Ford Ranger 3.2 XLT (2016) Review

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Ford's Ranger has become a serious threat to the long-term dominance of the Toyota Hilux. Recently a facelift to the double cab has enhanced its appeal in anticipation of the arrival of an all-new Hilux. Do the changes go far enough?

  • Butch looks enhance leisure appeal
  • Introduces tech usually fitted to luxury SUVs
  • Strong 3.2-litre turbodiesel remains unchanged

The Ford Ranger has been somewhat of a revelation since the current generation's original launch back in 2011. Since then, the Blue Oval has climbed its way up the bakkie sales charts to compete with the mighty Hilux for leadership status. Ford made the most of its growth opportunity in the leisure bakkie market, where the affordable 2.2-diesel double cab has been a massive hit, and one of the country's top-selling vehicles overall. Well equipped, sturdy and endowed with appealing square-jawed looks, the Ranger continued to sell up a storm, even when its upgrade was imminent. The long-awaited facelift happened late last year, perhaps strategically for Ford to get a jump on the latest Hilux. In this test, we get to grips with the new 3.2 XLT double cab.

Interested in the other Ranger models? Then head here.

What’s new?

Ford seems determined to attract the lion's share of leisure buyers in the bakkie segment. A proper, touchscreen infotainment system has made it into the upgraded bakkie and is identical to what you'll find in several of Ford's other recent introductions, including the Mustang. Buyers with families will be interested to know that the facelift has introduced a number of additional safety systems such as lane keeping alert, lane keeping aid, adaptive cruise control with forward alert, tyre pressure monitoring system, a driver impairment monitor, as well as front and rear park assist.

The styling has also undergone some revisions, which is most notable from the front. The grille is the most eye-catching feature. It looks very American with its new, err, big face, and Ford offers it in bold chrome (as illustrated here), black or grey, depending on model derivative.

Powertrain

The 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel (the most powerful engine in the lineup) and is unchanged from the previous model. It delivers 147 kW and 470 Nm of torque, making it very suitable for towing (braked trailers of up to 3 500 kg). The load bay is also capable of carrying loads of up to 938 kg; its dimensions are: 1 549 mm (length) by 1 560 mm (width) and 511 mm (depth). The load space sits at the bigger end of the current double-cab market.

The engine and six-speed automatic gearbox work well together too. The Ranger can hold onto gears for a bit longer than expected, but that doesn’t detract too much from the overall refinement. In town the throttle can feel a bit slow to react and then jerky once it does, which can become tiring.

Fuel consumption is claimed at 8.9 L/100km, but during its tenure with us we saw 10.8 L/100km on the readout, covering a mix of long distance and town driving.

Interior comfort

Leather-upholstered seats are standard on XLT models and there is a multitude of storage spaces around the cabin. Ford's Sync2 eight-inch touchscreen interface offers Bluetooth and can play various types of user media from CD, SD, USB (two ports) and auxiliary devices. The system is quite simple to use, especially if you utilise the voice-activation function, which you can to operate almost every feature within the system. The instrument panel is adaptable to the driver's requirements, so all the digital information displayed around the analogue speedometer can be personalised to what you want to see.

You have to upgrade to the Wildtrak model if you want all the advanced systems offered in the Ranger range. This XLT model is well-specced (rear parking sensors and a rear camera are standard, for example), but it doesn't include the lane keeping aid, lane departure warning and the driver alert system. 

Ride comfort

As is the case with all bakkies in South Africa, the Ranger is still based on a ladder-frame chassis so you have to expect a firm ride as part of that package. In America, some leisure-oriented double cabs have started to adopt a more refinement-oriented unibody construction... That said, the Ranger’s ride quality is not as annoyingly bouncy as those of other bakkies out there, with the exception of the Volkswagen Amarok. The Ranger doesn’t make you hold your breath and brace every time you crest a speedbump and it certainly doesn’t buck you like a rodeo bull when the unloaded rear end has to deal with the same bump. If you’re looking to hit the dirt tracks then the Ranger can be shifted from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive and low range with the simple twist of a knob next the gear lever. Ford sells the Ranger replete with a free off-roading course to help you learn the ins and outs of the bakkie’s off-road capabilities.

Verdict

The revised Ford Ranger improves on what has proven to be a very successful recipe for a leisure-orientated bakkie. It is safer with a host of new crash mitigation technologies and it’s also more technically capable with the full Sync2 infotainment system. The top spec 3.2-litre turbodiesel engine is extremely strong and capable when it comes to loading and towing trailers, caravans or 3 500 kg of whatever. The ride is good for a bakkie and the interior comfort hides its agricultural underpinnings rather well. It’s certainly a step forward from what already was South Africa’s best leisure bakkie. The Hilux however, has just arrived on the local market, and first impressions of the newcomer are good – the Toyota has seemingly lifted its game considerably in the cabin finish, refinement and comfort stakes. Seems like a comparison test is what's called for... watch this space.

Read our first impressions of the new Toyota Hilux here.

Ford Ranger Pricing in SA

The 3.2-litre double cab XLT retails for R566 900 and comes with a 4-year/120 000 km warranty and a 5-year/100 000 km service plan. For full pricing on all the Ranger models click here.

Team opinions

"The new Ford Ranger is an improved product and the leisure buyer will be pleased with the increased levels of comfort and safety. This 3.2 XLT derivative delivers good ride quality and there's sufficient power in the bank when needed. The interior is pleasantly comfortable too. If sales are anything to go by, the new Ranger will continue to prove tough to beat in the local bakkie market." Gero Lilleike

We like: Powerful engine with a smooth gearbox, SUV comfort levels and tech

We don’t like: Jerky throttle in town, thirst in the city

Also consider: Toyota Hilux, VW Amarok, Isuzu KB

Compare the Ford Ranger 3.2 XLT with the new Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 Raider and Isuzu KB300D-Teq LX here

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