Under test: Ford Ranger Limited pickup

After giving up pedaling rebadged Mazdas and designing their own vehicles, Ford soon became the UK’s biggest seller of pickups.

The Ranger has consistently topped the sales charts, shifting more than 13,000 vehicles in 2020 – double that of its closest competitor, the Toyota Hilux.

And Ford’s partnership with VW will bring fresh blood from 2022, with the launch of the new Amarok that will be based on the Ranger foundation. This deal is an expansion of Ford’s South Africa plant so that it will be able to produce a total of 200,000 pickups/year.

See also: Video: Everything you need to know about passing your B+E trailer test

A top seller perhaps, but Ranger often struggles to match the refinements of more premium trucks, such as the VW Amarok, Mercedes X-Claas, or even the Nissan Navara.

However, with all these competitors gone, Ford has become the default choice for those looking for a more refined pickup.

Vital stats

  • Machine 2 liter, four cylinder Ford Ecoblue
  • Strength 213hp
  • torque 500Nm
  • Transmission 10 speed auto
  • maximum speed 112mph
  • 0-62mph 9 seconds
  • Combined consumption 36.7mpg
  • Wheelbase 3.220mm
  • Ground clearance 230mm
  • Spin circle 13.96m (as tested)
  • curb weight 2.246kg
  • Load 1,140kg
  • Towing capacity 3.500kg

The current Ranger was introduced in 2019 and, although it is based on the platform the company has used since 2011, it is much smarter than its predecessor.

Buyers get a choice of single-cab, super-cab or double-cab variants and several different levels of specifications – the XL is the most basic, followed by the XLT, Limited and Wildtrak.

There’s also a new Thunder edition (essentially a Wildtrak with a different style) and a non-commercial Raptor, with sporty trim and independent suspension at every corner.

Our test truck comes in the popular Limited guise, complete with automatic transmission and leather seats, plus a few optional extras.

© James Andrews

Engine and transmission

The demise of the 3.2-liter five-cylinder engine from Ford’s pickup line will have many buyers lamenting the loss of potential appeal.

But despite its lower displacement, the Ecoblue 2 liter bi-turbo unit that replaces it offers more horsepower and torque – 213hp and 500Nm, versus 200hp and 470Nm.

Smaller twin-turbo engines often don’t have the real power of the larger displacement blocks they replace, but in this case the engine really looks like an upgrade.

It pulls loudly, is quieter than the old 3.2 and is also much less thug. This means no more “look at me” wheel turning when the power is off, unless you really do.

Unsurprisingly, it also delivers better fuel economy, averaging around 32mpg during our test drive – many drivers struggle to hit 30mpg with the bigger block.

Ford uses the Ecoblue engine throughout the Ranger range and the tuning and number of turbos determines power output.

In the entry-level model, there’s one variable-geometry unit that delivers either 130hp or 170hp and a more powerful bi-turbo setup comes as you move up the specs level.

While the bike is impressive for a 2-liter engine, it’s the new 10-speed automatic that thanks the many performance improvements. This is the same gearbox used in the Mustang muscle car and, because there are so many gears to choose from, always keeps the engine at its peak power output.

Shifts are very smooth and fast off the mark, helping to produce a 0-62 time of 9 seconds.

How much does it cost?

  • XL double-cab – from £21,950
  • XLT double cab – from £24,550
  • Unlimited double taxis – from £28,615
  • Wildtrak double cab – from £31,625
  • Thunder double cab – from £32,965

(OTR price, not including VAT)

Outback

The name Limited might imply that our test truck lacked features, but it’s actually a fairly high-spec model. In fact, the more expensive Wildtrak and Thunder variants only really have noticeable trim upgrades to set them apart.

This means luxuries like leather seats, infotainment system, reverse camera, heated windshield and tire pressure sensor are all standard equipment.

Our test vehicle also comes with the so-called Limited Premium package, which brings a locking rear differential, parking assist and adaptive cruise control, at a cost of £1,680.

Ford Ranger Limited Interiors

© James Andrews

For anyone doing regular highway driving, adaptive cruise is worth the numbers alone and diff-lock can make the difference between emerging from a swamp win or shyly calling for a tow.

The muted black-and-gray color scheme is almost as vibrant as the mine shaft, but it’s smart, functional, and less difficult than the Wildtrak and Thunder.

It’s a classic Ford, with slightly cheap plastic and standard leather, but it’s a comfortable place to sit.

Some of the controls are hard to pinpoint while driving, especially the switches for the fan, air conditioner, and heater, making it all too easy to increase the heat when you’re already sweating.

Settings can be adjusted on-screen, but require some tracking – especially when using Android Auto or Apple Car Play, as you have to log out of the system to make adjustments.

Ford Ranger Limited muatan cargo bed

© James Andrews

Off-road

There are no changes to the Ranger’s four-wheel drive setup, with the part-time system activated using a button on the center console.

But it’s designed for off-road use only and there’s no rear axle diff-lock as standard. However, as we mentioned earlier, our test vehicle had it as part of the optional package.

This provides the same off-road credentials as other pickups on the market, as only the Mitsubishi L200 and VW Amarok offer a more sophisticated setup.

On top of the mechanical system, Ford has ABS-based traction control that brakes the rotating wheels to help distribute grip better.

This is an advantage in certain situations, but if it crashes, it’s often best to turn it off.

Quick verdict

As more luxurious rivals have been knocked out of the sector, the Ford Ranger has become the go-to choice for those who crave luxury transport.

Features that set it apart from its competitors include a smooth 10-speed automatic transmission, flexible suspension and a very bold 2-liter bi-turbo engine.

Large portions and poor turning circles are its only significant downfalls.

  • Price as tested £35,768 + VAT
  • Best for Smooth transmission
  • worst for Spin circle

Other technical features include a hill descent function, a pre-collision warning system and trailer shake control which detects turns and corrects them by reducing engine torque and applying brakes.

The Ranger’s unloaded 2.2-tonne, bulky body, and massive front and rear overhangs meant the Ranger would never be a stellar off-roader, but it had enough capability for most farm buyers.

The low point is the truck’s poor turning circle, which can be tedious when shunting around a small yard or trying to fit into tight spaces. Combined with the 5.4m nose-to-tail size, this makes it feel like a bus.

An area where Ford has stopped short is suspension. There’s still leaf springs in the rear, but the ride is very smooth for a truck set up to haul a bag of sand in the back.

Towing capacity is the mandatory 3.5t and can carry over 1.1t, putting it slightly ahead of the competition.

While this was the largest truck in our test group, it had the shortest usable load bed. Ford has expanded it with a notch that fits into the void behind the back seat, but it won’t be of much use to most people.

Likes and complaints

like

Smooth and powerful engine
Smooth transmission
Comfortable ride

complaint

Awkward turning circle
Big and big
Poor switch layout

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