Sit behind the wheel of the Ford Ranger and you'll forget that you're inside a pickup. You'll find all kinds of buttons and doohickeys usually reserved for luxury SUVs, but you'll quickly realize that these all still fit the tough and functional profile of this fine machine. And lest anyone think these gizmos "soften" it, the jokes on them—this is a legit off-road machine. And you know what that means? We just had to take this King of Pickups on a rough-and-tumble adventure in Clark, Pampanga, the off-road capital of the Philippines. If the Ranger can impress our 4x4 enthusiast friends from that province, then there should be no doubt about the Ranger’s supremacy.
By the looks of things, Ford is ready for the onslaught from the very stiff competition. No wonder the current Ranger takes the ‘Built Ford Tough’ mantra to a whole different level. But before we explore its capabilities, first a little backgrounder. It is not an all-new model, but you wouldn’t think that when you slide into the spacious cabin. It has evolved to offer even higher levels of comfort, luxury and style. But it’s pretty hard-wearing, too. Slide into the seats in your muddy work clothes and the dirt will wipe right off. Yeah, the folks from Ford considered that. Included as well are the latest features in safety and convenience. A visual highlight is the imposing new grille, which is in line with Ford’s unified design language throughout the SUV line. This pickup looks really tough. Driving it reinforces that notion, too.
With a wading depth of 800mm and approach and departure angles of 28 degrees and 25 degrees respectively, crossing rivers and climbing over huge obstacles is easy enough. Drop the transmission into low range via the electronically controlled transfer case and the 470Nm and 200hp of the 3.2-liter Duratorq, paired with the intelligent eLock rear differential, can haul you through virtually every condition. And when things get slippery, the traction control can handle the rest. We tested this on the Sacobia River in Pampanga. No drama, no surprises. All confidence. That’s what the Ranger is about. Guys with off-road racing rigs had gathered on the riverbanks to watch us play, and eagerly asked us questions after our jaunt in the lahar. It really is a drool-worthy truck.
Power is nothing without a robust platform, though. Again the Ranger shines with its ultra-high-strength-steel chassis, which can tow up to 3,500kg and carry a 1,000kg payload. This feat won’t be tricky, either, thanks to the Ranger’s Electronic Stability Program that automatically adapts to changing loads. That’s the kind of control that we are looking for in a vehicle that is meant for workhorse duty. Just to illustrate, you can tow a boat with ease using it.
Hitting the highway is no different. It is there where the added safety features come into play. Unheard of in the pickup segment is the lane-departure warning system. The Ranger locks into the lane, and when it detects that you are drifting out of it, the system will vibrate the steering wheel. If you don’t return to the lane, steering torque from the EPAS (Electronic Power-Assisted Steering) will guide the Ranger back automatically. There’s more, too. Adaptive cruise control with a collision warning alert, which automatically matches vehicular traffic (and pre-charges the brakes when there is a potential collision up ahead); a backing-up camera with a display on the rearview mirror; and an adjustable speed limiter round off the package.
The Ranger is a technologically advanced pickup, but with ease-of-use built into it. Steering-wheel-mounted controls allow you to toggle through all the features, with the instrument cluster displaying the information you need, when you need it. And let’s not forget the 20 storage spaces scattered throughout the spacious cabin. Pickups have never been this comfortable, especially for rear-seat passengers.
There are countless reasons why the Ranger is in the top spot, but we think the main one is because it backs up its near-mythical reputation with class-leading features that work in real-world conditions. The Ranger is the “it” pickup now, and it won’t be relinquishing that position anytime soon. It has earned the respect of off-road-driving community, no doubt about that.