Ford Ranger Wildtrak – Road Test and Review

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Ranger with Feathertop behind
Ranger with Feathertop behind

This is a long review.

The short version is that I drove a 2012 Ford Ranger Wildtrak for a week which included camping and ski touring, with lots of driving above the snowline.

I was very impressed by the handling & dynamics of the car which belied its large size, and I was similarly impressed with the quality interior and features.

Vital Stats:

Engine: 3.2L turbodiesel five-cylinder; 147kW/470Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, six-speed auto; 4WD
Body: 5.35m (L), 1.85m (W), 1.85m (H)
Weight: 2.2 tonnes
Spare: Full-size
Consumption: 9.6L/100km diesel, 259g/km CO2
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Price as Tested (inc on-roads): $65,470

For more information – read on!

Ford Ranger Wildtrak – Road Test and Review

It seems a little strange that someone who spends much of their Winter free time in the snow doesn’t drive an SUV. But we have a system that works for our Buller adventures. We are (sort of) down to a one-car household as Mrs aussieskier works in the CBD and uses Public Transport, plus we keep her old Suzuki Sierra that she has had since her 18th at the base of Mt Buller.

Before the mid’90’s & the era of the luxury SUV, that’s what most Buller regulars did – drive a suitable car for the city and keep a beaten-up old 4WD at Mirimbah. Fast-forward almost 20 years and by looking around Mt Buller you will see that this is now a vastly different situation. Mercedes/BMW/Porsche/Audi/Range Rover as far as the eye can see, and I must profess to enjoy sailing past them in the Sierra when they are bogged due to the combination of their weight, poor tyres and driver overconfidence.

I like driving. A lot. I like small fast cars that go around corners, and the combination of this requirement plus us having no kids means that we have no real need for an SUV. Considering that out of the 15-20,000km I drive every year we would do the 32km round-trip Buller road about 12-15 times per year. So when you work out the percentages that’s about 2.5% of our annual driving, so I’ve chosen a car that best suits the other 97.5%. At the moment it’s a VW Golf R32 and I love it. But even though it’s AWD it has bugger-all ground clearance, and VW recommends that you don’t fit chains to it due to it’s low stance and tight clearances for suspension components. There are chains that can overcome this but they are bloody expensive.

So our plan comes horribly unstuck when you want to go to another mountain. Taking the Sierra to & from Buller in June & October is a white-knuckle affair, so when we were hatching the plans for our trip to Hotham to ski the Razorback & Mt Feathertop area (trip report here) it was clear that I would need something more suitable to off-roading and snow driving, as well as large load capacity for all of our gear.

Ford Australia were kind enough to supply a top-of-the-range 4×4 Ranger Wildtrak for the week, and writing this in hindsight I don’t know what I would have done without it.

(Note: In this review I am just going to focus on the 4×4 Wildtrak variant of the Ranger. There are a plethora of Ranger options including single-cab, half-cab, dual-cab, 4×2, 4×4 etc – for more information check out the official Ford Australia Website)

Ford Ranger Wildtrak
Ford Ranger Wildtrak

What we did with it:

We picked up the Ranger at Ford’s Campbellfield HQ on a Friday afternoon and headed for Mt Buller. Due to the bureaucracy involved in changing our season parking pass to another car for the weekend I decided to only drive to Mirimbah & swap into the Suzuki for the weekend, knowing I would have ample opportunity to test the 4WD capacity off-road and on the snow during the week ahead. So after a great weekend skiing we came back down to the Ranger and headed for our campsite at Harrietville.

Picking up the Ranger at Ford HQ
Picking up the Ranger at Ford HQ

Our campsite at Harrietville was along a pretty rutted 4WD track with deep puddles and a creek crossing, the Ranger barely even blinked at the challenge, and I was reminded of the toughness-meets-luxury nature of the Wildtrak model when we smashed through a puddle, causing the automatic wipers to activate!

We camped for the night in Harrietville, and then due to the Ranger being the most powerful and capable of the cars we had assembled it was nominated as the vehicle to pack to the gills and drive up to the Diamantina Hut carpark which was the setting-off point for our adventure. The Hotham road is a windy affair, and due to the exposed nature the second half can be quite treacherous during storm conditions, however on this occasion the road was clear and the drive was a doddle, even with 4 adults and a tray full of skiing & hiking/camping gear.

