We’ve all seen the marketing machine that is ford; and ahead of the withdrawal from Australian production we’ve started to see a change in approach, with vehicles like the Ford Ranger being touted as all things to all men. But is ford living up to it’s ambitions of appealing to the traditional Ute driver or outdoor adventurers in the way it would hope, or are they missing the mark?

Adam gives us his feedback, mid-swing on his big loop on an Australia-wide journey, one family and a Ford Ranger in an open letter to the purveyors of the Blue Oval themselves.

We’re all extremely excited about the upcoming Ranger Raptor, which will hopefully come packing the 331kw 3.5 twin-turbo Ecoboost motor from its bigger brother, but for now with all the ‘pick-ups’ and ‘ultimate’s’ thrown into the ad-blurbs, has Ford really landed a winner with the current offerings, or are there several blue elephants in the room?

 

Dear Graeme,

Firstly, thank you for building the Ford Ranger. I know it wasn’t your personal handiwork as the Ranger is made in Thailand and Australia is just one of the 25-30 countries that get to enjoy it. All the same as the head honcho for Ford Australia, I thought I’d let you know that I have thoroughly enjoyed owning and driving my Ranger for the past 12 months. It’s the current model (PX2) Dual Cab XLT Auto with Tech Pack, in case you were wondering.

My car, sorry my ute, or to use Ford jargon, “Pick Up” – tut tut this isn’t America you know! – is probably more important to me than to most other owners. This is not just because I have hankered after a ute for almost as long as I can remember being able to breath. It is much more than that. Our family owns a ute, much to the disgust of my Brighton born wife who unequivocally associates “ute” with “bogan”, because it is a “do it all vehicle”. A harsh association perhaps but your car makers probably have many decades of deeply ingrained middle-class prejudice to contend with there. Take our purchase as a small moral victory in the battle for hearts and minds!

 

Getting back on track to the reason why the Ranger is vital to me and my family at the moment. We are doing a 12 month “Big Lap” towing a caravan around this great sun burned land. We have recently hit the 8-month mark of our travels so I’m in a reflective state of mind. I thought that as we are giving the Ranger close to the ultimate long-term road test, you folks at Ford might be interested in a bit of feedback.

 

As I said at the start I like this car, a lot and I dread having to sell it and buy something inferior. But nothing is perfect and there are always things that can be improved for the next Ranger. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the PX2 series, as a tweak on the PX, right? And I hear the next Ranger is due out here in a few years time, so hopefully there’s time to test and implement some refinements. By the way PZ – yes Pee Zee in American English – has a decent ring to it! But I digress again, back to the feedback.

 

Before my suggestions for improving the Ranger perhaps I should tell you why I bought it over the competition. Trust me I did my research – I love that kind of stuff –

and I had some clear criteria for the car. It HAD to tick seven boxes, without compromise:

  1. Have 5 ANCAP stars
  2. Be auto transmission
  3. Tow 3,500kg
  4. Be diesel
  5. Have a Dual cab
  6. Get good industry reviews
  7. Look half decent

 

Granted it is not an overly technical wish list – I am no mechanic – but as you would know there are plenty of utes on the market that can tick all those boxes. I test drove the Colorado LTZ and the HiLux SR5 and both would have done the job. The thing that got the Ranger ahead of the pack for me was the safety features in the Tech Pack and the infotainment – yes I can’t believe that it is now a word either!

My issues might not be what everyone considers important but when you are covering tens of thousands of km’s, mostly towing, little gripes become major bug bears! So, in the order that they came into my head here is my “Dad’s Eye View” of our beloved Dickie the Ranger.

 

TYRES

Ranger’s, and interestingly Land Cruisers, seem to come with the Dunlop Grand Trek AT22’s. I know that tyres are a personal choice thing for customers but in simple terms why fit a ‘pick-up truck’ – your words not mine remember! – with passenger construction tyres instead of Light Truck tyres? I know the AT22’s are nominally an ‘All Terrain’ tread pattern but without being Light Truck construction it seems a bit like putting LeBron James in Dunlop Volleys. I mean you could do it, but it wouldn’t look good or work very well! FYI the retail price difference between the AT22’s and a mid-range Light Truck All Terrain tyre is minimal. I did notice that the vehicles you use in the marketing pictures weren’t fitted with the Dunlop AT22’s…

 

DASHBOARD

Put simply the sun glare off the dashboard plastic reflects up onto the underside of the windscreen which is immediately annoying. I bought a tailor-made dash carpet to cover it up.

 

SPORTS BAR

What sport is it for exactly? I can’t see its purpose except for having a brake light and two small down lights for the tub.

 

POWER

The numbers are solid but take off could definitely be more exciting with some more horses under the bonnet. 2018 can not come quick enough for that Ranger Raptor to make it to Australia, but please put a bigger lump in the engine bay!

