Tuesday, October 30, 2018

First Drive Impressions: The New Ford Ranger WildTrak 2.0 4x2 Automatic Tested - Video & Highlights of the Drive to Ipoh and Back

Recently, I had the chance to try out the new Ford Ranger WildTrak 2.0 4x2 Automatic. This happened a few days ago right after the launch of the New Ford Ranger, a few of us automotive journos were sent off to various destinations around Peninsular Malaysia. I ended up on a trip to Ipoh, Perak with three others and two new Ford Rangers between the four of us. 

There, we managed to witness the first ever delivery of the New Ford Ranger WildTrak to a customer in Ipoh at the Ford Ipoh Dealership, SNS Kembara Utama Sdn Bhd, who welcomed us with open arms and are also seem extremely happy with the new Ranger and the response it has been getting in Ipoh. Aside from witnessing the handing over ceremony, we actually tried out the Ranger on various surfaces which included city roads, B-roads and a little bit of dirt roads too in the areas surrounding Ipoh.

I was paired with Syukran of Mekanika in the new Ford Ranger WildTrak 2.0 4x2 Automatic variant (you can see a small part of him in the video above). This is the third highest specced Ranger which you can buy officially. The higher up variants are the upcoming Ranger Raptor (super wide arched and super nice looking!) and the Ranger WildTrak 2.0 4x4 Automatic variant. The other journalists got the red Ranger XLT+ 4x4 Automatic you see in the photo below.

In terms of actual differences, the WildTrak 4x2 and the Ranger XLT+ 4x4 automatic both get the same new Ford 2.0liter single turbo diesel engine which produces 180PS and 420Nm. Both get the also new 10 speed automatic transmission but the dark coloured WildTrak I was in has only rear wheel drive to play with. Still sufficient for soft off-roading, as it still has a locking rear e-differential. Not a hardcore type of pickup truck but still capable for you to go do that lifestyle bit - some fishing, plodding along some kampung road, some dirt roads and the usual non-hardcore type of stuff.

I must say that in terms of on-road performance, the new Ranger WildTrak 4x2 performs admirably well. At over the highway speed limit it tracks the road nicely and feels stable at high speeds. You can still drive it without any white knuckles or sweat 30-40kmh over the speed limit and it feels planted. The steering seems communicative for an electric powered steering and it is accurate too....but at parking speeds, it is light so that you can maneuver in and around tight city spaces.

Brake pedal feel seems decent and there is stopping power. I think this new Ranger feels a little bit more planted than before. Ford says that this new Ranger has some suspension work done so that it feels better and is also more refined. We tried it out over many road surfaces including a dirt track and it seems to soak up the road irregularities quite well. NVH seems good too as it felt like the WildTrak feels more SUV-like rather than just an ordinary pickup truck. Of course, when I tested the earlier WildTrak 3.2, it was already great to begin with. That one could be one of the most interesting pickup trucks that I have ever drove in recent years. 

Speaking about refinement, the new Ranger WildTrak 4x2 feels quieter than before. Of course the new 2.0liter engine is smoother than the old 3.2liter 5 cylinder engine. What it loses is character of the old warbling 5 cylinder engine note. What it gains is more refinement and power. I feel like the new 2.0liter pulls as hard or harder than the older large capacity engine. Shame it doesn't sound as engaging as before.

The 10 speed gearbox is a torque converter based automatic. It feels smooth when it upshifts and when it downshifts automatically. It is intelligent enough to know which of the many, many gears it has and during the short overnight trip, I did not feel that the gearbox had to hunt for gears. There are no pedal shifters but there are +. - buttons to the right of the gear knob which allows you to shift manually if you want to. In short, the transmission is refined and smart enough actually. Note that the top three gears are overdrive gears and it allows the Ranger to sip diesel rather than gulp it down. I saw an average of 10.5liters/100km on the drive to and from Ipoh, which is pretty good for two automotive testers who idled the car a fair bit, drove the car hard and took it to some rough terrain for testing.

Of course, being a top of the range variant, the WIldTrak 4x2 is fitted with a lot of equipment. A lot of safety features, both active and passive like ABS, EBD Trailer Sway Control (if you want to tow stuff), hill ascent control (no hill descent), airbags and more. However, it does lack a few extras that you can only find in the WildTrak 4X4. Quite obvious but this variant actually is good enough for daily use. I like the option of a lockable rear electronic differential that would make this tame off-roader a little more capable. It may not have 4wd, but with a diff that could be locked, it would help things a bit more than one without such a system.

It does lack some features like Hill Descent Control, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA), Lane Departure Warning & Assist:, Semi Automatic Parallel Parking (SAPP) and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Vehicle & Pedestrian Detection when compared with the WildTrak 4x4 but during the short time I had the WildTrak, none of these features were really required if one drives properly and pays attention to the surroundings.

Whatever the case, the WildTrak 4x2 still brings in a lot to the table with its cozy interior and other equipment. The SYNC 3 infotainment system if up to date and can connect to smartphones quite easily. There also also nice comfort touches like the soft touch dashboard, leather trim and seats as well as an overall ambiance that feels a little more premium than what we usually have in a pickup truck. 

Of course, this is just what you could say a small dose of the new Ranger actually. An overnighter would mean limited testing even though we drove it over a few hundred kilometres to another City and back. But as first impressions go, the new Ranger WildTrak seems capable enough for those into the lifestyle bit. Not for the heavy duty off-roading, but more for those interested in its carrying capabilities, towing capabilities in an urban or 'kampung' setting. Not for some Jungle jaunt of course, but wild enough to skirt the borders of the Malaysian rain forests and still come out intact. 

Wish we had more time to try it, but as you can see, we did try to have some fun with it in the YouTube video above whilst trying to review it Motoring Malaysia

The New Ford Ranger WildTrak 2.0 4x2 Highrider Automatic retails from RM134,888 

More Photos and Specifications for all Ranger variants (click to enlarge) are below:

Meeting the local lifestock - You could carry one or two of those cows you know...and oh...the surrounding area was filled with potential fertiliser..or smelly booby traps. Oh, the things we do to take interesting photos.

 The WildTrak visits a castle...Doing the touristy thing.

The friendly staff and management of SNS Kembara Utama with the new Ford Ranger

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