My dad grew up in a different country and worked on a farm from a young age. Manual labour was the tool of trade and the donkey was the animal to keep things moving. As years went on, trucks would take the largest loads and slowly the humble ute crept through the world for a more practical machine capable of moving smaller loads in tighter places. After moving to Australia the ute became commonplace and we could only admire from across the ditch to the USA where the utes were too big to be just called a ute. They were trucks. Tough trucks.
Bringing the new Ford Ranger XLT to my parents place was bound to cause some surprises, not just because I was driving a new car but because it allowed us to look at how far things have come in this category.
The Ford Ranger XLT is firstly big. Not just big in a physical sense but it feels huge on the inside, has a tall ride height, has seemingly enough space for the old donkey in the tray and has a nightclub bouncer presence on the road. Firing the car up though and taking it for a drive though plays tricks on you, the Ranger XLT is very easy to drive with electric power steering corners are simple and parking is made easier.
Speaking of parking, the addition of a reversing camera with fantastic quality also helps as rear visibility using mirrors alone would be troublesome. Speaking of the entertainment system, Ford’s Sync 3 unit is well equipped like all vehicles in the range with the lovely Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. This lead to the first realisation, the Ranger XLT has car-like luxuries. If you only looked at the dash it looks and feels like a Mondeo or an Everest without huge differences, and this is a great thing.
We loved the abundance of USB ports and 12volt ports in the front but also in the centre console for rear passengers PLUS a 12volt port in the tray, this is a genius way to travel with a cooled esky.
The Ford Ranger XLT runs a 147kw turbo-diesel engine which for us delivered surprisingly decent fuel economy averaging close to 9L/100km, one of the factors aiding this we think was that while it is a 4WD, it can run as a 4×2 for 90% of the time you’ll drive it. A flick of the dial can prepare the Ranger into 4WD mode.
Safety is continually impressive in the Ford range we’ve been testing and the Ranger is gladly not an exception. With adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance you do start to wonder why it couldn’t be a great alternative to the Ford Everest.
As a modern day truck the context of what it’s purpose is is important when being critical about the Ford Ranger XLT. For starters, a lot of plastic consumes the inside of the cabin which while not the most luxurious, it is likely the best material for tradies jumping in and out of it all day. This would mainly become an issue if you were buying it as a family car + weekday work truck, the XLT struggles to please the former. Being a 2017 model vehicle we’ve also come to expect keyless entry and keyless start, this was surprisingly absent and just reduced the new car feeling a little.
Naturally the performance of the five cylinder under the hood does mean you won’t be winning any races soon but it does fare poorly compared to others in the category, the Amarok from VW for example will leave the XLT crying in the dust, not that people should be taking these trucks to the track. The engine does get quite vocal in the cabin when working harder than 2500rpm which can be a tad frustrating when talking on the handsfree system, people will know you’re driving!
The Ford Ranger XLT was a fantastic vehicle to experience for a week, it was great to look at how far trucks have come, see the blend into the modern world but remember the principles of what it means to own one. As someone who recently experienced the Ford Everest, the Ranger brought back that familiar feeling but with a tray that could be put to greater use than the addition of two seats. We commend Ford on delivering a truck that sticks to their old phrase of Built Ford Tough, it’s a reassurance that you can go anywhere and do almost anything in this vehicle.
If you’re in the market for a new ute or truck then the Ranger XLT ticks a lot of boxes in creature comforts and capability. It’ll carry, tow and move a lot without much complaining, all while the driver is safe and enjoying the new technology of a modern vehicle.