|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Compared to the mid-range XLT, the Wildtrak takes on a very different design direction, emphasizing itself more as a lifestyle-oriented truck as opposed to a workhorse. Outside, it’s differentiated by being sportier thanks to the use of dark trim elements on the grille, bumpers, door handles, and side mirrors. The headlights and tail lights now feature smoked elements for that added oomph complimenting the standard 18-inch alloy wheels. The other exterior improvements include the addition of roof rails, a bed bar, and a bed liner. All in all, it makes the already macho Ranger into a true beefcake. The Wildtrak is a true man’s ride down to the availability of three, yes only three, color choices: Chili Orange, Black Mica, and Cool White.
Inside, the Ranger’s metamorphosis from workhorse to lifestyle pick-up continues with the addition of standard leather seats (complete with the ‘Wildtrak’ lettering and contrasting stitching), dual-zone climate control, power adjustable driver’s seat, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and even cruise control. The Wildtrak truly feels like a luxury sedan, until you notice that it requires a huge step just to get in or out of the vehicle (the lack of a driver’s side grab handle doesn’t help). Questionable ingress/egress aside though, the Ranger is ergonomically excellent. Despite the lack of a telescopic steering column, the steering wheel falls right in hand. The seats, front or aft, are supportive as well. The Wildtrak, like the XLT, features voice command integration to its full suite of connectivity from Bluetooth to USB to full iPod connectivity. The 6-speaker sound system is crisp and has great bass as well.
Before, the weakest point of the Ranger is the obvious absence of the range-topping engine and drivetrain. Now, those weaknesses are moot thanks to the 3.2-liter inline-5 engine good for an even 200 horsepower and 470 Nm of torque (lesser mortals may opt for the same 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine though). These figures easily put the Wildtrak 3.2 as best-in-class in terms of overall power and torque. That said, don’t expect the Ranger to pull off the line with smoking rear tires and all. The Wildtrak prefers to deliver all its power in a more linear, more usable power. It provides gobs of torque from as little as 1,500 rpm all the way to redline. It’s also surprisingly quiet and smooth from idle to full throttle, perhaps even more so than its 2.2-liter counterpart. Still, mash the throttle hard enough though, and you can still coax the Wildtrak to chirp its rear tires. Thankfully, the Wildtrak comes with ESP or Electronic Stability Program with Traction Control to quell unnecessary wheel spin.
A six-speed automatic is the only transmission available with the 3.2-liter and it does the job quite well in adopting and adjusting to your driving needs, though it can still get confused in the up/downshifts between second and third gear. The gearbox also offers three shifting modes: Normal, Sport, and Manual—a nifty feature on a pick-up truck. The gearbox is designed to reduce engine revs and extend the driving range, so it’s quite surprising that the Wildtrak 3.2 can manage around 600 kilometers between fill-ups or around 7.57 km/L in pure city driving (the 2.2 XLT does 8.19 km/L).
The Wildtrak’s suspension is unchanged from the XLT’s so it rides on the typical Double Wishbone/Leaf Spring layout. But thanks to the longer wheelbase and excellent tuning, the Ranger exhibits a refined and comfortable ride. Larger road imperfections can still make their way to the cabin, but it soaks it much better than other pick-up trucks. The steering is on the heavy side and requires much more turns lock-to-lock increasing this vehicle’s turning radius, but parking the Wildtrak is made much easier thanks to excellent all-around visibility and standard rear parking sensors with a back-up camera.
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak, especially in the 3.2-liter trim is perhaps the best thing that happened to the pick-up truck genre. In more ways than one, it has managed to re-define the segment on what a pick-up truck can and should be. It manages to marry the best qualities of a pick-up such as uncompromising power, payload, water fording capability to the best merits of a passenger car such as luxury amenities and excellent safety features (it’s got 6 airbags for one). The Wildtrak answers the weaknesses of the Ranger line-up when it first launched, and it answered them with the clearest, boldest statement possible.