Monaro purchased this Ford Ranger new with additional options for $64,750 (including all on-road costs). Monaro would buy this car again because: “The Ranger Wildtrak has proven itself to be a very reliable, quiet, comfortable vehicle with an excellent ride for a dual cab ute. It easily tows our 16 foot caravan while returning good fuel economy. It comes with a well appointed interior and for my intended use, it fulfils all of my criteria in choosing the vehicle. “
The Ranger has only traveled 21,000 kms since picking it up from the dealer in October 2020 so as you would expect, it has been trouble free.
Ordinarily I would have traveled over 40,000kms by now, but COVID and the frequent lockdowns in Melbourne (and interstate lockouts) have conspired to keep the kilometres traveled low. However, so far the only time it has been back to the dealer has been for routine servicing. Everything in the car has been working exactly as Ford intended.
So why did I buy a diesel-engined dual-cab ute, and a Ranger in particular? My work involves traveling to mine sites all over the world and Australia has followed world trends in (mostly) insisting that access to the sites has to be in a 4WD ute.
In most cases with the sites I visit this is common sense as the access roads can vary from smooth bitumen right down to goat tracks and everything in between. Having a well-built, high-riding, comfortable 4WD ute just makes life more comfortable and safer. I often carry equipment with me making use of the good-sized tray on the Ranger and the sliding/locking cover provides protection and security for the items stored in the tray.
On the weekends and holidays the Ranger also sees a lot of use for the inevitable hardware store runs as well as a great tow vehicle for our caravan.
Around town the ride is really good (remember this is a commercial vehicle) for this class of car, as well as being very quiet when cruising along. As with most of these diesel cars the engine can be a little noisy when cold and when accelerating hard from low speeds.
Once it is warmed up and at any speed above 60km/h it is quiet and smooth. When travelling at 100 or 110km/h it is almost silent.
I purchased this car from a Ford dealer in the outer south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne that has been in business for decades.
I had driven plenty of dual-cab utes in South America and South Africa, and although it is always to difficult to know the exact specification as they often have different engine and transmission specifications to Australia, I had always thought the Ranger to be one of the best to drive. I used the long lockdown to do some local research and ended watching some of the excellent video comparisons that the CarExpert journalists filmed on their previous website (We’re blushing – Ed).
I wasn’t able to have a test drive of a new Ranger so a mate lent me his for a few hours and that drive cemented the choice. The day the first long lockdown ended I called and was able to negotiate a good deal, select the colour (Meteor Grey) and added a couple of options. I chose the OEM black rims, the exterior mirrors that fold and open when the doors are locked or unlocked and electronic brake control.
The dealer was terrific to deal with and was very honest about a 4 to 5 month wait due to the plant in Thailand being closed (COVID!) as well as shipping delays. During the wait they sent me regular updates and finally the collection date arrived. Although Melbourne was again in lockdown, I was able to pick up the car but it was a strange experience.
Normally you would sit in the car and have everything explained/demonstrated but the salesperson sat in the drivers seat and I stood a metre from the door while he ran through it all. Then I opened my phone, put it in a plastic bag and he programmed the Bluetooth into the Ford Sync. Aftersales has been just as good with the servicing being totally seamless.
A point I will raise here is that of the factory-fitted roller shutter that covers the tray. I have read some comments about these leaking water and also dust. My car has never leaked a single drop of water (even when parked nose down in my drive) or any dust from the shutter or from around the tailgate. If a Wildtrak was ever going to leak dust it would be mine as some of my dirt road driving has been at (almost) highway speeds on some of the excellent SA outback roads often for hundreds of kilometres at a time.
I do know that with the PX3 20.75 like mine Ford improved the dust sealing so I might have been lucky. The electric shutter on mine does take up some space from the tray, but this has never been an issue for me. Some people might find it annoying.
I was very happy with the price, and in fact I could probably sell the car even being a year old for (almost) what I paid for it. The seats are extremely comfortable, being nice and wide and supportive with plenty of adjustment for the driver.
One negative is that although the steering column does have tilt adjustment, it doesn’t have reach adjustment. This is not a problem for me as I’m quite tall but “height-challenged” drivers might find it a bit more difficult to find a comfortable setting. It’s a matter of try before you buy.
The Ranger comes standard with a heavy-duty towbar and (unlike some brands) Ford also includes the towbar tongue and trailer plug. In my case the dealer also included a tow ball. I do a lot of night time driving and I’ve found the headlights to be excellent but the automatic high/low beam can be a bit sensitive often going from low to high beam or high to low beam too quickly.
It can also flick from high to low beam with reflective surfaces such as road signs. The only other things that could have been improved (the essential design is now 10 years old) are the tie-down points in the tray are low down and hard to access, and the lights for the tray are built into the “sail plane” and are almost useless.
I’ve found the performance of the four-cylinder bi-turbo to be perfectly adequate, and the 10-speed auto is a great match and very smooth shifting. The Ranger is a big and heavy commercial vehicle, it’s not a sports car, so I have no illusions about driving it like a sports car.
But I drive it like it like it was intended and enjoy it. For a commercial vehicle the ride is smooth and nowhere near as jiggly or bouncy as a lot of its competitors. Around town I average 8.7L/100 and on long drives this drops to 6.5 – 7.0L/100.
The Ford Sync entertainment system is very easy to use, the screen is clearly laid out, the sound reproduction is one of the best I have used and It even has an in built CD player! The navigation is very clear and fast to react.
There is, however, a couple of negatives to cover. The entertainment screen can be turned off completely by going through the on-screen menu. However when the screen is turned off you cannot see the temperature settings for the HVAC or for the airflow settings. Other cars that I’ve owned turn on momentarily when you adjust the temperature settings.
The controls for the airflow (face, feet etc) are not as easy as having permanent dials but it is only one menu and it has a dedicated menu button on the entertainment screen. The screen itself is very clear and simple to use but the brightness can be very light sensitive. I find (usually at dusk) the screen will often dim, then go to blue (night time setting) then to low light (dim) then back to full daylight often within a minute or so.
This can also happen in low light driving when driving under trees. The simple solution is to turn off the screen which you can do while still listening to the radio or music. The only other small issue is the HVAC buttons are set low in the centre stack (under the entertainment screen) and can be hard to see in low light, even if the back lighting is on.
Once it is completely dark outside, the back lighting is perfect but at low light I find the buttons hard to find.
See my comments above. For a commercial vehicle the ride and handling is fine. Like nearly every car (outside of sports cars) the Ranger will understeer if pushed in a corner.
However, it is not designed to be a sports car and should not be driven like one. These Wildtraks sit quite high (even in standard form), are quite heavy, and need to be driven as such. I have read stories about the standard tyres lacking a bit of grip but I have never experienced any problems in my 12 months of ownership.
I have found my 20.75 Wildtrak to be a very good vehicle when compared to the competition. It is no sports car nor was it ever designed and engineered by Ford to be anything remotely like one.
If you use it and drive it as it was intended it will be a nice, quiet, comfortable car that handles well for a dual cab ute.