Ford Ranger Widltrack (3)Ford Ranger Widltrack (8)

ABOVE:note the tiny screen.

Ford Ranger Widltrack (10)

Above: centre driver info LCD. Scroll by pressing the small stalk near the “6” in the tacho on the left

Ford Ranger Widltrack (11)Ford Ranger Widltrack (12)Ford Ranger Widltrack (9)Ford Ranger Widltrack (13)Ford Ranger Widltrack (14)

Above: bins under the rear seats.

Ford Ranger Widltrack (4)Ford Ranger Widltrack (7)Ford Ranger Widltrack (5)

Above:Rear Tray without the optional roller shutter fitted NOTE rear cowling shown here in grey

Ford Ranger Widltrack (1)Ford Ranger Widltrack (2)

 

Ford Wild Track Ranger

Big, bold, butch and Brash. It is an impressive vehicle.

At heart is the basic tradie’s ute. It’s not bad looking and considerably more handsome than the hideous Mazda BT50 which shares 99.9% of its DNA. Messrs Ford, Ford and Ford reached deep into their dress-up box to see what could be done with it so most of what you see (over and above the base model) is window dressing.

The exterior scored a smart moody dark grey paint job. The side steps, essential if you want to be able get into the cabin without slipping at least 3 discs, are standard thankfully. The lockable rear cover is really just a fancy roll-a-door with a silly lock that a 5 year old could get around. While being flimsy, we also found it impossible to close and lock the cover 1st time every time. There is clearly a trick to it but the method is hidden and apparently only to be revealed in a secret ceremony in which we did not take part. It seems opening the cover fully then using the long piece of canvas tape attached to the underside of the shutter to pull it shut again is the only way of getting the lock to function. To secure anything valuable requires the fitting an external sturdy padlock. Still, that’s not all that unusual for a work van. You often see an external lock mounted Mr Bean-style on ute covers and tool boxes. Theft is rife on those butch building sites. For a change I could imagine the top Ranger model on a work site. Most of the prettier utes are not intended to be acquired for any kind of serious work. Holden’s SSV ute would mount the first carelessly left besser brick and be marooned for the duration, perhaps to be pulled off it sans spoiler and body kit. Wildtrack is just the thing for the brawny foreman or nerdy-but-sexy architect to be seen in. Roof rails are also present in case you find the huge tray isn’t big enough.

Along with the tray cover, there is a piece of decorative cowling at the rear of the cabin which gives it the appearance an upgraded army transport vehicle. That’s the look which really appeals to Gen Y’ers, or the middle-aged traversing their crisis period. “Wildtrack” is emblazoned across her to ensure no one is in doubt that you’ve paid extra to be driving one. At $60,000 for the auto model, it’s a trifle expensive but such is the way of the world. I’m not sure I’d pay 60k then take her bush-bashing, or onto a construction site full of tools and bags of cement and other such accoutrements.

Inside, Ford threw the full monty at the Ranger. There is satnav and the familiar 5inch infotainment screen. This is the very same screen of which I’ve been critical of in the past. It’s tiny and looks lost in such a vast amount auto-real-estate. The screen is far too small and falls way behind the standard one expects from even the most basic of Korean models. The fabulous unit from the Falcon wouldn’t have gone astray as it has a huge screen. Not only is it a proper size, but it is also touchable. There are the ubiquitous but necessary 4WD gadgets like rollover mitigation, Hill Descent Control, Emergency Brake Assist, Trailer Sway Assist etc. Of course it gets 5 star safety ticks too. No one in their right mind would buy a car with any less these days.

The driving position is nice and high thanks to the inherent nature of the design of proper 4WD’s. There is partial leather too for those who like that sort of thing. The seats are quite comfy but the ride is very firm. There is also Bluetooth, voice control, a reverse camera, rain sensing wipers, auto headlights, dual zone climate control, and heated front seats. The driver’s seat has power adjustments to add a bit of class. The quality of the plastic reminds you that you’re not in the most expensive of 4WD’s but neither are you in the pov-model. All in all the cabin is comfy without being overtly poshed-up.

I have 3 main complaints:-

The size of the infotainment screen – far too small and is has no touch input. It’s used for the Satnav system too making even harder to input addresses etc. Frankly it looks a bit silly given the large screen available elsewhere in Ford’s fleet. It always looks crowded and busy and map detail is ridiculously complex when crammed into such a tight space. Satnav input is via a turn-and-press toggle or multi-press numerical buttons. It’s one of my pet hates and almost impossible to use, even by your passenger, if the vehicle is moving.

