Sunday, February 24, 2019

Test Drive: 2019 Ford Ranger XLT+ 2.0 Automatic - All the Ranger You Actually Need

The 2019 range of Ford Ranger here in Malaysia is super extensive. There is a variant for everyone and that is absolutely necessary for a brand that is now essentially one that only sells pickup trucks and SUVs here in Malaysia, and for most of South East Asia too. We recently tried the 2019 Ford Ranger Wildtrak 2.0 4X2 during its Malaysia launch at the ned of last year, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Now, we managed to test out the similar engined Ford Ranger XLT+ 4X4 2.0. 

The 2019 Ford Ranger XLT+ is one of the latest variants for the Ranger series of pickup trucks. It actually sits high up in the Ranger hierarchy – The top being the Ranger Raptor, followed by the Wildtrak 2.0 4X4 and 4X2 and then comes the XLT+ 2.0 4X4 (only one variant) and then the XLT (4X2, 4X4), followed by three variants of the base model XL. The XLT+, Wildtrak and Raptor all get Ford’s latest 2.0liter turbodiesel engine with the Raptor and the Wildtrak 4X4 getting the bi-turbo variants. This XLT+ and Wildtrak 4x2 has to make do with a single turbocharger bolted on to its 2.0liter turbodiesel engine. The others still use the 2.2liter Duratorq engine.

The Powertrain & Drivetrain

Personally, to me the new engine in this new Ranger is the most important feature of this current line-up. The 2.0L Single-Turbo engine is coupled to a new 10-speed automatic transmission of which the top three gears are in overdrive gears. The engine makes 180PS and quite an ample 420Nm of torque which is suitable for hauling a whole lot of stuff. The XLT+ Automatic can carry up to 1,000kg of cargo on its chassis or tow 3,500kg worth of stuff. This is pretty impressive for a 2.0liter engine actually. 

While the engine and the new 10 speed automatic gearbox is the most important change in the Ford Ranger, Ford has also changed a fair bit on the Ranger. It may look quite similar from afar, but the new Ranger XLT+ features a new grille design (which looks neater) and something Ford called a chiselledlower bumper with a larger air intake for a more cohesive look. The XLT+ also has LED daytime running lights and HID headlights for better visibility. It how ever does not have LED front fog lights like those found on the higher ranged The Wildtrak. 


Aside from these changes, the XLT+ still looks like how a Ranger from 2017 or 2018 looks… Of course, this could be a said as a major facelift in terms of engineering work underneath but no major plastic surgery for its looks. But personally, the Ranger does not need it as it still looks good. What’s underneath that counts this time around.

Interior & Equipment

Speaking of what’s inside, the XLT+ gets a lot more Active Safety Features. It gets Ford’s Pre-Collision Assist feature using Inter-Urban Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Vehicle and Pedestrian Detection. The system is designed to detect pedestrians as well as vehicles to bring the Ranger to a complete stop to help mitigate potential rear-end collisions and road-traffic collisions with pedestrians. The system functions at speeds above 3.6km/h. Note that this is does not confirm that nothing will happen to you, or your Ranger, but MITIGATE, or lessen than chances of heavy damage or injury to pedestrians. 

Other notable equipment in the new Ranger XLT+ include Lane Departure Warning & Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Forward Collision Warning. Loading is also made  easier than ever on XLT+ with the Easy Lift Tailgate (also fitted to the WildTrak). I’ve opened and closed the tailgate and it is so much more lighter as well as easier for one handed operation – you should have a look at our Ford Ranger Wildtrak 4X2 Video on YouTube where we demonstrate a bit – also look at it for a more visual description of the Ranger as the Wildtrak and the XLT+ are similar creatures. Anyway, Ford claims that the Ranger’s tailgate is now lighter to lift, with a 70 percent reduction in initial force required to raise it for closing. I believe that this to be true as I do remember it being so much more easier than the last Ranger I tested prior to this major facelift.

When you slip into the cabin and into the driver’s seat you can tell this is a familiar place. It is familiar to me because a few months ago I drove the Wildtrak 4X2 to Ipoh and back. This XLT+ is similar but you can tell that is is a step beneath the Wildtrak as it does not feel as upmarket as the Wildtrak. The dashboard and interior is cleaner and devoid of yellow stitching on the steering wheel, armrests, seats etc. It is slightly more Spartan but still has a leather wrapped steering wheel and seats.

Aside from that, it still comes with a lot of equipment. I suppose this is because of the ‘+’ in the XLT+. The XLT+ has keyless entry and push-start button, there is also SYNC® 3 infotainment which is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. SYNC® 3 includes Bluetooth and an 8.0-inch full colour touchscreen so it does have some toys to keep you busy when you are caught in traffic or if you are stuck on some muddy trail (if there is cellular reception that is). Oh, there are lots of USB and 12V power supply for you to stick your smartphones and other electrical to use via the Ranger.

So how is is like to drive?

The Ranger XLT+ is easy to drive. Much like the Wildtrak 4X2 I drove earlier it offered good visibility from its high-riding cabin. It also has Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) which makes the pickup easy to maneuver in and around town as well as if you are doing some off-roading. While it is light, it does offer resistance at speed. While a little feel-less, it does weigh up at speed so you do feel confident driving at speeds at up to 140kmh. 

