Talk about a hard act to follow. Here’s what to expect from the new Ranger
Things we like
- Silky 3.0 V6 and much improved 2.0-litre biturbo
- Bigger tray now carries a Euro pallet
- V6’s slick all-wheel drive system
- Clever towing and off-road assist systems
Not so much
- Styling may take some time to grow on us
- Some glitches with SYNC4A
- No petrol or manual versions
New? Wasn’t the old Ford Ranger still the best car in its class?
It’s often said that you learn more from failure than success. If that’s indeed the case, there was every chance that the 2023 Ford Ranger could have ended up as the difficult second album.
Yes, there were Ranger-badged pick-ups before the debut of the 2011 PX version of the T6 Ranger, but that was the first Ford-led ground-up version of the Ranger. More than a decade and a couple of facelifts after its launch, it still felt fresh, besting all of its rivals on Wheels‘ Ute Megatest last year.
Eleven years on sale is quite an innings and it’s likely that this second-generation T6, or the P703 in Fordspeak, will be around for an equally long time. Those vaguely competent at arithmetic will realise that this will take it beyond the date that pure internal combustion engined vehicles will be banned from certain markets, so some capacity for electrification is clearly required.
The success of the last Ranger also served to alter expectations. Ford Australia punched well above its weight in developing the PX Ranger, but this second-gen T6 will go to 180 world markets.
In 2021, the outgoing vehicle was Australia’s second best-selling dual-cab ute after the Toyota HiLux and third best-selling vehicle overall, even as it approached run-out. Big boots to fill, then.
Aside from the bluffer styling, which Wheels scooped when we got photos of a styling buck back in February 2019, the big news with the version of the Ranger is the fitment of a gutsy 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, a 184kW/600Nm version of the Lion engine as seen in some Land Rover products and the Ford F-150 truck.
In fact, trace the development of this engine far enough back and you’ll come to a joint venture between Ford’s then-subsidiary Jaguar Land Rover where it wore the AJD-V6 label and Peugeot Citroën, where it was known as the DT17/DT20.
For this application it’s mated to a new fully automated all-wheel-drive system and, without issuing too much in the way of spoilers, lifts the Ranger to a new level of capability. There’s a lot riding on the success of this model, and not just for Ford, as this version of the Ranger will spawn the next-generation Volkswagen Amarok.
Featuring improved safety provision, a more refined cabin finish, a stack of off-road and towing features and a three-engine line-up with a plug-in hybrid version in development, there’s a lot to take in with this 2023 Ranger.
How much is it and what features do you get?
Model for model, prices are within $1000 to $1750 of the old version – with a whole lot more gear and functionality built in.
As you might expect with a new ute range, the sheer number of model permutations is huge. Ford offers three turbo-diesel engines from launch. At the base is a no-nonsense 125kW/405Nm 2.0-litre single turbo offering paired to a six-speed auto.
Step up from there to the 2.0-litre biturbo good for 155kW/500Nm and then onto the big banger 3.0-litre V6 unit, the latter both mated to a tweaked installation of the familiar 10R80 10-speed auto. For the purposes of this feature, we’ll leave the specialist Raptor version aside.
The trim structure currently runs XL, XLS, XLT and Sport, with Wildtrak at the apex. Interestingly, the cabins of the vehicles differ quite markedly, the XL and XLS feeling a little more workmanlike, with a traditional automatic gear lever and manual handbrake dominating the centre console.
From XLT up, it’s far more sophisticated, the space better utilised with an electronic parking brake, a low-profile e-shifter and a wireless charging pad tucked into the dash. This division of the range looks likely to indicate vehicles that people have bought for them and those that people will likely hand their own money over for.
Leaving aside crew cabs and single cabs, prices start at $42,300 for a rear-drive XL with the 2.0-litre single turbo, a price uptick of $1540 on its predecessor. Should you need four-wheel drive, the asking price steps up to $49,930. Both before on-road costs.
From XLT upwards, the range simplifies a little. All dual-cabs from here are fitted with a 10-speed auto and either the 2.0-litre biturbo or the V6 engine, and once you’ve gone beyond the $53,990 XLT 4×2, everything is all-wheel drive. So you’ll pay from $61,190 for an XLT 4×4, with the 3.0-litre V6 alternative tacking exactly $3000 onto that asking price. The Wildtrak 3.0-litre V6 tops out at $70,190 (all prices before on-road costs).
Even the base XL gets a cleanly integrated 10.1-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen running the SYNC4A system, climate control, locking rear diff and, for the first time on a Ranger, a reach adjustable steering column and rear air vents.
