In a segment awash with four-cylinder turbo-diesels, the arrival of the new Ford Ranger with an in-line five-cylinder turbo-diesel was a welcome change in 2011. This venerable five-cylinder has served well in the Ranger, which ranks consistently at the top of Ford’s sales chart, thousands of units ahead of the second-placed Mustang.
The bigger five-cylinder engine remains, offered in six-speed manual and automatics of the same ratio tally, but it’s the 2.0-litre bi-turbo model − only available with a 10-speed auto − that is leading the charge into 2019.
The 4×4 XLT is $56,090 for the six-speed manual five-cylinder, rising by $2288 for the six-speed auto with the 3.2-litre engine. Opting for the upgrade to the bi-turbo 2.0-litre adds more dollars to the purchase equation, to a start point of $59,790, with only the Wildtrak and Raptor models (with which it shares a driveline) above it.
Both the five-cylinder 3.2-litre and the four-cylinder 2.0-litre units are direct-injection common-rail turbocharged diesels, but the smaller bi-turbo engine is quieter and smoother. It ups the power output by 10 kW to peak at 157 kW at 3750 rpm, with 500 Nm of torque rated between 1750 and 2000 rpm. The veteran 3.2-litre five-cylinder unit with a single turbo produces 147 kW at 3000 rpm and 470 Nm over a slightly wider rev range (it tapers off at 2500rpm).
When power output is demanded in a hurry through the rear wheels, it can make for noisy T-junction departures if the traffic gap is small; constant 4WD wouldn’t go astray.
The six-speed manual has one overdrive gear, while the auto’s ratios show both 5th and 6th below 1:1; the 10-speed auto has 7th as a 1:1 with the top three gears all overdrives, and not far apart at that.
The bigger 3.2-litre engine claims a thirst of 8.9 litres per 100 km, while the 2.0-litre boasts 7.4 litres per 100 km; both share the same capacity 80-litre fuel tank.
Our time in the bi-turbo yielded similar fuel economy figures to those we’ve experienced previously from the five-cylinder, hovering between 11 and 12 litres per 100 km. The long-term trip computer on the test car sat just above 10L/100 km over considerably more kilometres than we had travelled − perhaps the long-legged 10-speed auto had spent more time on the open road.
The automatic transmission is a clever one, sliding easily and quickly between gears and not feeling constantly on the lookout for a more suitable ratio than the one already in play.
There’s minimal indecision from the auto, only sporadically in two minds as to the gear selection, but it makes good use of the considerable torque on offer.
Slip it into Sport mode and the result is a little more aggression on offer and a genuine manual change − the transmission won’t override the driver, but the manual gear selection is completed using a button on the side of the selector handle. It’s not intuitive, but Ford has done the right thing in requiring the selector switch to be engaged in order to slip out of Drive, into Neutral and up to Reverse; it should be that way on all automatics.
The bi-turbo four-cylinder is smooth in its delivery, using a sequential twin-turbo set-up, with one smaller low-pressure turbo kicking things off from low engine revolutions, passing the baton to a larger unit for the run to the redline. The test vehicle also had the optional Redarc electric brake controller (a Ford accessory for $799 fitted), mounted in the centre console by the driver’s left hand.
The stop-start button, diff lock and parking sensors switches are all a little easier to see and use these days sitting next to the transfer case knob, rather than being tucked up on the dash behind the steering wheel.
When it comes to pricing there’s an excellent opportunity to push total figure on the invoice skywards.
As provided to Delivery for evaluation, the package of options included leather trim (an extra $1650) and the $1700 optional Tech Pack, which adds adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, automatic high-beam, driver fatigue monitoring, a lane-keeping function, a ‘semi-auto’ parking assistance system and speed sign recognition.
The XLT standard features list already had cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, 17-inch alloy wheels, a towbar, a rear chrome sports bar in the tray, privacy tint rear windows, folding and heated exterior mirrors, an eight-inch colour touchscreen with satnav, a six-speaker SYNC3 sound system with digital radio (and a decent aerial), Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, a 12-volt and two USB inputs, while retaining the now-vintage CD slot.
There’s a handy 230-volt power plug in the rear, following the example set by RAM Trucks, as well as one 12-volt outlet, dual-zone climate control (still with no rear vents), carpet floor, a driver’s carpet mat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel which is still only adjustable for rake.
The manually adjustable front seats allow for a reasonable driving position regardless of steering set-up shortfalls, and the cabin offers good visibility and comfort up front.
There are some nice touches like extending sun visors to properly cover side windows. The rear occupants get an armrest, but in space terms it’s a little less cavernous, although by no means is it the tightest of the segment.
The three-barrel instrument panel offers ample information for the driver – although engine revs and a digital readout of road speed are still mutually exclusive.
Safety wise it has automatic Xenon headlights, front (halogen) fog lights, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming centre mirror, six airbags, stability control systems and an alarm.
And the list goes on. There’s also tyre pressure monitoring, lap-sash seatbelts with use reminders, hill ascent and descent control, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and a rear diff lock.
At just over 5.4 m long, 2.0 m wide and 1.8 m tall (with 237 mm of ground clearance), the Ranger Bi-Turbo is one of the larger mainstream dual cabs on offer, tipping the scales at 2197 kg − 33 kg lighter than its five-cylinder equivalent.
A listed payload of 1003 kg and a braked towing capacity of 3500 kg are all within a 3200 kg GVM and a GCM of 6000 kg, but the ride quality is improved even by the presence of 150 kg of cargo.
Throwing a solid lump on the towbar does little to detract from the bi-turbo’s appeal, with our large three-horse float dulling but not completely eroding the power delivery. It was only when some engine braking was needed that the larger-capacity five-cylinder and the six-speed auto would have been preferred, although the (annoying) manual shift function of the 10-speed auto helped.
A 511 mm deep tray has an 840 mm loading height and offers a decent load space, but care needs to be taken when lowering the tailgate if a tall trailer hitch is involved.
The tray is 1549 mm long (1485 mm if measured at the top) and 1560 mm wide (1139 mm between the wheel arches). There are four load restraint points and a 12-volt outlet, as well as a sports-bar mounted light for the rear tray, although its performance is not the most illuminating yet seen.
The Ranger remains a yardstick in the segment and the addition of a bi-turbo 2.0-litre has done nothing to change that status as a quiet, powerful, efficient and well-sorted option.
Taking all its points into consideration, the Ford dual-cab ute is showing no signs of falling from its high perch.