Saturday, April 11, 2009

2009 Ford Ranger

Ford's new Ranger Wildtrak is acknowledgment of the changing role of utes in our market.

Where they were once simply workhorses seen on the job site and nowhere else they are now seen more and more in an urban setting hauling things like dirt bikes, jet skis or mountain bikes for their owners' leisure time pursuits.

The Ranger has won a following on the basis of its rugged chassis, flexible, fuel-efficient diesel engines and its off-road capability, but that's no longer enough for buyers wanting to use them for personal transport.

A ute, or pickup as the rest of the world calls them, has to be tough enough to cut it on the job, but it also has to look good round town.

Ford's answer is `Tough Style’, which gives its once `Tough Truck’ a more stylish face in order to appeal to this new and growing generation of ute buyers.

In effect it's a facelift of the Ranger released in 2007, with new front and rear styling, and a new highly optioned Wildtrak sports model that's perched atop the range.

A bold new laid-back three-bar grille, flanked by air intake nostrils and new wraparound headlamps, and topped by a bulging new bonnet, with a large lower grille opening to feed plenty of air to the turbo intercooler, make for a stylish new face. Down the sides there are new vents on the front guards and mirrors incorporating turn signal repeater lamps, and new clear tail lamp clusters brighten the Ranger's rear.

New in the face-lifted Ranger, and to one-tonne utes, are 18-inch alloy wheels and 255/60 R18 rubber that are a signature feature on the Wildtrak.

Apart from new trim, an MP3 connector, and cruise on the XLT and Wildtrak the interior is little changed.

Safety is enhanced with side airbags now standard across the range in addition to dual front airbags.

Mechanically there are also few changes to the Ranger.

There are two engines on offer, both flexible and easy driving Duratorq common rail turbo diesels. The smaller 2.5-litre engine boasts peaks of 105 kW at 3500 revs and 330 Nm at 1800 revs, the larger 3.0-litre engine peaks with 115 kW at 3200 revs and 380 Nm at 1800 revs.

Both engines are available with a choice of five-speed manual and five-speed auto transmissions, and the 3.0-litre engine is offered in both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations.

Four-wheel drive engagement on Rangers with the manual gearbox is manual, but electronic when the auto transmission is fitted. Four-wheel drive high can be selected on the move up to 100 km/h on both manuals and autos.

Suspension is a combination of front torsion bars and rear leaf springs across all models, with a blend of front discs and rear drums for retardation.

The safety of anti-lock ABS braking, and electronic brakeforce distribution for optimum braking effect are available on the XL base model, but standard on all other models.

There's also the choice of 4x2, high riding 4x2 and 4x4 models, with single cab, extended super cab or dual cab body styles, in either cab-chassis or ute configurations.

The range opens with the XL base model and includes XLT and the new Wildtrak sports ute.

All have a payload of at least 1000 kg and will tow up to 3-tonne (4WD).

While the changes are mostly cosmetic the main thrust of the update is the new Wildtrak sports model that seeks to break new ground for Ranger.

The Wildtrak is only available as a Dual-cab 4x4 ute, but comes with a raft of features that make it stand out from the crowd.

Most notably the Wildtrak rides on 18x7.5-inch alloy wheels with 255/60 R18 tyres, which is a first for Ranger as well as the Japanese-designed ute class.

But there's much more to it than big wheels. It starts with the chrome three-bar grille embossed with the Ranger name, and continues down the sides with body-coloured side cladding, aluminium side steps and vibrant Wildtrak graphics, to the climax at the rear with a tailgate also featuring body-coloured cladding.

On top there are roof rails, a sportsbar is mounted behind the cab, rails run along the top of the cargo box, and there is a chromed rear step bumper. The package is completed with a lockable roller shutter tonneau providing security and protection.

Inside the Wildtrak features Alcantara leather trim, leather steering wheel and gearshift knob, and extra dials atop the dash in a central cluster.

On the road recently in Thailand, the updated Ranger showed it had lost none of the smoothness and refinement for which the old model was noted.

It rode comfortably and quietly over all sorts of road surfaces, capably handled a testing four-wheel drive course, and both engines showed they had lost none of their impressive easy driving flexibility.

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