Sunday, April 09, 2017

TEST DRIVE: THE FACELIFTED FORD RANGER 3.2 WILDTRAK - A Characterful Engine Makes this a very special Pick-up

Pick-up trucks are getting more and more versatile these days. This is especially true when it comes to those double cab variants that allow you to carry four other passengers and a lot of cement bags at the same time whilst traversing rough terrain. This is because most come with a 4 wheel drive setup which allows you to go nearly everywhere. It is most useful for construction companies to small time contractors. The versatility of these pick-up trucks make them very popular as is their affordability here in Malaysia.

Most pick-up trucks these days come with all sorts of creature comforts. Back in the day people who bought pick-ups had to get by with bare minimum of creature comforts. The interior of a pick-up truck twenty years ago had more things similar to a commercial truck than a passenger car. You had heavy duty plastics lining the interior. You had only one transmission option - a manual. You had the cheapest seats to sit on and you had a steering wheel made out of hard plastic. The radio could be had with two small speakers. It usually spewed out music sounding like crap. If you bought it you were most likely a builder or you supplied bags of something to someone. It was rarely bought by anyone who crunched numbers or pushed papers at the office. It had a commercial purpose.

But not anymore. In the age where Sports Utility Vehicles and other recreational vehicles the pick-up truck has transformed itself into something people bought for the fun of it. Something to carry one's mountain bikes. Something to tow a jet-ski or two. Something to look good whilst going fishing. Or even something just to head over to the nearest shopping mall in. 

Now if this is the case, I have to say that these days they do things pretty well. The current generation pick-up trucks you see today are loaded with creature comforts and technology. They are also fun and powerful to drive. These days turbodiesel engines pump out so much horsepower and torque that they can be pretty fun. So much fun until they can hound you on highways even. 

One of the best I have driven is the Ford Ranger. I had driven the current generation Ford Ranger 2.2 XLT prior to its facelift and I actually enjoyed its performance and practicality. It was quite fun on and off-road. More fun off road even as you had to load up the flat bed at the rear as the heavy duty springs at the rear like a bit of tension instead of sitting empty. But if it sat empty you could do a few donuts. That 2.2liter turbodiesel was torquey enough to do so.

Anyway, it was good. More car-like that even the MItsubishi Pajero from the 1990s. But I must say I was surprised when I had a go in the facelifted  Ford Ranger WildTrak 3.2. It was so much more fun than the 2.2. By a few miles. I have not had the opportunity to drive the pre-facelifted WildTrak so this isn't a direct comparison. This is just me stating that the Ranger WildTrak could be the best pick-up truck out there in terms of character and in terms of having fun.

I shall not mentioned much about the redesigned front end. Because this is what the facelift is. A redesigned front end of the current generation Ford Ranger with a more modern look to it. And then you have more equipment. But like the old WildTrak, the showcase of the new WildTrak is its powertrain and drivetrain.

Ford has taken the Ranger chassis and stuffed in a characterful 5 cylinder large capacity (for our region) 3.2 engine inside it. The truck is so nice sounding due to this addition. Don't talk about the power it makes. It makes power with some nice warbling noises. You give it some booty, it goes and does it with a velvety back beat of that 5 cylinder engine. The 3.2liter engine gives you immense pulling power as well as a good dose of mechanically refined noise to go with it. I don't think you could find a nicer sound emanating from any of the other pick-ups sold here.

And then there's the sound-proofing. You just hear the warble of the engine but it's just the right amount for you to be thrilled and just enough to tell you that you're driving something special instead of just a standard 4-pot oil burner. As for road noise, I was extremely surprised that there was so little of it. There was so little tyre or road noise coming from beneath me. The WildTrak has quite large sized 17inch tyres but it was surprisingly muted from inside the cabin.

The ride quality was also impressive as well as its handling. It was more car-like than the pre-facelift Ford Ranger 2.2 which I had tried. The tail was more obedient in most situations and didn't bounce around like the 2.2 did. I believe Ford's engineers spent more time on the WildTrak than on the base model I suppose this would make sense as the WildTrak is Ford's flagship pick-up truck in this region and everywhere else that does not get the larger American made F-150. I'd say that the WildTrak's ride is about as good as it gets for a pick-up truck. 

