REVIEW | The 2019 Ford Ranger Wildtrak 4x4 is a stylish hauler
Bruce Fraser uncovers an excellent all-rounder in this handsome Ford 'bakkie'
Having a look at the bakkie segment these days is like taking a peek through the window of a sweet shop – one is simply spoilt for choice.
From the small (perhaps the versatile Nissan NP200) through to the extreme (think along the lines of the Isuzu Arctic AT35 and Ford Ranger Raptor), there is a configuration for every purpose and taste.
Single cabs, twin cabs, double cabs, petrol, diesel, turbo, naturally aspirated, manual, auto, 4x2, 4x4 – there are more options than a multiple-choice question in a matric exam.
The more popular options – reflected by sales numbers – centre on double cabs where Toyota, Volkswagen and Ford pretty much have things sewn up with their Hilux, Amarok and Ranger line-ups respectively.
It is also fairly common these days for manufacturers to have various derivatives within a segment – something both Toyota and Ford are pretty adept at. Last week we had the Ford Ranger Wildtrak on test for a few days.
Admittedly in the past I have questioned the wisdom of buying a bakkie, yet its practicality and versatility is truly appreciated when you need to fetch or deliver items that simply won’t fit in to the more traditional hatchback or sedan.
We’ve all experienced those times when the new washing machine - no matter how much manoeuvring, pushing and shoving is involved - simply won’t fit in to the back of a car. Mind you, thinking about it, a trailer is also a pretty handy accessory to have.
Back to the Wildtrak. One has to remember when it comes to double cabs in general is that the space of the load bay is compromised thanks to the sedan-like cabin. In most instances – and I will get to this shortly – this is not necessarily a bad trade-off.
With a patio table, chairs, dining room set and other unconventionally-shaped items needing to be transported to KwaZulu-Natal last week, the Wildtrak couldn’t have come at a better time.
One word of advice though. When transporting goods either in a bakkie or service delivery vehicle, make sure everything is properly loaded and secure as the last thing you want is to be on the side of the road having to retie ropes. Do it properly the first time and it eliminates a lot of the stress and issues that can arise when on the open road.
Our test vehicle was equipped with a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder bi-turbo diesel engine mated with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s a particularly impressive power-plant for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I only got confirmation that this was actually a diesel when I popped the fuel cap for refuelling, as the engine is that quiet. Gone are the days when the noise generated on firing up an oil-burner first thing in the morning guaranteed waking up the neighbours. Today diesels are often as refined as petrol engines – in the noise stakes at least – and the Wildtrak is a good example of that while there is a particularly smooth delivery of the 157kW and 500Nm on offer.
Another notable improvement to the Wildtrak is a smoother ride both on-and off-road. This has been achieved with a reduction in the standard tyre pressure combined with upgrading of the damper system.
A trip to through KwaZulu-Natal can often involve some sort of drama. Over the last year I’ve witnessed everything from cash-in-transit robberies on the N3 to the looting of trucks that have either broken down or run off the road. Detours are also a regular occurrence, and I had to undertake a rather lengthy one last week when coming across service delivery protests just outsideUmbumbulu.
The police on the scene advised there was a choice - return to Pietermaritzburg and rejoin the highway or take a dirt road through the valleys and eventually emerge at the sprawling township of Umlazi before rejoining the N3 just outside Prospecton.
Behind the wheel of the Wildtrak, I obviously opted for the dirt road. I’m pleased I did because although I came across some frustratingly bad roads, I also managed to take in some magnificent scenery.
The vehicle does have 4x4 capability for when things get really challenging, but the capability of the vehicle means 4x2 mode can tackle most situations. The partial-leather seats (embossed with Wildtrak graphics and attractive orange stitching) provide suitable support for long distance hauls while the vehicle also offers a wide range of features such as navigation (there is an 8-inch infotainment system), cruise control with forward collision alert, lane-departure warning, auto high beam control, a start/stop button and keyless entry.
On the safety front there is an impressive seven airbags along with ABS, EBD, electronic stability control with traction control, trailer sway control, hill-start assist and adaptive load control. It all adds up for a safer ride.
Economy-wise, and this is an aspect becoming increasingly important no matter what vehicle you are driving, the Wildtrak is super-efficient. Diesels more often than not return better consumption figures than a petrol-powered vehicle, and in this instance I got a credible 8.9l/100km during a 2,000km adventure.
To conclude, I must say about town I still find large bakkies quite ponderous to navigate. Your turning circle, parking options and simple manoeuvrability are often compromised due to the size and nature of the vehicle.
But when a bakkie such as the Wildtrak is utilised for their intended purpose, well, that is when they come in to their own.
Ford Ranger 2.0-litre bi-turbo double-cab 4x4 Wildtrak – R678,200 (includes a four-year/120,000km warranty and a six-year/90,000km service plan)