Packed and Ready to head up the Mountain
Packed and Ready to head up the Mountain
Getting Ready for the Razorback
Getting Ready for the Razorback
Ranger with Feathertop behind
Ranger with Feathertop behind
Ranger and the route of our trek
Ranger and the route of our trek

After our three day, two night adventure which ended in Harrietville I said goodbye to the guys, got a lift back up to the car and then spent the rest of the week above the snowline, which included a significant storm and about 30cm of new snow. I was based at the Dinner Plain Alpine Village, and drove numerous times on snowy roads up to Mt Hotham and also a trip down to Omeo to fill up with Alpine Diesel to prevent any cold-start issues.

Mrs Aussieskier and the Ranger
Mrs Aussieskier and the Ranger

I missed a no-entry sign at Dinner Plain and drove the wrong way down a one-way street, right in front of the local constabulary, and after a warning they had a look at the car & commented on the quality of the interior!

At the conclusion of our trip we drove from Mt Hotham to Melbourne which is a mixture of windy mountain road, single-carriageway country road and finally the double-carriageway Hume Highway.

Overall we did just over 1000km.

Me driving in the Snow
Me driving in the Snow

What I thought of the Ranger:

My first impressions of the Ranger were to do with its size, and the quality of the interior & appointments. It is a significantly proportioned vehicle, even compared with other 1-Tonne 4×4 Dual Cab utes – towering over a Navara we parked next to at Hotham. One criticism I’ve had in the past of Dual Cab vehicles has been second row leg room, but in the case of the Ranger it was ample for adults.

Once I had driven it I was particularly taken with the handling, particularly the lack of body-roll for such a large vehicle.

Interior:

The interior is well appointed with leather seats, the front being heated and the Driver’s seat features 8-way electrical adjustment. The steering wheel is leather as well and feels very nice in your hands.

But I’m a gadget man and that’s where my main focus was. The steering wheel had multi-function controls for cruise control on the RHS and Stereo/Phone on the LHS plus a button for the Voice Activation system. The voice control can automate the HVAC, Music and Telephone.

The centre console features a 5.0 inch multi-function screen, with the buttons below to control the music, phone & sat nav large & well-laid out. Either side of the console are buttons controlling the various 4×4 features such as hill descent control and alongside the gearshift is a simple knob to switch between 2H, 4H and 4L modes.

Ranger Wildtrak Interior
Ranger Wildtrak Interior

The Bluetooth feature worked like a charm – after quickly pairing my phone once I received and made many calls, and listened to Bluetooth audio for the bulk of the trip, skipping through tracks via the steering wheel, and track info clearly shown on the screen. There is also a USB and Aux in facility but I did not have the right cables to test these, and honestly forgot about them as the Bluetooth worked so well.

Pairing the Bluetooth with my iPhone
Pairing the Bluetooth with my iPhone

In a vehicle of this scale, rear parking sensors and reverse camera are necessities, and in the case of the Ranger I used them often and they work well. The sensors display your proximity on the centre console screen, and the reverse camera image appears in the rear view mirror which is a clever touch. On one occasion the camera saved me from reversing into a low pole.

Standard on the Wildtrak are dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights and a cooled centre console, the only criticism of the interior was that to scroll through the modes of the trip computer required pressing a button on the instrument binnacle as one would to reset a trip-meter – this seemed quite inconvenient to rotate through data such as outside temperature, fuel consumption, fuel tank range etc.

Exterior:

As the top of the Ranger range, the Wildtrak has some bold exterior styling, with 18″ Alloy Wheels as standard, Fog Lights, a blacked-out Grille, rails for roof racks and a roller shutter over the tray, which features a tough plastic bedliner and an extra 12v outlet.

Exterior step rails make for easier ingress/egress of this rather high vehicle.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak
Ford Ranger Wildtrak

The tray is rated to 1 tonne capacity which we did not come near to achieving, and it may be worth noting that 183cm skis only just fit diagonally in the tray. Shorter skis were fine.

A towbar is fitted as standard on the Wildtrak but again we did not require any towing.

On the Road:

It’s fair to say that I came in to the test with low expectations for the handling and was pleasantly surprised. The first section of road was fairly straight and my initial impression was the firmness of the ride, instead of wallowing over the undulations in the road they were transmitted well by the suspension and I felt connected. Then we got into some corners and again I was surprised by what I felt was a remarkable absence of body-roll for a car of this size.

On a couple of occasions I got caught out by a couple of tightening corners and was surprised by the speed at which this vehicle could go around them. Direction changes in between corners were a little clumsy but overall it was the handling which would stand out as the most notable feature of this car. The only negative to the handling is a large, 12.7m turning circle.

