David MottonSee other tow car reviews written by David Motton
Tow Car Editor
Can the Ranger make a workhorse in the week and a tow car at the weekend? We put it to the test.
Ford has updated its Ranger pick-up with more efficient engines. There's a choice of 2.0-litre diesels, putting out 130PS, 170PS and 213PS. Other changes include a tailgate that's easier to open and close, and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
But is a 2.0-litre engine enough for heavy towing? We find out.
Even by pick-up standards, the Ford Ranger is big and heavy. Our test car has a kerbweight of 2246kg, giving an 85% match of 1909kg. That's nowhere near the 3500kg towing limit, but that figure drops to 2730kg if the Ranger is fully loaded.
However, even if you need to tow a caravan while the load bed is full of concrete, the Ford should be up to the job.
For a while, the old 3.2-litre diesel continues in the range, and Ford admits some owners are concerned about swapping to a 2.0. But they shouldn't be. The most powerful bi-turbo version of the 2.0-litre has more power and torque than the 3.2.
With 213PS (210bhp in old money) and 369lb ft of pulling power, the Ranger easily has muscle in reserve, even towing a big tourer like the 1693kg Swift Platinum Fairway 835.
It pulls away smartly from junctions, making the most of any gap in traffic. And on dual-carriageways and motorways, it's quickly up to 60mph.
All that welly comes in handy when making a hill start. We found that the handbrake held both truck and tourer still on a 1-in-10 slope without being pulled on with undue force.
And even with the switchable 4x4 system in two-wheel-drive mode, we were able to pull away cleanly on damp Tarmac.
There was a little vibration, but the Ranger coped easily and we could have switched to four-wheel drive if the weather had been worse or the slope steeper.
We'd rate this even more highly as a tow car if it were less susceptible to buffeting from high-sided vehicles. The back of the pick-up tended to fidget on its tough-but-basic leaf spring suspension when any HGVs rumbled by.
When we arrived at the campsite, wet grass didn't phase the Ranger. Switching to 4WD, combined with mud-and-snow tyres, provided all the grip that we needed.
Hitching up again was simple enough, with easy access to the electrics. However, once the caravan was attached, there was minimal clearance around the Al-Ko hitch head. If this were our vehicle, we'd fit a spacer plate to provide more room.
Pick-ups have improved, but are still quite rough and ready compared with passenger cars. The Ranger comes closer than most to being as refined and comfortable, though.
Big bumps send shake and shudder through the body of many pick-ups, but the Ranger feels solid. There's still some fidget to the ride with an empty load bed, but it's reasonably comfortable over most surfaces.
The engine can sound a little strained under load, but the cabin is quiet once cruising. Wind and road noise are both kept to acceptable levels.
If you are used to a pick-up, the size of the Ranger won't intimidate you. However, for anyone swapping from a regular car, its length, width and height take some getting used to. It is huge, significantly longer than a BMW X5 or a Land Rover Discovery. It needs a lot of care when parking, although the Wildtrak's reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors take the guesswork out of judging the extremities.
The 10-speed gearbox shifts gear smoothly, although if we're being picky it could creep more gently when reversing.
The Ranger's load bed is well over 1.5m long and more than a metre wide, even between the wheel arches, and can carry up to 1024kg if needed.
In the cabin, there's space for five, with reasonable legroom for adults in the back. Driver and front seat passenger sit high up on supportive seats, and there's enough adjustment for short and tall drivers to be comfortable and see out clearly.
The Ranger line-up starts from £21,995, excluding VAT (most pick-ups are purchased by businesses and the VAT is then reclaimed).
Our high-spec Ranger costs £37,434 including VAT. That compares with £37,350 for the top-spec Nissan Navara, which is well beaten for power and torque by the Ranger.
Official figures suggest 36.2-36.7mpg should be achievable. We were content with the 24.2mpg we saw while towing.
The Ranger achieved a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2012, and the latest version should be safer thanks to additional driver aids.
|Engine size||1996 cc|
|85% KW||1909 kg|
|Towball limit||225 kg|
|Maximum towing limit||3500 kg|
|Torque||369.0 lb ft|
|Official MPG||36.2 mpg|
|Towing MPG||24.2 mpg|
The Ranger really majors on performance and practicality.
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- Powerful engine for towing
- Supportive seats
- Five-star NCAP safety rating
- Rear-end fidgets with empty load bed; some drivers may find its size intimidating
- Some drivers may find its size intimidating