The size of the driver info screen – The driver info screen is mounted in the centre of the two main dials and contains fuel usage, distance, trip etc. In order to scroll through the info, the driver must push the small stalk. It’s much like the kind you’d expect to reset the trip meter on older cars. To access it you have to lean forward to contort your hand round the back of the steering wheel, or put your arm through the middle of the steering wheel. Should you be trying while at 100kph? On a trip that’s exactly when you’d be wanting to do it. It’s a legacy of an inexpensive vehicle being given extra trim to make it an expensive one. It’s both daft and dangerous and very old hat.

The reverse camera screen – is in the rear-view mirror. It is tiny and hard to see. It also obscures part of the mirror when reverse is selected. It’s difficult to judge distance and impossible to pick up detail which is easily seen on a larger screen. Frankly, it’s a stupid idea when there are screen elsewhere in the car. It reminds me of the cheap after-market add-ons you might buy for your Getz.

The 3.2 L diesel is rough and noisy particularly when cold. The 5 cylinders have that odd sounding firing order giving it a certain raspiness. It sounds strange at first but eventually becomes comforting and familiar and even a little sporty. The power is a slightly disappointing 147KW. There are smaller engines achieving much more. Even so, there feels like there is plenty in reserve. It’s more of a leisurely performance rather than an overt display of brute force. It’s an easy and unfussed procedure to overtake with the Auto kicking down happily.

The 6 sp auto smooth and surely the only choice especially if the Ranger is bought as a leisure vehicle. Although there is a “pretty-boy-ness” about it, the Ranger is none the less a very capable vehicle. I remember seeing a Ranger pulling a fully loaded cement truck out of a muddy bog in one of those renovation shows I insist on watching. It’s something I’d have made much of had I been advertising such a 4wd workhorse. On the highway you can easily slide the seat back a little and enjoy the long legs. She is happy to stay all day at cruise speed. It is here where the driver’s info mentioned before would become a problem. I doubt you’d bother with changing it.

There really isn’t anywhere you couldn’t take the Wildtrack, and you’d never feel embarrassed or out of place. She wouldn’t disgrace herself amongst the X5’s and Q7’s and Touregs either. It’s worth remembering that apart from anything else, none of those SUV’s are 4WD. That’s right, not one of them. Go on, go check it out. All of them are AWD which is quite a different enchilada.

It would be perfect to hitch on to a pop-top camper and head into the wilderness. You could easily use the tray to sleep in but I did a quick search for something tasteful to tow behind. With a couple of gas tanks and a decent water supply you could go camping for a week without seeing another soul. As I am want to say, buying an SUV is about buying a lifestyle. It gives one the freedom to go wherever one’s heart desires. You don’t need to stick to camping areas but of course pop-top campers can’t go many of the places the Ranger can. Imagine a week devoid of electronic pollution with only nature and good books to keep the two of you company. The camper we discovered has a loo and hand held hot shower. I can picture a gentle river bank providing Mrs Bucket-like riparian delights. A table and chairs set up nearby with bread, wine and cheese on a serving board. It conjures lazy weekend afternoons spent reading and laughing and enjoying the company of someone who thinks your choice in motor vehicles was, on second thoughts, quite a wise one.

Opera Camper view to the beach

Opera Camper toilet and basinOpera Camper under a treeOpera Camper bed or sofaOpera CamperinteriorOpera Camper at a campsiteOpera Camper beds and LEDsOpera Camper in australiaOpera Camper interior detailOpera Camper looing insideOpera Camper folding out

Note: as the Opera-House inspired roof folds out, the sides expand. You could carry you gear in the tray locked away safely.

The drive isn’t a sporty one and the fuel consumption not particularly fabulous, but overall it is fun. It’s flexible enough to be used for work and play and is sexy looking enough to attract the kind of buyer who otherwise might buy Amorok or Hilux. At least in this guise, the Ranger is better looking than either of the others.

The Wildtrack treads that fine line between workhorse and show pony. In a butch, outdoorsy, sporty kind of way it is tasteful. You could buy a much more expensive SUV but why would you? Would you take your $250,000 Range Rover camping? Perhaps, but would try taking up the side of a mountain for the perfect photo op? I rather doubt it.

It’s not cheap, but it is fun. It’s extremely capable and far better looking than most of its opposition. It’s well worth a look especially if you have access to those tax deductions for work vehicles.

Price: from $57,390
Warranty: Three years or 100,000km
Engine: 3.2-litre five-cyl, 147kW/470Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, six-speed auto (plus $2k); 4WD
Body: 5.35m (L), 1.85m (W), 1.85m (H)
Weight: 2200 kg
Spare: Full-size
Thirst: 9.6L/100km diesel, 256g/km CO2