£1,380), Load Box Hard Top Canopy (£1,920), Trailer Tow Pack (£480)
Insurance:Group: 42
Mileage:891
Economy:31.0mpg
Any problems?None so far

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