Whether you are in Europe, the States, or Down Under, the humble pickup is one of the most popular options on the road. It’s easy to see why – practicality, reliability and all-round macho charm. And that appeal is garnering ever-increasing popularity on Sri Lankan soil. The latest Ranger XLT comes into a market that is dominated by the likes of Toyota’s Hilux and the Mitsubishi L200, with a more wallet-friendly option in the Isuzu D-Max. With a price tag of LKR11.2mn, the Ranger is primed to go toe-to-toe with the big boys.
The Ford Ranger’s success comes in no small part from an association to its big bad brother, The F-150, which is not just one of the best-selling pickups, but one of the best-selling vehicles period. It’s massive, attractively priced (in North America), and offers road presence that dwarves everything save for the largest SUVs. Due to the F-150 not falling within our legal requirements, and our current roadways not very ‘wide-load’ friendly, the Ranger makes for an appealing option — a more suitable compact offering.
The Ranger’s styling reflects its rough-and-ready nature, with large bumpers, massive wheel arches and lofted suspension which might come across a tad on the aggressive side to some. On the lower end of the Ranger spectrum, you have the XL which comes with steel wheels and the bare minimum amount of bells and whistles to get the job done. And on the opposite end, you find the Ranger Raptor which is their sporty, off-road chewing, gung-ho and built to take a beating. The XLT however, lies in that sweet spot of offering both features and practicality.
The XLT comes in a crew-cab format (four doors with rear seating) powered by a 3.2 litre Duratorq 200, putting out 198bhp and 470Nm of torque which is more than adequate. The engine is a bit on the noisy side, despite being fairly smooth in operation which is eventually let down by quite an outdated 6-speed automatic transmission. If the same was paired to, say, the 10-speed transmission that comes in the Ranger Raptor, the XLT would really come into its own.
With leaf springs at the back, ride quality is much like other pickups out on the market where the rear end tends to bounce around a bit on uneven surfaces when unloaded. That being said, the Ranger does soaking up the majority of lumps and bumps better than others in the segment. Steering and handling are both surprisingly sharp for a vehicle of this size, offering good agility and accuracy while the chassis is stiff enough to offer mechanical resistance to body roll. Four-wheel drive with a locking differential and the ability to engage hill descent control are all standard on the XLT.
Inside the cabin, your driving position is seemingly higher than other pickup trucks on the market with the ability to fine-tune it thanks to the standard six-way adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support. And while Ford has done a commendable job with luxurious touches like the leather seats, cheap-feeling-yet-robust plastics remind you of the Ranger’s working-class roots. Its practicality is further reflected in the oodles of leg and headroom easily seating four hefty adults. The XLT comes with an 8” “Ford Sync” infotainment unit that gets the job done, but some fiddling and faffing about is recommended to get used to it.
The combination of a high driving position and skinny A-pillars gives you excellent forward visibility which helps ail the apprehension with driving a vehicle like this in close-quartered traffic. Rear visibility, however, is a pain in the neck with a small rear screen to look through and a lengthy loading bay to look past. The loading bay is put to good use however with the XLT being able to haul payloads of over 1.2 tonnes. It also boasts the ability to tow 3.5 tonnes, and 2.5-tonne caravans and trailers are a breeze.
With the emphasis on practicality, safety typically takes a back seat to other features, but the Ranger has been designed to operate from the most urban of areas to those less travelled. Euro NCAP has awarded the Ranger the full five stars for safety (the first pickup to do so), all thanks to it scoring 96% for adult occupant protection and an impressive 86% child protection. Seven airbags, a tyre pressure monitor and electronic stability control come as standard safety kit, as are the childproof rear-door locks and ISOFIX mounts.
The Ford Ranger XLT closes the gap between load carrier versatility and passenger car levels of performance and comfort. This officially makes the choice more difficult should you be in the market for a pickup. A serious competitor that might just have the upper hand.
Engine: 3.2 litre, 5-cyl turbo diesel, 198bhp
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic
Performance: 0-100kmph in 10.7 secs, 175kmph,
Fuel Economy: 11km/l
*Prices are accurate for model and trim specified at the time of publishing