- Ford has launched its all-new next-generation Ranger bakkie in South Africa with 13 double-cab models for now.
- Pricing is quite competitive and will make Toyota Hilux customers think twice before purchasing.
- The new vehicle is packed with technology and features, along with several optional upgrade packages.
It feels like we've been talking about the new Ford Ranger for years, and that's what the local Blue Oval brand has been doing – four years, to be exact. When they heard the initial launch would take place later than expected, they didn't stop talking about it, which probably made this bakkie highly anticipated.
From News24 Motoring's inner media circle meetings during the past year to driving the new model in Thailand a few months ago, the arrival of this vehicle has certainly lived up to the hype. I should have known going on a Ford bakkie launch meant we would go off-roading, but I wasn't expecting to drive such technical routes for two days that would showcase the new vehicle's every new feature – and there are a lot! It felt like we had driven thousands of kilometres, but when you're going on a 190km trip on a mountain at 5km/h just on the first day it tends to feel like it's been a very long drive.
Even though I had driven the brand new VW Amarok at the international media event in Cape Town just a week before the Ranger launch, those routes were mostly on straight-forward tar roads. And, since the Amarok is built at Ford's Silverton plant and shares its engines, platform, gearboxes and loads of design and tech features, the two experiences were completely different – and the bakkies most certainly felt that way too.
You're probably thinking, 'Ag, it's just a new bakkie, no big deal' – especially if you're a Toyota Hilux fan or customer (and yes, there are plenty in South Africa). Let me put it like this: When we were using Nokia and Motorola cellphones, BlackBerry became the new rave. We've since morphed to Samsung and iPhone, and the latest Huawei models. While the Ranger and Amarok are new bar-setters, and even the new Isuzu D-Max is a step above the rest, the Hilux feels like that old BlackBerry. It feels incredibly outdated in a market that's now filled with highly competitive choices – at more affordable prices.
Toyota's best Hilux?
Toyota recently launched its updated GR-Sport Hilux, and while it might be the best-looking bakkie yet from the Japanese automaker, it has left many fans heartbroken. The new model has GR-specific suspension tuning and bespoke exterior design with a distinctive front grille treatment. Power gets a slight boost up to 165kW with 550Nm. But that's about where things end. However, we've rated the GR-Sport as one of the best vehicles of 2022, mainly because of its four-cylinder engine. With the new Ranger and Amarok now being such premium vehicles, this might be in the Hilux's favour in any case – and their brand loyalty is unwavering no matter what, it seems. It also helps that the GR-S model is not its halo or most expensive Hilux in the range either; it is priced at R865 400. That title goes to the Hilux 2.8-litre GD6 4X4 Legend RS auto model, priced at R917 900.
How does it drive?
Where the previous generation Raptor was the cream of the crop in the bakkie world, the new Ranger feels on that level, but even better. There's a massive touch-screen integrated into the fascia, and it's pretty user-friendly compared to former systems. The features are also easier to find and turn on or off.
We did some highway driving, and the bakkie has more than enough torque when you need to overtake. However, most of the two days were spent off-roading and showcasing the vehicle's 4x4 capabilities in every aspect.
On the outside, the new Ranger appears more brute and filled out in spaces that left room to grow on the previous model. This means the vehicle now conveys a more confident and capable look to match its functionality.
The new Ranger is packed with new tech, new safety and driving systems, new intelligent towing tech and loads of plush materials. It felt like a great SUV and not just a superior bakkie. The previous generation Amarok was always an incredibly comfortable vehicle to drive in, thanks to its great suspension but also because of the seat design and ergonomics, along with plush materials. The Ranger feels even better than that. According to Ford, it's the smartest, most capable and most versatile Ranger ever, and they're not just saying so. The proof is in the pudding here.
Two engines were on offer at the launch – the 2.0-litre Biturbo and the 3.0-litre V6, and we sampled both through extensive driving on rugged terrain. Ford T6 platform engineer Ian Foston, from the automaker's design and development department in Melbourne, Australia, was present at the event and explained that while everything else was new, there was also a brand new transfer case, which made off-roading an absolute breeze.
I haven't done off-roading for a very long time (probably before the pandemic), but my driving partner and I felt so at ease behind the wheel. Not once did we think there was an obstacle we couldn't conquer in the Ranger, and we did some proper 4x4ing along non-existent roads on some of the Overberg's mountains.
There are plenty of new features too, like the integrated step in the rear to access the loadbay, or the fact that the gear lever shifts itself to "Park" if the driver forgets to do so, and opens the driver side door. I especially love that you can change driving modes on the fly at the shift of a dial, and also put the vehicle in 2H or 4H. Putting the diff lock in use is also an easy function. And we can mention many more niceties, but we just don't have that kind of space.
This bakkie is any camper's dream vehicle since the Wildtrak model comes with six pre-loaded Aux fittings with fuse ratings of 10A to 30A to make the outdoor lifestyle a piece of cake.
Even the loadbay is all new with a wider cargo box, and a new cargo management system to create a deck or raised platform. This makes the bakkie even more versatile with six tie down points. The aluminium rails also have tie down points, making it more functional too. The loadbox lightning has also been repositioned, and there's a power roller shutter with durable plastic box top and tailgate capping.
Watch and read more about the Ranger's technical features here: 2022 Ford Ranger: These are the new bakkie's tech specs you need to know about
Vehicles, in general, have become extremely expensive, and even though the new Ranger is built locally at the Ford Silverton plant in Pretoria – just one of five global hubs building these vehicles for the worldwide market – prices are steep for the average Joe. However, with its base model launched at just R486 000 with decent standard specs, Ford is giving Toyota a good run for their money.
READ | Ford's new Ranger launches in SA: Here's how its competitive pricing compares with Toyota's Hilux
That said, the Blue Oval brand did away with inclusive service plans in their pricing quite some time ago, so this affected its pricing as you'd need to pay extra for it. The Ranger comes with a four-year or 120 000km warranty, four-year or unlimited kilometre Roadside Assistance, and a five-year or unlimited kilometre corrosion warranty. While service intervals are every 15 000km or annually (whichever occurs first), you would need to fork out an additional R18 741 for a six-year or 90 000km service plan. You can also opt for an eight-year or 165 000km plan.
The model range is a lot less than it was in recent years, but the 13 double-cab models Ford is offering at launch are so extensively specced, there's something for everyone. Single-cab and Raptor models will be launched later in 2023.
The automaker also offers a vast list of add-on packages to give customers exactly what they want, including more than 200 options. Buyers genuinely are spoilt for choice but don't take my word for it; best you go and test drive one yourself.