Step up to the XLS and you’ll see four drive modes (Normal, Eco, Slippery and Tow/Haul), 16-inch alloys, a power tailgate lock, a better six-speaker stereo, side steps and, of course, that superior 155kW biturbo lump. You get all that for an additional $900, which seems money well spent.
Ford has cleverly massaged the trim walk up to make spending more an eminently sensible choice. The XLT introduces the V6 option, adds rear disc brakes, 17-inch alloys, LED lights, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry. It also features low-profile rear box illumination, which is a plus when unloading the tub at dusk or night.
The Sport trim is 4×4 only and adds Mud/Ruts and Sand settings to the rotary drive mode controller. It also comes with eight-way powered driver’s seat adjustment, dark finish grille and exterior accents, 18-inch alloys and wireless phone charging.
And yes, it works well with the wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, delivering enough charge to your handset to keep the battery level ticking up smartly while running wireless smartphone mirroring.
In addition to the wireless charging pad, there’s also a USB and USB-C jack fitted up front as well as a high-mounted USB by the rear-view mirror, specially designed to accommodate a dash cam.
The Wildtrak range-topper has the kit list emptied into it, with exterior zone lighting, roof rails, a powered roller shutter for the bed, a 12-inch touchscreen, heated and power-adjustable front seats, as well as an integrated trailer brake controller.
It’s worth noting that for an additional $1500, the Wildtrak can be equipped with a Premium Pack that includes fully automatic matrix-beam LED headlamps, a 10-speaker, 660W Bang and Olufsen stereo and a roof-mounted switch pack that allows you to control auxiliary driving lights and other accessories without piercing the body or attaching ugly aftermarket switches to the instrument pack.
The sting in the tail is that the semiconductor supply shortage means that should you want the Premium Pack, it’ll likely delay delivery of your Wildtrak beyond the estimate of eight months post order.
On the subject of supply, XL, XLS and XLT four-cylinder models are fairly readily available, with upper-spec V6 models harder to come by due to big demand from Australian buyers.
It’s also worth noting when configuring your Ranger that every paint finish other than Arctic White is a cost option. You’ll need to dig down the back of the sofa for another $675 before you start exploring colours.
How comfortable and roomy is it?
It’s not night and day different but a few touches have genuinely increased its utility.
The cabin feels a little more spacious than the old version, but looking at the specs, it’s clear that this generation Ranger has only been teased out a few millimetres in each direction. As much as anything, it’s a case of utilising the available space far more smartly.
Ford has extended the wheelbase by 50mm and track width has also increased by a similar amount. What’s more, slimming down some interior features such as door cards and seatbacks has further eked out space and increased the impression of airiness inside.
Materials quality has improved significantly, especially in those models from XLT upwards, where there’s greater use of soft-touch surfaces. The combination of the central armrest, e-shifter and the soft top-roll on the window makes the driver’s seat of upper spec models feel extremely comfortable.
The dashboard is a lot more slab-faced than in the old Ranger, mirroring the exterior styling theme. Thankfully, Ford has resisted the temptation to ladle everything into the central screen, canvassing owner opinion and wisely leaving key heating, ventilation and air-conditioning controls as well as stereo volume as physical controls.
An eight-inch LCD cluster ahead of the driver is hugely configurable and can run as a minimal calm screen if required. The rev counter setting is a little underbaked, displaying a thin bar rather than a skeuomorphic clock.
Unfortunately, we did run into some issues with the screen during the launch event. Some vehicles experienced glitches whereby the system would freeze whereas one XLS trim vehicle I sampled had paired my phone, but then couldn’t communicate that fact to Android Auto, which got itself into a loop asking to pair a phone that was already paired.
With cars arriving into dealers already, it’s not as if these issues could be attributed to early pre-production vehicles. Let us know if you’re experiencing anything similar.
All-round visibility is good, with that bluffer styling meaning that the driver can see the angular front corners of the bonnet, where the softer-styled predecessor’s front end arced out of view somewhat.
Enhancing the feeling of security when manoeuvring the Ranger is a full surround-view camera system with decent definition, standard on Wildtrak and optional on the Sport and XLT trims.
Both front and rear seats offer decent headroom, with both knee room and shoulder space being increased in the rear. Rear passengers also get air conditioning vents for the first time which will make longer family trips far more comfortable for the kids.
There are under-seat storage bins for kids’ clutter, which doesn’t affect the second-row seatback’s fold flat ability should you need to load something inside the cabin without having to risk sullying the seat face material.
Moving to the rear, access to the 1544mm long tub has been improved with the fitment of a box step set into the side of the wraparound bumper moulding. This has been rated to over 200kg and is easily wide enough for a good-sized work boot.
