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October 9, 2012

Review: 2012 Ford Ranger XLT A/T

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Pick-up trucks, by nature, serve a single purpose: they’re workhorses. They’re the modern day equivalent of “beasts of burden”—rarely beautiful, but highly prized for their durability and dependability. But as consumers are introduced to much more sophisticated fare, how can this lowly beast of burden remain true to its humble origin, and yet, serve its new, pickier generation of masters?

For Ford and their all-new Ranger, the answer is quite simple: remain true to your brand DNA. Though it may sound so ridiculously simple, in reality how do you jam pack the Ranger’s 20-year history into a clean-slate design? After all, the Ranger always had something new be it best torque or power in its class to having the segment’s first five-speed automatic. In the end, they threw everything you knew about the pick-up truck and flipped it on its head.

From the ground up, the Ranger is all-new. There are little carry-over parts, and those that are, easily fit inside your pocket. Yet, a single glance is enough to convey a powerful reminder that this is a Ford; that this carries the brand’s rich and illustrious history while remaining truly modern. The overall look is simple but brash. The front is dominated by the now signature three-bar grille and flanking it are large, squared-off headlamps. And then you’ve got the power-domed clam-shell hood serving as the final exclamation point. Though the shape is largely limited by being a pick-up, the Ranger features some nifty design features like the stamped wheel arches, built-in rear spoiler on the tail gate, and most notably significantly reduced body panel gaps.

As smart as the Ranger is on the outside, it’s absolutely genius inside. Having a tough wearing interior that stands up to the demands of being a workhorse is a given, but the Ranger manages to cram features which put most passenger cars to shame. For instance, there’s a multitude of storage spaces including a large glove box that can fit a 16-inch laptop. Then there are door pockets that can fit 1.5-liter bottles and smaller bins for mobile phones and other knickknacks. The rear bench can even be folded up revealing two lockable storage bins for tools and other items. With there’s a lot of space for your gadgets and drinks, there’s even more room for five full-grown adults. With its B-pillar moved forward, the Ranger has enough leg room and knee clearance to impress even the mother-in-law.

In addition to the class-leading space and storage, the Ranger boasts of car-like refinement and ergonomics. The seating offers six-way adjustment for the driver and a less upright rear bench. The seats themselves offer good support and the steering, while lacking telescopic adjustment, still falls right in hand. All the controls are clearly marked and easy to use, with the animated full-color display on the center stack serving as an excellent highlight. The XLT model also features voice command integration to its full suite of connectivity options from Bluetooth to USB to full iPod connectivity. It helps too that the standard sound system is crisp and clear.

Engineered as the next-generation pick-up truck, the Ranger’s entire drivetrain is new and combines power, efficiency, and durability. Since the 3.2-liter inline-5 isn’t available yet, the local Ranger makes do with the 2.2-liter inline-4 common rail direct injection diesel. It may not have class-leading figures, but the 150 horsepower and 375 Nm of torque are more than adequate. Equipped with the six-speed automatic, the Ranger initially feels sluggish from a standstill, but as the revs go up and the turbo kicks in, the engine delivers the goods in a smooth, linear fashion. Shift shocks are noticeable especially when the transmission downshifts from a high gear to first (say at an abrupt stop), but the Ranger remains refined, especially given that it’s a pick-up truck. The brakes are equally excellent and responsive as well.

The six-speed automatic is specifically designed to reduce engine revs and extending the Ranger’s driving range. It’s fitted with an 80-liter fuel tank which should theoretically space out fill-ups to about 1,000 kilometers. This is well and good if the Ranger is used primarily for highway duty (it even has cruise control), but for city dwellers, the 2.2-liter six-speed automatic does 8.19 km/l—excellent figures in their own right, but fill-ups are spaced at just 655 kilometers—well short of the mystical figures Ford is espousing. Nonetheless, when’s the last time you had a car that goes 600 plus kilometers between fill-ups?

The suspension system of the Ranger is far from revolutionary given it’s the traditional Double Wishbone/Leaf Spring layout very common with pick-ups. But thanks to the longer wheelbase and excellent tuning, the Ranger exhibits a very refined, comfortable ride. Larger road imperfections such as potholes still make their way into the cabin, but it manages to soak things like concrete joints much better than any other pick-up. On twisty stretches of road, the Ranger feels planted and secure making this a great vehicle even for longer, out-of-town trips. The steering requires much more turns from lock-to-lock increasing the Ranger’s turning circle, but once you’re used to it, even parking this 5.3-meter long car is easy because of excellent visibility and large mirrors.

Aside from its remarkably smooth engine and surprisingly comfortable ride, the Ranger is designed to stand up to the toughest challenges, be it carrying, fording, or climbing. Though no part during the test did the Ranger need it, it’s good to know that the water-wading depth is at 800 millimeters (fully laden) with no adverse effect to the drivetrain system. There’s no need to drive the Ranger to a dealership for “check-ups” each time you pass through a river or Araneta Avenue for that matter. The ground clearance stands at 237 millimeters and the payload capacity is more than 1,400 kilograms.

The all-new Ford Ranger is perfect as far as pick-up trucks go. There are still some truck-like characteristics here and there, but it’s largely been reduced to the barest minimum. From inside out, the Ranger marries the best qualities of a class-leading pick-up truck with car-like refinement and cutting-edge technology. Clearly, this is the pinnacle of Ford’s expertise in the pick-up truck genre. It’s designed, engineered, and produced to lead the pack. And it has done so by leaps and bounds.

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