Not that this is what you should do as in a long sweeping corner on highways, you do feel the rear being a little bouncy and very empty (if unloaded). As the XLT+ is only all-wheel driven when you engage the 4H or 4L (High or Low) gears, it is usually rear-wheel driven most of the time and it is easy for you to actually spin a wheel at the slightly sign of dampness on the road…especially if you are heavy on the throttle. That said, put on the power gently and you will be fine. 

In terms of its ride and handling as well as refinement, the new Ford Ranger’s suspension had been upgraded for improved control roll, to enhance the driving experience when fully-laden and when towing. It is also fun as it does corner quite flat for a tall pickup truck and seems quite capable and confident at high speeds. According to Ford, this is because it made some geometry changes for an improved ride, a reduction in body roll as well as improved steering precision. All seems to show levels of improvement over the previous Ranger. Even the ride seems less bouncy than before, and closer to the range topping Wildtrak variants which seems to have extra suspension tuning compared to the lower Ranger variants.

The only difference I can tell from the Wildtrak and this XLT+ aside from the higher specified cabin of the WIldtrak is that the Wildtrak does offer a slightly quieter cabin. While the XLT+ is no slouch, and is quiet at a high speed cruise, the Wildtrak seems to have a bit more sound deadening inside it as it is a tad more refined (most likely because it IS RM10k more than this XLT+). But this new 2.0liter engine and gearbox actually helps the XLT+ to be one of the more refined pickup trucks on the market. It revs smoothly to its typically low diesel redline (4,000RPM or so).

The importance of four-wheel drive & that new 2.0liter engine

But if you ever feel the need to use the four wheel drive, or the 4H gears for driving, you will suddenly be blessed with a more solid feeling Ranger. If you engage the all-wheel drive mode, the XLT+ feels at least 100% more planted at high speeds (140-150kmh) at the expense of fuel economy. In the wet, this is actually my favourite setting on the highway if I want to cruise at 110kmh and more. Why so? Simple because the 2.0liter engine makes 420Nm of torque and if you really gun it, it is so easy for the rear wheels to overtake the front. The 4L gears are also good if you want to get yourself out of a muddy rut. Couple this with the standard tall ride height, it does off-roading quite well – this 2.0liter can actually take on what the previous Wildtrak 3.2 can achieve in terms of off-roading thanks to that new engine (and the 10 speed gearbox) which delivers pretty good levels of torque low down the rev-range.

The Ranger is actually so much fun for a pickup truck because of this. The new engine makes instant power on tap. It may be 200cc smaller than the previous Duratorq 2.2liter engine and even the previous 3.2liter Wildtrak engine, but it feels as potent as the larger, 5 cylinder engine. Such is the technology you get in this latest Ford pickup truck.

Again, this is why it can easily spin its rear wheels at the first sign of mud, sand, snow or water if you are liberal with the throttle pedal. So I love driving one, but I also like to show it some respect when I do so. This is also partly due to the limited slip differential at the rear which does partially lock up on power. Both wheels will spin rather than just the wheel without any traction as an open diff would normally do.

So, what else is there to say about the Ranger XLT+? In terms of its faults, there are not that many. It may be a tad bit too large for use in urban areas sometimes especially when there are so many inconsiderate people double parking everywhere. In the countryside, the Ranger feels most at home, on dirt roads and on most small towns it just feels so right being there. It has loads of loading space at the rear and with its double cab setup, it can carry five people easily (including the driver of course). 

One thing which I feel isn’t too ergonomic is the use of the Selectshift manual shift buttons to the right of the gearknob. This is not as intuitive for right hand drive cars as the angle seems to be ergonomically odd even though it is supposed to be used with the left thumb. But personally, I found little use shifting manually most of the time. Even if you are off-roading, the low to high gear change knob and even the hill descent control button would get more usage than this. Even if you are stuck in the mud, you would be slowly rocking your Ranger using the D and the Reverse gears rather than the manual shift buttons. So it isn’t a big enough deal.


The Ford Ranger XLT+ actually shows you how much progress has been made on pickup trucks. These vehicles may have rudimentary ladder frame chassis but with the latest in technology and equipment. Inside, it is all comfortable and filled up with the creature comforts you need (and more). Outside, the Ranger XLT+ has all the road presence you need. You may want a Wildtrak or a Raptor, but in reality, this is all you need. You may want a Raptor, but this is all you need. Maybe suitable for your budget too, most likely.

Since it is priced from RM124,888.00 it is a good RM10,000 more affordable than the WIldtrak 4x2 yet it actually offers true off-roading capability over the more lifestyle, fishing trip oriented Wildtrak 4X2. This is something a person who wants to go mud plugging would actually need. A proper pickup truck.

2019 Ford Ranger XLT+ 2.0 Automatic

2.0liter 4cylinder Variable Geometry Turbocharger Diesel Commonrail Engine
180PS / 420Nm torque

10 speed automatic gearbox with selectshift. Rear Limited Slip Differential.

Tyre size – 265/60/18

Fuel Consumption (Tested Average in urban settings ) – 11.2liters/100km (8.9km/liter)

The Ford Ranger Wildtrak 2.0 4X2 Video Review

Click to enlarge.

No comments: