2021 Ford Ranger Wildtrak long term review

Part 1: Wildtrak in the warehouse

When Ford threw me the keys to the Ranger Wildtrak 2.0-liter Bi-Turbo diesel back in December, I knew it was just the ticket to serve as an Australian 4X4 towing tow for camper trailer reviews.

With its grunt stack and impressive 3.5 tonne towing capacity, the Wildtrak was born for the job. What I didn’t expect, however, was how comfortable the Ranger would be as an ordinary person mover.

Year after year the Ranger established itself as one of the most popular 4×4 cars in Australia, and it wasn’t long before I found out why. With power, comfort and functionality remaining, this vehicle will happily cater to tradition, serious adventurers, weekend warriors, young parents, and gray travelers.

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Despite its smaller engine size than the Wildtrak’s 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbo diesel, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder Bi-Turbo has more of a punch when it comes to lowering power. It gets plenty of torque at 500Nm at 1750 to 2000rpm, compared to the 3.2-liter 470Nm at 1750 to 2500rpm. The 2.0-liter engine also has a 10-speed automatic gearbox, giving the vehicle a smooth and quiet ride at low speeds and on highways.

To my surprise and delight, the Ranger drives and handles more like an SUV than a hefty vehicle, a fact I greatly appreciate when using the vehicle for shopping, school drop-offs and arvo beach missions in my hometown of Wollongong.

Historically I’ve found driving a 4×4 vehicle can make me feel like an 11 year old who has stolen daddy’s keys to spin around the rear paddock, which is to say, too small to do so comfortably. Not so with Rangers. Finding a comfortable seating position with the six-way electric seat control is easy and visibility is excellent in every window. Steering is light and predictable at any speed and maneuvering around tight parking spaces is a breeze.

4 X 4 Australia Review 2021 May 2021 Ford Ranger Wildtrak Engine

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Parking is aided by a few handy technologies, namely an autonomous reverse parking feature that scans the street for a suitable sized spot and reverses the item for you.

If I’m being honest, I was a little too nervous to let go of the reins but my partner, an electrical engineer and virtual reality professional (ahem, big nerd) absolutely loved it. Cool trick indeed. Front and rear parking sensors help, of course, as does the reverse camera shown on the 20cm entertainment screen.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto enable safe navigation of your phone’s call logs, messages, music and podcasts while driving, and will be sorely missed by you when I get back to driving my 2014 Volvo.

4 X 4 Australia Review 2021 May 2021 2021 Ford Ranger Wildtrak Interior

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Another driver-assist technology that I like is the cruise control radar with sensitivity that can be adjusted to allow the vehicle to glide a certain distance from the car in front. It’s so smooth and silky that my biggest gripe is that you can easily drop well below the speed limit without even realizing it.

The headlights and automatic wipers plus the lane-keep assist and emergency crash warning features also give me a warm and fuzzy feeling from someone who has my back.

And while this summer’s relentless rain combined with border closures and the effects of the pandemic on manufacturer stock levels thwarted more than one camper trailer review plan during our first month with the Ranger, it made good practice in our home for a weekend visit to the secret swimming spot in Kangaroo Valley, lazy Sunday drives to Wombeyan Caves and school holiday missions to NSW’s North and South Central Coast.

TOTAL KM: 3356km
PRICE: $65,790
KM THIS MONTH: 2250km
AV FUEL: 8.1L/100km

Part 2: Tow Tug

Our second month with the Ranger Wildtrak 2.0-liter bi-turbo diesel saw a slight upgrade on the weather front. Weekend after weekend comes to an end as our friend La Niña pours down a gloomy torrent during Australia’s east coast summer. Great for farmers, ducks and forest fire avoidance, not so great for camper trailers or 4×4 adventures.

But after three rescheduled reviews of the Cub Campers Drifter II camper trailer, we’ve finally decided to suck it up and move on. In addition, there seems to be a slight crack in the cloud.

At first glance the sunshine was the best we could hope for. So it went on and on up to Hawkesbury, just outside Sydney, for a quick overnight.

4 X 4 Australia Review 2021 June 2021 2021 Ford Ranger Wildtrak 1

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We had planned to meet Matt Kennelly from Cub Campers at our venue of choice, Burralow Creek Campground, so getting there with the Ranger involved no towing. The Wildtrak is a dream to drive on the open road, the 2.0 liter bi-turbo diesel engine with 10 speed transmission provides a smooth and quiet ride.

Driver assistance technology adds to the comfort behind the wheel, with adjustable radar cruise control that lets you maintain a safe distance from the car in front. I could happily drive this car all the way to the tropics, had the pandemic not closed all borders.

We turned left towards the campsite, and the asphalt turned to dirt. The drive to Burralow Creek is about 20 minutes from generally well graded soil, but weeks of relentless flooding have created washing and thick, slippery mud around hairpin bends. More fun than we expected.

Once we arrived, we hooked up the camper to the Ranger and got back on the road to test it out and get some happy shots for the magazine.

4 X 4 Australia Review 2021 June 2021 2021 Ford Ranger Wildtrak 2

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The Cub Drifter II weighs just under 1400kg, which is an estimated weight on testing because the water tank is dry and no equipment is loaded in the camper. The Ranger, with a towing capacity of 3500kg, will always laugh out loud with this Lilliputian load. Still, the road in the opposite direction was steep, slippery and broken, so he had to work a bit.

The 2.0-liter Bi-Turbo diesel engine, although it’s smaller than the Wildtrak’s 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbo diesel, offers plenty of low grunts. It has ample torque of 500Nm from 1750 to 2000rpm, compared to 470Nm of 3.2 liters at 1750-2500rpm. This loan itself is great for towing, and served us well as we dragged the Cub back down the wet and windy trails.

The ranger seemed oblivious to the weight of the camper, easily climbing up the hill. The transmission, however, while ninja-like on the highway, isn’t as smooth in the low range. Shifting gears at low speeds tends to be a bit jarring.

4 X 4 Australia Gear Cub Drifter 44

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At our request, the Ranger is equipped with Ford’s proprietary electric trailer brakes, with an easily accessible control knob next to the gear stick. Tuned to a low level of 3 to 4 to suit the Cub’s small weight, the brakes worked efficiently and smoothly as we headed back down the ditch to camp.

Sure, it’s a glimpse of what the Ranger Wildtrak 2.0-liter Bi-Turbo diesel is capable of when it comes to pulling loads, but the rig remains impressed. Combined with excellent driving comfort and ease of maneuvering around the city, this vehicle would be an excellent choice for anyone looking for a 4×4 that is equally suited as a weekend workhorse and everyday family mover.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, La Niña took her anger out on us once again that day and all night long.

TOTAL KM: 4985km
KM SINCE LAST UPDATE: 1629km
AV FUEL: 8.1L/100km

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