It also means that you no longer have to step up onto a potentially slippery rear tyre to climb into the bed. Moving the dampers outboard of the springs has meant that the load bay is crucially wider than before and the Ranger’s 1233-litre tub can now accommodate a 1200x800mm Euro pallet.
Every Ranger variant gets a moulded box capping with pre-drilled mounting points along the side.
Those models without a full moulded tub liner feature a neat and discreet ruler on the tailgate lip that can be used to measure wood, fish, rope or anything else that could use measuring.
Six tie-downs are provided within the tub along with slots in the moulding so that the tub can be divided if necessary. The Wildtrak also features a pair of sliding cleats and a powered roller shutter.
The latter can be operated from within the vehicle, via a weatherproofed button in the tray or via the Ford Pass app.
You can also operate the zone lighting via the app, so that you can fire up a 360-degree flood of lighting as you approach the vehicle in the dark; handy for security and convenience.
The roof load limits are 350kg static and 85kg dynamic.
What is it like to drive?
There are a few transformative things.
Jump in and pull away and it’s clear that the overall refinement of the Ranger has improved markedly, regardless of engine choice. The ride is a few degrees more polished for a start.
While it’s not the uncanny magic carpet delivered by the Raptor, there’s significantly less of the high-frequency bump and jiggle that we usually associate with driving an unladen dual-cab, even with larger alloy wheel choices.
The damping has been improved, and that slightly longer wheelbase and greater track width deliver a reassuringly planted feel.
Tip the Ranger into a corner and its body control is astonishingly good for a vehicle with its off-road remit.
Outright grip depends on which tyre choice you’re running, but even the Wildtrak with its Goodyear Wrangler Territory A/T mud-friendly rubber delivers low road noise and decent front-end grip.
Special note should go to the Ranger’s stability control system that, on a wet roundabout, is easily able to cope with the driver’s foot going to the floor, meting out a well-judged threshold of power, and then reintroducing drive cleanly as soon as the wheels straighten. To do so in such a seamless, safe manner is a task that’s beyond some premium sports sedan manufacturers.
The steering of the Ranger can initially feel a little gluey, but this is largely a consequence of the lane keep-assist system introducing a skerrick of torque pulse in edge cases as it feels you might be wandering out of the centre of a lane.
Prod the wheel-mounted button to switch it off and the steering instantly becomes far more lucid. Some really well-engineered basic dynamics are being somewhat masked in this instance.
Ford is aware of customer grumbles concerning the 10-speed auto box’s propensity to hunt up and down ratios, so has improved the transmission’s shift logic and fitted a new torque converter to rectify this.
The more basic six-speed auto hasn’t been overlooked either, with a new electronic control system helping the ‘box find itself in the right ratio more adeptly.
That impression of overall driveline refinement is helped by the development team’s focus on getting on top of noise, vibration and harshness issues. Rather than load the Ranger with sound insulation or invest in double glazing for the passenger cell, the engineering philosophy has been one of marginal gains, starting with body stiffness.
Interior trim structures can be more rigidly mounted, helping to reduce squeak and rattle issues. From there, materials, fixings and analysis of noise pathways into the cabin were ticked off.
Aero work at Monash University’s wind tunnel helped to reduce wind noise at speed, and a slight rustle around the door mirrors and A-pillars is about the extent of wind noise.
The wind tunnel work also helped finesse the small aero lip on the trailing edge of the rear tailgate.
That improvement in overall refinement is most evident when driving the 2.0-litre biturbo engine, which feels a good deal less vocal than its prior iteration. Ford assures us that it has fixed the injector issue that afflicted this engine, with new injectors from Continental. The V6 is another league ahead in terms of silkiness though.
Finally, this feels like the engine the Ranger was always supposed to have. It helps that the V6 develops its 184kW peak power figure from 3250rpm, whereas you’d need to wind another 500 revs onto the 2.0-litre biturbo in order to access 29kW less.
Given the V6 is typically $3K more than the equivalent 2.0-litre biturbo, and comes with the smarter fire-and-forget all-wheel-drive system, it’s an easy recommendation.
Drive the two engines back to back and it’s clear that the new torque converter in the four-pot slurs through the gears far more cleanly, but it is still changing gear more often than the V6 in order to plug into the biturbo’s torque. It feels like an issue that’s been 90 per cent rectified rather than a drivetrain without issue in the first instance.
How does it go off-road?
…should I wait for the Raptor?
Interesting question. Given that you could buy a Ranger V6 Sport and load nearly $20K worth of accessories onto it for the price of a Raptor, the answer’s not as cut and dried as you might think.
