Is this what the final version of the current-gen Ford Ranger will look like? Incorporating recent updates made to the Thailand-made Ranger (which aligns the bakkie's appearance with SA-spec Thunder derivatives), this striking 2021 Wildtrak X version for the Aussie market sets up the Blue Oval's final sales push for its outgoing bakkie.
Set to be launched Down Under early in 2021, the Wildtrak X is, like local Thunder versions, available in 3.2-litre 5-cylinder turbodiesel and 2.0-litre 4-cylinder bi-turbodiesel guises, in combination with 6-speed- and 10-speed automatic transmission respectively. We recently reported that Ford Thailand had given the Ranger a quick update and, seeing as that's the country from which Australia imports its Rangers, the Wildtrak X, which sits between the standard Wildtrak and below the range-topping Raptor, incorporates those visual tweaks and, of course, is laced with extra features.
A plethora of black accents contrasts tastefully with the orange metallic exterior finish. Note the standard nudge- and light bars.
The Ranger Wildtrak X features the Thunder's black grille, replete with two "nostrils" (located at the outer edges of the surround), only in the case of the Aussie bakkie, they're accented in orange, not red. The Ford double cab's headlights are Bi-LED units, augmented with a 20.5-inch slimline LED Light Bar mounted on a black nudge bar (these don't feature on the Thunder either). However, like the South African special edition, it features 18-inch black alloy wheels (with a 35-mm offset), matched with similarly coloured wheel-arch flares, fender garnishes, mirror caps, door handles, running boards, roof rails, a sports/roll bar (with orange, not red accents). Which wore it best, though... The Wildtrak X or the Thunder?
The Wildtrak X also features a roller shutter (Ford calls it the "Wildtrak cargo area management system with side rails"), but, as opposed to the South African special edition, it's electrically powered and can be controlled by either the key, a button in the load bin or a switch on the dash.
The orange band on the sports/roll bar is an acquired taste, but no worse than the red band on the Ranger Thunder...
Inside, the Wildtrak X features additional (derivative-specific) orange detailing on the seats, as well as extra leather accents on the side bolsters. As in the Thunder, illuminated scuff plates on the front door sills provide additional visual impact when the front occupants step into the bakkie's cabin.
Given that Toyota recently beefed-up the line-up of its Hilux range, including a cosmetic update, a more powerful 2.8-litre turbodiesel motor, a suspension retune and an upgraded infotainment system, we'd be very surprised if Ford doesn't raise its game further in the run-up to the replacement of this, the T6 Ranger, whose successor will be produced at FMCSA's Silverton production facility in late 2021 or early 2022.
ICYMI: Toyota Hilux (2020) Review (including video)
The Wildtrak X needs to strive through the desolate Outback at night, which is why the light bar is particularly handy.
Just last month, Ford's local subsidiary beefed up its XL-specification Ranger (single-, super- and double-cab versions) with attractive options to consider, including a Sport Pack and an optional 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
The extent of the competition that the Ford Ranger will face over the next 12 to 18 months (if not a little longer) is now much clearer; GWM will shortly introduce its P-Series bakkie in South Africa and next year, the facelifted Nissan Navara (to be produced in Rosslyn) and all-new Mazda BT-50 will debut, followed in 2022 by the Isuzu D-Max, which will be built in Port Elizabeth. Renault and Peugeot are also readying bakkies for SA.
Ford SA's most deliberate ploy to keep the Ranger top-of-mind is the Thunder special edition, but there should be more to come.
Both the Wildtrak X and the Thunder are packed with technology; the SYNC3 infotainment system boasts Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and, safety-wise, Ford’s full suite of Driver Assist Technology features is fitted. This includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise- and hill-descent control, hill-launch assist, electronic diff lock, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and active park assist.
The biggest tech difference is that the Wildtrack X additionally features FordPass Connect "connected car" technology, which pairs with the FordPass smartphone app to unlock new connected services and remote vehicle functions to simplify the Ranger ownership experience.
Will some or many of the Wildtrak X and Thunder accoutrements be rolled out to the rest of the Ranger range soon? Watch this space.
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