Ford: Ranger Wildtrak longterm test #2

Ford: Ranger Wildtrak longterm test #2

Its taken almost two years to get my hands on a Ranger Wildtrak, because at launch Ford New Zealand simply couldn’t get enough production to satisfy customer demand let alone put a car on the press fleet for the motoring media to drive.

So I managed to pry our longterm test car HLN485 from the managing editors grasp for a week, so that I could pick up a kit-set garden shed from the local Bunnings hardware centre.

It was worth the wait because the Wildtrak ute has a few niceties such as the reversing camera and parking sensors, satellite navigation, heated seats (the drivers seat being permanently stuck on but more about that later), and the sliding tray cover which locks easily and securely.

The Wildtrak was also fitted with the much needed tow bar, because my two metre long shed wasn’t going to fit in the tray unfortunately, you’d need a Ranger single cab ute for such a purpose.

Thankfully Bunnings supply loan trailers as you can see from the image above, and hooking it up is certainly made easier with the on-board reversing camera.

But I have to say that on first impression HLN485 was looking a bit too well used for a vehicle that had clocked up more than 10,000km, the upholstery and the dashboard were certainly in very good nick and there were no squeaks and rattles, but there were some tell tale signs of scratched paintwork and a filthy engine bay – which meant that some serious off-roading had been carried out by somebody prior to the vehicle being delivered to us.

There were also tell tale signs from the transmission, the occasional clunky shift and sometimes for no explicit reason, the ‘box would change down. We suspect that a service and a change of transmission fluid might be in order. The next service will be due at 15,000km for this vehicle.

Our Ranger Wildtrak was a 2013 build vehicle which actually started its working life in Australia on the Ford Motor Company fleet, before it was shipped over to New Zealand to be used for demonstration purposes at the National Fielday’s at Mystery Creek.

How did I find out the pedigree of HLN485? It was a bit of a saga…

During its somewhat tougher than usual working life as a press vehicle, the plastic shroud covering the drivers seat base had broken, which meant that the seat heater button was stuck in the permanently “on” position.

2013 Ranger Wildtrak bonnet upCouple that with me leaving the indicator parking light on overnight because the vehicle was parked on the street, I hopped in to start the Wildtrak one morning – and found there wasn’t enough juice in the battery to crank the engine over.

So I reached for the owners manual to find the phone number for Ford’s recovery service – only to discover that HLN485 had an Australian owners manual inside the glovebox, and the 3,000km service had been carried out in the company garage in Campbellfield, Australia.

Thank god for smartphones, I managed to locate the roadside recovery 0800 number on Fords New Zealand website, and got put through to a very helpful person at the other end, who found the registration, added the Wildtrak into their system, and sent help promptly.

An hour later the mobile technician had been and gone and I was back on the road taking the Wildtrak for a decent run to put some charge back into the battery, and received a second phone call from the Ford roadside recovery service to ensure that all was okay.

A quick trip to John Andrew Ford’s service department followed the next day to have the miscreant switch disconnected, least we get stranded again.

These few peccadilloes aside, both the managing editor and I are still enamoured of the vehicle overall. It’s not the quietest truck on the road, the five-pot engine can be a bit raucous under load, and its not the huge technological leap over the opposition that Ford might have you think, but it certainly has some useful technology on-board.

And let’s face it, Ford sold more Ranger utes in 2014 than Toyota did Hilux utes, so the punters have voted with their wallets, that at the end of the day speaks volumes.

Words and pictures: Robert Barry

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