Why are you smiling? What’s there to be happy about?
Because I’ve just had a divine driving experience. This is it, the new truck pickup lovers are waiting for. The vehicle that will be bought, raised, modified, wrapped, and maybe even used on a farm sometimes. The all-new Ford Ranger has been teased and revealed, and now it has been driven. Well, driven for a day at least. But what a day.
Ford Philippines recently invited media from Southeast Asia and other parts of the world to try out its highly anticipated pickup in Phuket, Thailand. After two years in a pandemic, this also heralds the return of foreign media drives.
Do the pictures do it justice?
After all the hype and initial photos, meeting it in the metal still managed to be exciting. We actually saw a glimpse in the evening, after our welcome dinner in Thailand. Rangers drove past our van, presumably to be prepped and fueled, as we were heading to our hotel. Those C-shaped headlights at night are something to behold.
The next morning, we saw it in broad daylight for the first time. The new Ranger looks just as good as the photos—of course, that could be our initial euphoria and the bacon from breakfast talking. But I feel it’s a design that can age well. Will it age as well as the current version in our market? That’s a tough design act to follow, but the new one will likely be the same.
After you look at the 2022 Ranger long enough, you see more of the inherited genes, especially in this familiar orange color. The stance looks familiar, the shape of the grille is similar, there’s an identical black badge just ahead of the front door, and the taillights look just slightly altered. In fact, we’re calling it: Give it a few months after the launch and expect to see aftermarket bodykit that will give the old Ranger the ‘2022 look.’
Oh and get this, aftermarket boys: The new Ranger has disc brakes all around. Yes, start choosing your new rims.
Is it really all-new?
Well, not all of it. The 4x4 Wildtrak unit we drove had a 2.0-liter bi-turbo diesel engine that generated 210hp and 500Nm, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Sound familiar? It’s the same powertrain in the current Ranger being sold in our market. Before you bash Ford for ‘recycling’ a powertrain, remember that this engine and transmission only came out in the latter years of the Ranger life cycle. So it’s still relatively new. But everything else—the body, the frame, the cabin—is completely new.
What improvements have been done?
Where do we start? On the outside the design speaks for itself. This will certainly turn heads for the first few years as people crane their necks when you drive by.
Ford has also improved the off-road capabilities. The front overhang has been reduced from 908mm to 865mm, the approach angle is now 30 degrees (from 28.5 degrees), the track width grows slightly from 1,570mm to 1,620mm, and there are now outboard dampers.
The cabin, which already wasn’t bad to begin with, gets a noticeable upgrade. There are more upscale elements inside like carbon fiber-ish trim, more leather and soft surfaces, and what seems like more stitching in the seats and materials. And there’s The Screen.
We were waiting for you to get to…The Screen.
This is finally it. Jaws dropped when Ford unveiled a Tesla-like screen for the new Ranger. It really looks like an iPad that was integrated into the center console, and oriented vertically. It’s a beautiful screen. I don’t know the resolution, but I couldn’t see the individual pixels from my vantage point in the driver’s seat. It’s not iPad Pro-level sharp, but it doesn’t need to be.
The unit we tested had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so it’s safe to assume our market will get these too. But those hoping for a 12-inch map (like me) will be disappointed. The organizers included an iPhone that was already wirelessly synced to the Ranger we drove. The CarPlay map only used half of the screen, in the usual rectangular display of most CarPlay-enabled cars. The bottom half displays Ford functions like A/C controls and audio functions outside of CarPlay like FM radio (remember that?). And don’t worry, there are still physical A/C controls.
Overshadowed by the new 12-inch screen is the Ranger’s new digital gauge behind the steering wheel. We didn’t get enough time to explore this smaller screen, but it was certainly a class above the more mass market LCDs in other vehicles. And if you were wondering if the big screen can be used to watch your favorite Netflix K-drama, don’t expect it to. Besides, that’s not safe.
How is it on the road?