 

REAR SUSPENSION

As with the other utes that I test drove (HiLux & Colorado) the rear end is disappointing. Are leaf springs and drum brakes really still the best option? After consulting some suspension experts it seems that all Utes, bar the Amarok, have an underperforming backside. Disappointing. I had an extra leaf fitted for towing and truth be told it could with some decent sized front springs and shocks too.

 

WINDOWS

Auto up/down all round would be handy instead of just the drivers window.

 

FUEL GAUGE

It works perfectly fine – I have tested it down to 25km left on the range! – but how about doing something different to everyone else like showing the markers in 1/8 increments instead of 1/4? Or even better showing the actual amount of diesel left in litres?

 

FUEL ECONOMY

No gripes with the performance numbers but the fuel economy display would often show distance remaining as 1,999km! That would be nice to achieve but I fear it must be an electronic gremlin, that appears often after disconnecting the battery.

 

WARNING CHIMES

Some are useful, some are not. Take the door open warning chime. I know the door is open, I am sitting in the car looking at the door that I just opened! A Mustang driver and I exchanged rueful smiles across the car park the other day whilst listening to the same infuriating bing bing bing! Perhaps these type of idiot alarms are designed for other markets? But onto more serious warnings. The spanner symbol tells you of a Powertrain Fault. Not good news generally and the solution to your issue? For this I quote from page 64 of the Owner’s Manual, “Contact an Authorised Dealer as soon as possible”. Upon the first instance of this happening, the friendly Ford dealer Service Manager on the phone says it could be one of thousands of error codes and you need to come in ASAP to hook up to a diagnostic machine. Not always easily done when you are thousands of k’s away in the middle of NFW and then the car goes into limp mode (nothing more 2,000 RPM) with 2.8 tonne of van on the back…means doing 40km/h on 110km/h roads with 70 metre road trains around.

 

FUEL TANK

80 litres seems to be pretty standard for utes but for touring / towing bigger is better! 100 litres would be a start but 120 would be better and avoid the hassle of having to carry jerry cans.
TUB

The 12V tub outlet is good to have in the tub but it would be much more useful if it was always live. I was told it was, trust me it isn’t. For me being able to run some low draw LED strip lights over the tailgate is very handy when camping.

 

CENTRAL LOCKING

Why isn’t the tailgate included just like the four passenger doors? I have a canopy on my Ranger and locking the canopy and tailgate – seven locks – with a key is so very 1980’s!

 

TRANSMISSION

Third gear seems a bit long, even lumpy, when that throttle is mashed. And I know it says it in the handbook but if it is important to tow in Sports mode – ambitious naming, perhaps S for Semi Auto? – perhaps a sticker on the gear stick surrounds?

 

AUXILLARY BATTERY

Please stick with me here. I’m not asking for a 2nd battery but given that almost all of the 4WD competition – utes or not – have room for these in their engine bays, can Ford find some room too? Please! Otherwise it has to go in the tub, like mine, which takes up valuable storage space when packed to the rafters. An intermediate solution would be to have one of the storage bins under the passenger seats large enough to accommodate a deep cycle battery, cradle and charge regulator.

 

TYRE PRESSURE MONITOR

This one is a major irritant. The so called smart valves that house a monitor located on the inside of the wheel rim cost $75 each. I know this because I bought one for my 2nd spare wheel/tyre. The valve cost is steep but it’s not my issue here. The issue is that the tyre pressure monitor doesn’t actually tell you what the tyre pressure of the tyre is. Yes really. The functionality only allows the monitor to warn you when pressure is “low”. This is very poor given that many owners will use theirs as a 4WD and/or tow therefore need to deflate/inflate their tyres often. On top of this the tryre pressure monitor system can only tell you that tyre pressure is low, and not even which tyre! To put it in context, caravan TPMS can be purchased after market, as valve caps, for around the same money as four Ford smart valves and provide a nearest PSI reading for all four tyres via Wi-Fi. Must do better here to stand out from the crowd.

 

SPARE WHEEL

Why is it a steel rim instead of an alloy like the four driving wheels? I’ve been told that it’s only the XLT’s where the spare wheel is not the same as the driving wheels. For what it is worth, $800+ for a genuine Ford XLT wheel is outrageous, as are most genuine prices.

 

So that’s my completely incomplete list of the small things that could be better about this car after living with it for a year. As mu my road tunes composer of choice, Mr Paul Kelly says, “From Little Things Big Things Grow.” In this case probably into a Ranger Raptor, which I am free to test drive any time, especially in some sand, mud or water. Happy motoring.

 

Yours in Ford,

 

Adam Barnes
Full time travelling Dad

Part time sports fan

Casual car critic

 

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