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Ford Ranger 2023 review: entire lineup tested

 

The new Ford Ranger finally arrives complete with a desirable V6 turbo-diesel option. After years in the making, is this the perfect pickup for modern Australians?


Good points

  • Standard safety and cabin tech
  • Solid handling and driving dynamics
  • Tough-guy styling
  • Smooth 10-speed auto

Needs work

  • No paddle shifters
  • Jittery ride over small bumps
  • V6 not an all-out powerhouse
  • Prices have crept up

National car launches rarely get bigger than a new generation Ford Ranger. For years it’s trailed only Toyota’s HiLux as Australia’s best-selling vehicle, and last year Ranger made up a monumental 70 percent of all Ford’s sales. It’s the Blue Oval’s golden child, without question.

Just look how many of you have already bought a new Ranger without driving or even seeing one in the metal. With 17,000 Aussies signing up pre-launch – 4000 of those for the flagship Raptor monster – wait times for the most in-demand models are already out to nine months. If supply can somehow keep up with demand, there’s little doubt Ranger will topple HiLux’s reign as our market’s sales king.

With much of Ranger’s design and development carried out by Ford Australia engineers, it’s with justifiable patriotic pride it’s hit our showrooms to such fanfare. Showing how much of a Big Deal it is, this global mid-size pickup with an Aussie accent will be sold in over 180 countries worldwide.

Ford Ranger Sport 2022 front 3/4

Chasing Cars’ pages have been filling up with Ranger articles pre-launch – understandable given Aussie buyers’ hunger for news – so check out our previous stories for comprehensive details on this new generation pickup/ute.

This article covers our first drives of the new Ranger, both on- and off-road. And the all-important prod around cabins and tubs, the infotainment, safety features and innovations.

Well, except the mighty twin turbo V6 petrol Raptor – we’re still a few weeks away from properly reviewing the hairy-chested hero.

Ford Ranger XLT 2022 rear 3/4

Avoiding a long tease, the new Ranger delivers and then some. The previous gen was always at the pointy end of the pickup segment when it came to drive experience and desirable good looks, and at first taste it feels these strengths have been extended further.

Interior presentation and features feel unmatched by pickup rivals. As vast amounts of dual-cab pickups are used as family or lifestyle transport, the importance of true ‘SUV-like’ cabin comfort and inclusions can’t be underestimated.

Ford must be commended for properly listening to its customers. Okay, all car companies say they do this, but it’s hard to believe sometimes. Not so here. “We want tough,” was the cry, and the response is exterior styling inspired by the Ranger’s big brother F-150. Hence C-clamp daytime running lights, horizontal upper grille bar, muscled arches and the tailgate’s sculpted ‘Ranger’ logo. A 50mm wider track – to go with a 50mm longer wheelbase – means even fatter road presence.

Ford Ranger Sport 2022 badge

There was also demand for more tech, torque and capability. Again, all boxes have been ticked. The trump card? An optional 184kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, bringing extra grunt for towing and more extreme off-roading. Even if your Ranger’s only destined for urban duties, that V6 badge and extra oomph all help your street cred.

There are 23 different Ranger variants on offer, but at launch we tried only double cab 4x4s in XL (from $49,930), XLS ($54,330), XLT ($61,190), Sport ($63,690) and Wildtrak ($67,190) grades.

XLs use a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and six-speed auto or, for an extra $3500, a 2.0-litre biturbo-diesel with 10-speed auto. XLS has only the biturbo, while XLT, Sport and Wildtrak offer it or the V6 with 10-speed auto for an extra $3000.

How does the Ranger T6.2 drive?

Despite being a decade old, the outgoing Ranger could still lay claim to being the dynamic highpoint of dual cab utes. The new Ranger has moved the game on further, and basically feels tailor made for Aussie road, bush and work duties.

In all grades tested the handling proved a high point. It’s still a truck with leaf sprung rear so don’t expect miracles, but body roll was well contained, even through some tight, quite quick corners.

Well-weighted steering, decent front-end grip for such a big brute and subtly-working stability control (when needed) gave a good feeling of stability and security in turns. Wet roundabouts still require caution, but having snowploughed many 4×4 dual cabs on these over the years, the Ranger resisted such unpleasantness far longer than most.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak 2022 front 3/4 driving

Its bulk aside, town cruising is perfectly pleasant. The robust-feeling cabin keeps most noises supressed, except wind from its mighty mirrors when up to speed. Show it a deep pothole or speed hump and the Ranger’s suspension absorbs these nasties with ease, but it’s the minor road imperfections that are more jarring.

