Utes are a fantastic invention. Serving duty for all manner of tradespeople, farmers, hardcore dudes with motocross bikes, and more, they’ve made life convenient for those that need to transport filthy stuff without hitching up a trailer, and without getting grubbiness in the driving compartment. They (mostly) drive better than a van, and with the right tyres can deal with some really rough terrain.
However, they have a dark side. Leaf spring suspension is less than ideal on the road, they’re often noisy and rough, you don’t have the luxury of a boot to hide valuables in, and for all the convenience they give you, the manufacturers are acutely aware that price is a huge factor when you’re buying a work vehicle. They’re less of an emotive purchase therefore they’ve often been lacking in features that car drivers take for granted just to keep the price down.
The new Ranger challenges this, though. It’s an improved model that’s making some of the other utes look decidedly 1999. Four things set this ute apart from the others:
Gearbox: The gearbox is a six-speed manual which has (in ute standards) a very short throw. Whereas many ute gear changes feel like you’re rowing a boat, this reminds me of my old WRX STI – notchy, needs a bit of a firm hand, but very satisfying.
Looks: Channeling the brawn of its bigger American brother, the F150, the Ranger makes many other trucks look, well, puny. Check it out next to the Mitsubishi Triton in the photo gallery and you’ll see that the Triton looks like it was starved as a child. I caught other ute drivers giving it the eye on numerous occasions.
Ride and handling: the previous model was reasonably accomplished, but this seems better. We drove the top spec Wildtrak last time, and in this new model, which is the model down, at times I was under the illusion that I was driving a car. It’s never going to slalom like a Focus Sport, but for general cruising on the motorway and reasonable quality roads, you’re going to make smooth progress. My significant other even fell asleep in the passenger seat on the trip back fromThames where some of these photos were taken. We didn’t have any mud tyres and it was raining, therefore no off-road excursions were taken. However, it has some serious off-road specs comparing it to other utes available, so it appears that it could handle what’s thrown at it. Continue reading “Ford Ranger XLT 4WD Double Cab 2012 Review” »