The relationship between the Mazda BT-50 and the Ford Ranger goes as far back as the early ’70s with the Courier, Ford’s entry to the compact-pickup segment then dominated by Toyota and Datsun (Nissan). It was manufactured by Mazda, but it had a front-end treatment similar to that of the F- Series. Our market got a taste of it in the early ’80s, before Ford closed up shop in the last few years of the Marcos administration.
When the carmaker reopened its doors in the late ’90s, the first Ranger it brought in was primarily a Mazda B-Series with different body panels. Unlike its predecessor and US counterparts, it was available only as a diesel. It also came out with a high-lift, ruggedized ‘Pinatubo’ edition with a bright yellow paint job and a snorkel. This generation also spawned the SUV counterpart, the Everest.
The second-generation Ranger continued with the successful formula of a robust chassis, a reliable diesel engine, and a limited-slip differential. But the third iteration, released with a 2.2-liter turbodiesel in 2012 and with a 3.2-liter turbodiesel a year later, really raised the benchmark for modern pickups. The dramatically improved comfort level and car-like amenities were so impressive that the Ranger Wildtrak was named the 2013-2014 Truck of the Year in the Philippines.
A fairly new and well-maintained pre-owned Ranger XLT with a 2.2-liter mill and a five-speed manual can be found for as little as P850,000. For the top-of-the-line 3.2-liter Wildtrak, plan on bumping up your budget to about P1.2 million. But as with anything secondhand, the final price will always depend on the condition of the item, the prevailing market value, and how good a negotiator you are.
Units bought directly from previous owners are usually more affordable, while those sold by secondhand dealers tend to be priced more, without much added value. The latter may at times present better value if the dealer offers a comprehensive pre-owned vehicle warranty that it can back without apprehension. Otherwise, buying direct from an owner who has taken good care of his ride is still the best way to go. Look at what’s available for sale and consider all factors before making your pick. Exercise your right to walk away from any potential bum deals.
There are major improvements with this Ranger, both technologically and ergonomically. Save for the ride that’s not ever going to be car-like given the workhorse nature of pickups, the truck offers much-needed comfort-level improvements in space, amenities, and ingress and egress. Utility is also enhanced, and the available cargo bedliner is a welcome feature.
Inside, car-like features abound. The ergonomics rivals those of Japanese makes. The one truck feature retained here is the low-maintenance and hard-wearing interior. All in all, the improvements can be summed up in three letters: w-o-w. Yes, it’s that good.
A choice of two engines, two transmissions and two drivetrains come with this Ranger. The ‘lesser’ XLT variant is powered by the 2.2-liter Duratorq that churns out 148hp and 375Nm. That’s not as impressive as the 3.2-liter Wildtrak’s 197hp and 400Nm, but in
a power-per-displacement battle, the smaller engine wins, making the XLT possibly the better buy for those looking for more kilometers in between stops at the pump. If your pickup duties require towing heavy loads of over 3,000kg, though, the Wildtrak might be the better choice. Either way, there’s no real losing proposition here—just a matter of what’s right for you.
Thanks to its sizable dimensions, the Ranger allows for a commanding view of the road ahead. And with a fording depth of 800mm, it has capabilities that those coming before it did not. Be warned: The power from either of the engines can be somewhat intoxicating if you’re not careful with the throttle pedal. There’s always the temptation to keep the accelerator glued to the floorboard, at least until the legal roadway limit.
Driving that way, you’re going to need to stop more frequently to replenish the 80L fuel tank. Tread lightly and drive more conscientiously, and you can go over 1,000km on the open road before you need to see another pump. If you’re running with a bed devoid of cargo, those 1,000km will be a little less than comfy. With 1,000kg of cargo in the back, however, the ride exhibits greater comfort.
Being a modern truck, the third-generation Ford Ranger offers much more value than the model immediately before it. The tech, features and amenities it has are definitely light years ahead of older pickups. This gets the Top Gear seal of approval. (Ferman Lao)
Note: This article first appeared in Top Gear PH’s October 2015 issue.