The Wildtrak is powered by a 3.2L 5cyl Turbo Diesel with 147kw of power and 470nm of torque. This is fed through the 4×4 system through either a 6 speed manual or 6 speed automatic gearbox, which was what I had. The engine provided ample torque and power, with a nice little surge off the lights if you needed to fill a gap, and plenty of pulling power for uphill sections and overtaking.

One of the banes of my existence on the Buller road is SUV drivers who drive at 80km/h up the hills and around the bends, and compensate by doing 120km/h on the straights. I was determined not to be one of those tossers and the combination of the power and handling meant I could average a constant 100km/h on cruise control through all but the tightest of sections.

On the Hume the Ranger was a breeze to drive with the cruise control set at 110km/h.

I did two fuel consumption tests – from the Glenrowan service station up & over Mt Hotham to Omeo I averaged 11.3L/100km and from Omeo back over Hotham (inc a few trips from DP to Hotham & Back) all the way to Melbourne I averaged 10.5L/100km. The stated fuel consumption is 9.6L/100km and due to my excitable right foot it’s not unusual for me to exceed that, so the figure sounds about right. Based on this consumption and the 80L fuel tank, one could expect a range of approx 800km

Off The Road:

Our first night at Harrietville required a short drive through a rutted 4WD track with deep puddles and a creek crossing. The Ranger has a stated 800mm deep wading depth and cruised through this track with very little issue. All I did was change from 2H to 4H and drive.

Above the snowline we didn’t do any serious 4WDing despite clocking up numerous KMs on snowy roads. In this case I kept the car in 4H and enacted the usual precautions of keeping a safe distance and braking before corners, slowing before downhills etc and the car was perfect. I did some brake checks on the snow and the car pulled up very nicely and I had to stand hard on the pedal before the ABS kicked in – although this is more a reflection on the tyres than anything else.

Due to the lack of hardcore 4WDing available to us we did not have cause to use the Hill Descent Control, locking Diff etc.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak Off-Road
Ford Ranger Wildtrak Off-Road

Safety:

The Ranger has been awarded a 5 Star ANCAP Safety rating and features the following safety devices as standard:

Front Driver & Passenger Airbags
Seat Side Airbags
Side Curtain Airbags
Dynamic Stability Control(DSC) incorporating ABS
Hill Launch Assist
Trailer Sway Control
Load Adaptive Control
Emergency Brake Assist

Pricing:

As the Wildtrak is the top of the range model, most options are standard. Base pricing excluding on-roads is $57,390, however the model I drove had the optional 6sp Automatic Transmission ($2100) and Prestige Paint ($225).

According to the Ford Australia pricing website, driveaway pricing based on those options, my postcode and purchase for personal use was quoted at $65,470

Naturally this does not reflect trade-in opportunities, special offers or other dealer negotiations.

Conclusion:

I was extremely pleased after a week with the Ranger, as I mentioned previously in hindsight I don’t know how this trip would have gone without it, and I was a little sad to give it back.

It’s certainly a car that attracts attention – the Dinner Plain Police were giving it a thorough once-over after handing my my warning, the owner of a local restaurant mentioned that it was the object of quite some curiosity for the few hours it was parked outside their establishment which was next to the bus stop, and a friend even noticed it and left some beers for me in the tray after our backcountry skiing trip.

From a practical point of view, this is an extremely capable car. Due to the ‘roominess’ of the rear seats this is a car that can provide exceptional versatility, as it has the tray & towing capacity required from a workhorse vehicle, but can transport a family in comfort with most of the interior mod-cons that are expected in 2012.

While it is not manufactured locally it has been designed by Ford Australia at their Campbellfield location, and I think the designers should be very happy of the dynamics they were able to achieve.

There’s no hiding that the car is enormous, tipping the scales at 2.2 tonnes, but the cornering and handling is as good as one could possibly expect and the 470nm provided by the 5 cylinder Turbo Diesel plant provides a brisk experience, again belying the scale of the vehicle, yet providing a very respectable fuel economy return.

I’m looking forward to testing other cars in the Ford range that will be of interest to my skiing-based audience, but if another trip of this nature arises I would have no hesitation in jumping in a Ranger as I know it will more than get the job done.

Snowy Ranger
Snowy Ranger

(Review Disclosure: My wife works for an advertising agency contracted to Ford Australia, but views expressed are unbiased and my own)

Got any questions about the Ranger? Ask below in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.

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