Away from the bitumen, it’s clear that a great deal of work has gone into making the Ranger an easier thing to go bush with.
Apart from the base rear-wheel drive model, the 2.0-litre diesels feature a traditional part-time four-wheel drive system with a two-speed electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case that offers rear-wheel drive for normal on-road driving and then four-wheel drive with high- and low-range settings for low grip surfaces.
The V6 versions, however, are fitted with an on-demand system that has all of the above modes as well as a 4A setting for automatic all-wheel drive. This distributes drive between the front and rear axles and means that you can leave it in this mode, drive a Ranger out of your garage and into mud, snow or sand without having to remember to click between rear- and four-wheel drive. If that’s still not enough, the rear diff can be locked as well for added traction.
A slightly cheap-feeling rotary dial is used to shuttle between drive modes, with Sport models and above including the handy Mud/Ruts and Sand settings. We got to sample the Ranger on the AARC proving ground’s off-road course in frankly abysmal conditions and the snatch straps weren’t utilised all day.
The approach, breakover and departure angles for the Ranger are 30, 22 and 25.6 degrees respectively for the new model, with the departure angle dropping to 23 degrees if you have a tow bar fitted.
Ford has attempted to simplify and take the intimidation factor out of off-roading for those who aren’t experienced. To that end, from Sport models and up, the Ranger features a button on the centre console that, once pressed, brings up a dedicated off-road display on the centre touchscreen.
This allows the driver to quickly manipulate the rear diff lock, switch off the parking sensors, activate and deactivate the hill descent control and also displays the view from the grille-mounted camera.
The camera is a particular boon when attempting to crest a ridge or dune, as its angle of view is so wide that while you’ll merely have a windscreen full of sky, the lens can see down the other side and you can steer the vehicle accordingly.
What’s more, in order to maintain a clear field of view, there’s a water jet cleaner for the camera that operates with the windscreen wash function. The display also indicates where your front wheels are pointed, so that you don’t sledge the front end when negotiating deep muddy ruts.
The hill descent control works extremely well, even on the 60 per cent slope at AARC, braking individual wheels smartly. Reassuringly, it also works in reverse, which is handy if you’ve failed to get up a steep incline.
Germane to this activity is the fact that Rangers from XLT upwards are at last fitted with rear disc brakes. Ford has even worked at re-engineering the oil pan of the V6 so that more significant fore and aft tilt angles can be catered for.
Campers and tradies will love the fact that there’s plenty of space in the hydroformed engine bay to accommodate a second battery. There’s also space for a snorkel and the standard 80-litre fuel tank aperture can accommodate an aftermarket 140-litre unit without difficulty.
How much can it tow?
Unless you’re going to be towing something genuinely massive, it’s one of the best in its class.
Whether you choose the four-cylinder or the six-pot diesel powerplants, the Ranger is rated at a braked towing capacity of 3500kg with a 350kg tow ball weight limit. The V6 Sport features a 934kg payload (the lowest of the Ranger dual-cab line-up), stepping up to 1023kg for the 4×4 XL.
Akin to its off-road philosophy, Ford has looked to take much of the hassle and arcane knowledge out of hitching a trailer or caravan to the back of a Ranger.
The infotainment system features an easy-to-understand checklist to run through, and there’s also an integrated trailer brake controller fitted as standard to the Wildtrak and optional with other models. This can power a trailer’s electric brakes using a proportional output corresponding to the Ranger’s braking pressure.
What’s more, the centre screen also features a trailer coverage system. The dimensions and names of up to 10 different trailer types can be entered into the system, and the blind-spot monitoring will then adjust to account for the combined dimensions of vehicle and trailer. Neat.
Most of us have been in the situation where, upon attaching a trailer to our vehicles, we’ve had to recruit some unwilling person to stand behind the car while we yell brake, reverse, right indicator and so on, checking that the lights are all properly functional.
Your better half or your kids will be relieved to discover that the Ranger frees them from that particular task.
The Trailer Light Check function can be enabled either from inside the vehicle or via the Ford Pass app and cycles five times through a set pattern of light checks.
Finally, the dedicated tow/haul drive mode maximises torque response and also works at holding gears when descending and not upshifting too early when ascending.
How safe is it?
Is the Ranger a sensible choice for the family?
It’s been fascinating to see how a global pandemic has changed the way that people use their leisure time. Even now, with borders open, there’s a significant constituency of people who would rather get out and about in their own backyard rather than jump on a jet for destinations overseas.
This has put an increased onus on safety for families yet there are certain physical limitations around dual-cabs, especially in terms of braking distances, that are just physical realities.
