MULTI-PURPOSE vehicles, where the workhorse bakkie is also the family car, are increasingly popular among people living in the city, which is why one sees so many double cabs on the mom’s taxi route, making it very hard these days to find a parking spot where you can avoid being next to them at the local shopping centre.While many manufacturers have succeeded in giving these bakkies a carlike interior, creature comforts and technologies, they have not often succeeded in getting those gearboxes to be less bakkie-like. Manufacturers are taking note of this and more automatic models are coming onto the scene. Ford has definitely upped the ante with its new smooth operating 10-speed automatic gearbox in its 2019 Wildtrak Ranger. No, it’s not a typing error - it is indeed TEN-speed.The vehicle test driven for this week’s column was the top of the range 2.0 Bi-Turbo Wildtrak, with the 10-speed gearbox and 4x4 capabilities.The Ranger also features improved suspension, engine and in-cabin technology.While the 2.2 and 3.2 TDCi engines remain in the line-up Ford has now introduced its advanced new-generation 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine in the Ranger. It is available as a single turbo or bi-turbo in the top models.The 2.0-litre four-cylinder bi-turbo and single turbo engines are assembled at Ford’s Struandale engine plant. It offers superior performance and fuel efficiency combined with lower noise and vibration levels.According to Ford technical info, in the bi-turbo engine, the two turbochargers work in series at lower engine speeds for enhanced torque and responsiveness. At higher engine speeds, the smaller turbo is bypassed and the larger turbo provides boost to deliver high power. Maximum outputs are rated at 157kW and 500Nm of torque from 1 750 to 2 000 r/min.EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR CHANGESThe Wildtrak, which now comes with HID headlamps and LED daytime running lights, has retained much of its original look. The model which was test driven boasted the distinctive sabre orange exterior colour, rounded off with a dark, titanium-effect finish for the trapezoidal grille, outboard air intakes, side mirrors, door handles, side air vents and load-bed rails. The interior is in ebony black and features dark-satin chrome trim, a gloss-finish decorative spear and comfortable partial-leather seats. NEW TECHNOLOGYTransmission innovations include the progressive range select (PRS) that has an SST (select shift transmission) button. This function is able to lock out selected gears, which can be beneficial when towing, driving in slippery conditions or climbing a steep gradient. There is a ‘Sport’ mode as well, which is controlled via +/- buttons on the gearshift lever.The rear suspension has also been upgraded for a softer, more refined and comfortable ride.Other new technologies include semi-automatic parallel park assist and the EZ lift tailgate for easier closing. Active safety features include adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert, lane-keeping alert and lane-keeping aid, and auto high beam control.The Wildtrak has also been equipped with the high-end SYNC3 with navigation and an integrated eight-inch touch-screen colour display. SYNC3 also offers the benefits of smartphone integration. Waze users can now project the app’s real-time traffic and navigation service onto the touch screen via SYNC3 AppLink and control it through voice command.Keyless entry with a stop/start button has also been added. The 2019 Ranger also sees the introduction of active noise control (ANC) on the Wildtrak Bi-Turbo for a quieter cabin.RIDEThe smooth transitioning of the automatic gearbox was one of the most impressive features of this beast of a vehicle. It is so smooth and effortless that if one had to count the transitions, one would never get a full 10 count. The Wildtrak is fast off the mark, and very willing to speed up quickly for overtaking.The towing capacity of up to 3 500kg remains unchanged, as do the load capacity of up to 1 199kg (on selected models), the 800mm water wading depth and 230mm ground clearance.PRICES3.2 TDCi Double Cab Wildtrak 6AT 4x2 R623 1002.0 BiT Double Cab Wildtrak 10AT 4x2 R645 9002.0 BiT Double Cab Wildtrak 10AT 4x4 R692 900All models come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A six-year/90 000km service plan is included, with 15 000km service intervals.