Inside is also the same. The space inside, both front and rear is good for a pick-up. Especially in the rear, the rear seatback is not upright and you can sit quite comfortable too. You get all the latest gadgets and gizmos like most premium passenger cars. The WildTrak gets half leather/fabric seats, leather trimmed dashboard with contrasting stitching and a leather wrapped steering wheel. I did wish that the gearknob was leather wrapped too. 

This was the only part that somehow did not get some leather. It should, as it is a point of contact for the driver and since that this. Especially since it is a top of the range vehicle and since so many other parts have leather already. But honestly, I was more enthralled with the soundtrack the 5 pot engine was belting out rather than anything else. It's just a sweet engine even from inside the cabin.

Aside from that the WildTrak also gets Ford's latest SYNC based infotainment system. The SYNC 3. This system syncs everything you have with it including navigation (it is possible), smartphones and even safety features. Connectivity is very good once you get the hang of it.

Speaking about safety features, the WildTrak has active and passive safety features like airbags, ABS, EBD, ESC, lane assist and collision warning. It also has a female voice that kept asking me to 'Drive Carefully' every time I got too close to the rear of another car. I must have been doing that quite a lot because to this day I remember that female voice saying ' Drive Carefully'. 

I do wished I had more time to play around with the functions of the WildTrak and see whether I could have turned off Miss Drive Carefully. Or maybe I should have just driven carefully. I suppose it does make sense as the WildTrak could easily hit 160kmh on the highway if you're not paying attention at the speedometer. It is that easy to take it up to those speeds in something so quiet and refined. So I suppose it's actually darn good to have a lot of safety features in this WildTrak. But do keep an eye on the speedometer. It is first and foremost, still a pick-up truck folks - high center of gravity and an empty, light tail to contend.

But for what it is, the WildTrak is bloody good fun. I even took it off-roading a bit. With so much torque at hand it would have been wise not to do so. And a proper test of the WildTrak's capability also demands that I do so. 

We took it up and down a water damaged and overgrown with grass road somewhere in Shah Alam. It was an uphill and downhill dirt road that must have been used by the TNB (the national power supply company) to maintain their electrical pylons. The weather was nice and it wasn't raining, so the stock tyres would be sufficient.  

The WildTrak's ground clearance helped a lot. Even with stock 265/60/18 sized tyres and ride height it easily cleared the water carved grassy track. The best thing about running the 6 speed automatic transmission in 4 wheel drive Low gear mode is that crawling is easily done as there is no clutch to balance. Even a dummy can crawl up and down a dirt track easily. There is hill descent control also, so going down is a breeze. Going up is easy with amount 470Nm to play with. Recently overgrown with vegetation dirt tracks could easily be dealt with if you have decent ground clearance and a torquey engine. Especially a torquey engine. Power definitely corrupts.

This is definitely one of the most sorted out pick-up trucks on sale today here in Malaysia. Of course, it is a premium specced pick-up truck. This means that you have to pay more for it. You also have to pay more road tax for it also. But this is the price to pay for the best pick-up truck readily available in Malaysia today.


PROS: Characterful sounding engine, lots of torque, pulling power, load space, practicality, well equipped cabin, good ride, very quiet cabin, good equipment levels, good safety equipment

CONS: the good safety equipment consists of a female voice that is pretty vocal, no leather on the gearknob, not much actually

Conclusion: Could be the best, most characterful engined, most powerful yet readily available pick-up in Malaysia today


Price: From RM 139,838.00  OTR retail price without insurance

Road Tax: RM1,956.80 per annum

5 cylinder TCDi diesel

Horsepower: 200PS
Torque:          470Nm

6 speed automatic with Hi/Lo, sports mode (4x4 shift on the fly) and locking rear diff

Front - double wishbone coil springs
Rear - Leaf springs

Fuel Consumption:
Combined:            13.5liters/100km (actual)

0-100kmh: approximately 10.5seconds (tested)

Notable Equipment:

SYNC 3 with 8inch touchscreen connected to twin 4.2inch info screens on instrument cluster
Two USB outlets, one SD card slot and one RCA outlet

Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Warning Alert
Rear View Camera and parking Sensors
Lane Keeping System
Adjustable Speed Limiter
MyKey (allows you to limit car settings like maximum stereo volume and top speed, and encourages front occupants to wear safety belts.)

1,000kg payload and 3,500kg towing capacity
 800mm water wading capability
Hill Descent Control
Traction Control Systems
Trailer Sway Assist

External (in the rear) and internal 230v charging outlets
Auto wipers and headlights
Dual Front, Side & Rear airbags

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