Operating within those constraints, the Ranger is, nevertheless, a good example of its ilk. Its predecessor scored a five-star ANCAP rating in 2015 and this version builds significantly upon the previous version’s safety provision.
Nine airbags are standard across the range, including a far side airbag that ensures that driver and front passenger heads are kept reassuringly apart in the event of an accident. Likewise, the second-row seat belt mounts have been moved from the side to the rear of the vehicle for superior performance.
Features such as pre-collision assist, post-impact braking, blind-spot monitoring with trailer tow function and cross-traffic alert, reverse brake assist and evasive steer assist all feature.
Adaptive cruise control is standard across the range and from XLT upwards there’s intelligent adaptive cruise that features lane centring, traffic sign recognition and a stop and go function that will allow the vehicle to come to a complete halt in traffic and then automatically resume its cruise setting. There’s also Active Park Assist 2.0, which will help with parallel parking.
How is it on fuel?
Remember this is an all-diesel line-up, so fuel economy is pretty good.
As long as you don’t decide on a Raptor at the last minute, you’re not going to be too shocked at the fuel consumption. Ford has improved the aero, especially underneath the Ranger, reduced internal friction and pumping losses on all powerplants, and has prioritised low rolling resistance in original equipment tyre choices.
Even the V6 Wildtrak will return a combined fuel figure of 8.4L/100km, with the 2.0-litre biturbo Wildtrak posting a 7.4L/100km official figure. To put that into perspective, a 150kW four-cylinder diesel Toyota HiLux with an automatic transmission officially consumes 8.4L/100km. Advantage Ranger.
On a mixed country roads and freeway test route on the launch event, the V6 Wildtrak returned a figure in the low nines, so the usual recommendation to look at the quoted urban economy figure of 10.0L/100km for the V6 and 8.7L/100km for the biturbo as a fairly representative average probably isn’t too far off the mark.
We’ll be conducting independent back-to-back testing with the biturbo and the V6 in order to gauge whether the harder-working four-cylinder engine really is more economical than the six-cylinder, so we’ll keep you posted on our findings.
Interestingly, the weaker 2.0-litre single turbo engine that drives via a six-speed auto returns a worse quoted combined fuel figure than the 10-speed 2.0-litre biturbo at 7.9L/100km. Should you hanker after even lower fuel bills, it’s probably best to sit on your money until 2024, when we’re likely to see a plug-in hybrid variant.
How long is the warranty, and how expensive is it to run?
Every Ranger is offered with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Although Ford has published its recommended manufacturer list prices for the Ranger, it maintains that “the selling price of any vehicle or option is entirely at the discretion of the dealer”.
Dealer delivery charges do vary, so perhaps the best way to gauge an indicative asking price for any model in question is to jump onto Ford’s configurator and enter your postcode.
Would you recommend it?
The macho styling might take a little time to get used to. Some may bemoan the fact that a Ranger is no longer available with a manual gearbox. Others had hoped we’d see the 2.3-litre Ecoboost petrol engine as fitted to US-spec Rangers. These minor gripes aside, it’s hard to see how Ford could have done a much better job with this version of the Ranger.
It has been improved markedly in terms of powertrain, utility and safety. Elsewhere there have been incremental gains in quality, dynamics, off-road ability and efficiency.
The introduction of the V6 engine is a game changer, offering 184kW and 600Nm while delivering vastly superior refinement yet identical claimed fuel economy to a 150kW/500Nm Toyota HiLux.Ford Australia bought itself a lot of credit with the previous Ranger. Engineering a sequel when most of the development team were locked down with state borders closed is a story for another time, but it’s testament to their ingenuity and lateral thinking that this project even got off the ground in the first instance.It feels like a best-in-class effort, at least until its Amarok cousin makes landfall. We’ll know for sure when we set it against its key rivals on local roads. Our expectations for this Ranger were high but they might just have been exceeded.
2023 Ford Ranger dual-cab specifications
|Body||4-door, 5-seat dual-cab ute|
|Engine||3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel|
|Power||184kW @ 3250rpm|
|Torque||600Nm @ 1750-2250rpm|
|Bore stroke (mm)||84.0 x 90.0mm|
|0-100km/h||9.5 sec (estimate)|
|Fuel consumption||8.4L/100km (combined)|
|Suspension||MacPherson strut front/leaf spring rear|
|Fuel tank||80 litres|
|Brakes||341mm ventilated discs, two-piston calipers (f) 332mm ventilated discs, single-piston caliper (r)|
|Tyres||255/65 R18 Goodyear Wrangler Territory AT/S|
|Wheels||18-inch alloy (full-size spare)|
|Price||$66,690 + on-road costs (Ranger Sport Double Cab 3.0 V6)|