In terms of power, if you’ve driven the current bi-turbo Ranger and the Ranger Raptor, then you know how it feels. There’s generous power and torque in the lower rev range. Some of the Rangers in our convoy even did quick wheelspins when their drivers got too excited. But once you’re past 120kph, you have to plan your overtakes a bit. You will still catch up to most of the vehicles on the road that don’t have German badges or V6 engines, but you will notice the strain. I always felt the Ranger Raptor could use a bit more power. But don’t be surprised if Ford introduces engine updates a few years into the life cycle.
And off the road?
Oh, boy. This feels like where the Ranger improved by a lot, but not really. Let me explain. The outgoing Ranger is a competent off-road machine. In many situations, the new Ranger will not leave it behind. But the way the 2022 Ranger goes off-road elevates the overall off-the-beaten path experience.
Everything you need to go off-road is literally at your fingertips. Behind the shift knob is a rotary selector with self-explanatory labels for 2H, 4H, and 4L (two-wheel drive high gear, four-wheel drive high gear, and four-wheel drive low gear). Twist the rotary selector and you will access the many, many driving modes of the Ranger like Mud, Sand, Normal, Eco, Slippery, and Tow. The changing modes will be displayed in the eight-inch LCD behind the tiller; I also noticed how beautiful the accompanying animations were whenever I selected a drive mode.
Perhaps the star of the off-road experience is something Ford calls Off-Road Sync. It makes use of the large 12-inch screen in unexpected ways. Press the Off-Road Sync button and the picture changes to a forward view of the road, with a graphic representation of the Ranger’s axles below it.
In this Off-Road Sync mode you can toggle the hill descent mode and the rear differential lock. What’s amazing is the screen shows an overlay of your tires on the picture of the terrain ahead. As you move the steering wheel, the tire overlay shows where the Ranger will go. It doesn’t sound revolutionary, but what makes it stand out is how sharp the camera and screen are. Like other pickups in its class, there’s also a 360-degree view that helps you see what’s around you. But the front Off-Road Sync view gives the new Ranger a clear advantage in its segment. In fact, the feed is so clear we wished there was a recorder function that would let us record our drive.
Er, so how is it off-road?
Oh, yeah. Sorry I geeked out with the screens. Ford prepared a punishing off-road course to show that it did its homework with the new Ranger. In a span of a coffee break, we descended a steep hill to highlight the improved departure angle, we drove through deep mud ruts that showed the improved stability because of the wider and longer wheelbase, waded through water to test the 800mm water-wading capability (about the same as the previous one), crawled over rocks to showcase the torque and rear locking diff, and blitzed through loose sand for a reason I forgot because I was having too much fun.
So yeah, we think it can handle the pockmarked surfaces on C5 and those mutated metal covers on EDSA. We think.
Looks like Ford has really done its homework. Anything else that stood out about the new Ranger?
Ford likes to tout its ability to be a work truck, and what they incorporated was pretty cool. They added a step just ahead of the rear bumper to make it easy for owners to step up and get in, or step up and access the rear bed. Speaking of bed, those hard plastic rails over the sides of the Ranger bed are functional. You can lash things to it using rope.
But Ford went further to make it a working man’s truck—there’s an actual AC socket, the kind you can plug your laptop into, embedded in the pickup bed. We’re not sure how much power it can supply, so don’t bring out your power tools yet, but it can run a laptop easily in the demo. The tailgate even has retractable holes that makes attaching clamps (that hold pieces of wood) convenient.
So, is the new Ranger a win?
At the end of the day what emerged in our minds was a Ranger with a familiar look and feel, but with numerous improvements that will keep it relevant over the next decade. If you like the current Ranger, you will likely be drawn to this one. The DNA is very much present. And what you will get is the same tough truck that caught your eye a decade ago, only this time with dazzling toys and new features that will keep you entertained and safe. And with all-disc brakes ready for you to show off aftermarket rims in.
So yes, it’s a win.