It feels jittery over little bumps when there’s no load in the tub; a rare blot on an otherwise impressively composed drive. While it rides firm on such surfaces, it’s still preferable to the bouncy and nauseating ride suffered in some unladen pickup rivals. Old HiLux, anyone?

Improved on-road composure can be attributed to the 50mm track and wheelbase increase, plus Ford moving the Ranger’s dampers outboard of the springs. All these marginal gains help give an overall controlled-feeling ride, but as ever, throw some weight in the back and the drive experience is altogether more settled.

Ford Ranger Sport 2022 rear 3/4 driving

Some test Rangers had a few hundred kilos in the tub, and the control level in these certainly felt dialled up another notch. Par for the course with pickups.

Ranger brakes were something of a weak spot before, but replacing the antique rear drums with discs – on all but XL and XLS grades – have seen some performance gains.

Speaking of performance, what about those engines? We have to start with the V6 as it’s the new kid in town. It’s not a new engine though, having seen previous service in the F-150 truck, but Ford Australia says it did “a lot of calibration and validation work… to make sure it would meet the needs of Ranger customers.”

Maybe so, but its 184kW is down on power versus the current VW Amarok 580’s V6 (190kW), although the Ford’s 600Nm trumps the German’s 580Nm. The new Amarok, due early next year, is a twin-under-the-skin to Ranger, and will share this Ford-sourced engine.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak 2022 V6 engine

The Ford V6 is a lovely, silky smooth unit with decent pull, but don’t expect fireworks. It’s more refined than raw, although it does make a nice subtle roar when you stomp on the throttle. There’s easy, lazy power here and good chunks of torque, ideal for you tow fans. But for those wanting serious surge, it’s the Raptor petrol V6 for you.

The revised ten-speed auto is deeply impressive in all drive scenarios. With so many cogs to shuffle through it makes changes quickly and barely noticeably, especially when just pottering along. Even so, there are still times when steering wheel paddle shifters (not available, sadly) would be appreciated.

The same gearbox accompanies the 2.0-litre biturbo-diesel, and this 154kW/500Nm four-cylinder remains a really likeable unit. Ample thrust when asked, and at $3000 cheaper – and with less of a waiting list – it shouldn’t be overlooked just because you’re foggy with V6 fever.

Ford Ranger XLT 2022 dirt track front

The single turbo-diesel and its 125kW/405Nm and six-speed auto lacks some guts, but for fleet and commercial customers needing economy over performance it’s a fair shout. No manual offered with this donk (or any others), which is a shame.

Integral to retaining fleet customers is a 5 star ANCAP result, and although not yet tested, strong safety and driver assist kit is democratised across Ranger. That includes 9 airbags, radar cruise control, emergency braking, cross traffic alert and lane keep and departure warning. The latter warns with just a little vibrate of the steering wheel (you can adjust its intensity), meaning it never feels nannying.

Option the V6 and you score full-time four-wheel-drive. A rotary dial lets you pick 2H, 4H, 4L or 4A. Leave it in 4A and the Ranger can stay in four-wheel-drive on normal, dry roads, again helping driving dynamics as it continuously distributes power between front and rear axles.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak 2022 selector

The four-cylinder Rangers have a part-time 4WD system. It’s all a bit idiot-proof off-road. All score a locking rear diff (quickly selected through the touchscreen), but you’ll want the XLS and above to score selectable drive modes. The Raptor was the only previous Ranger with these, but now Tow/Haul, Slippery, Mud/Ruts and Sand modes are offered, adjusting gears, throttle and traction to suit. It really is set-and-forget.

We threw all the grades over some suitably slippy clay and mud. Low range was rarely needed, but it hopped in clunk-free and happily navigated the loose stuff.

There’s an easy-to-access dedicated off-road screen (in Sport and Wildtrak) that’s best used when playing adventurer, including a really wide front view camera. Ideal to check your unsighted front corners, or what’s over the brow of the steep hill you’re on when your windscreen just shows sky. Another clever touch? Should this camera get muddy there’s a little washer jet to clean it, activated the same as the windscreen washers.

Drivability scorecard
Power & performance
7.0
Ride & refinement
8.0
Handling
8.0
Safety
8.5

How is the Ranger T6.2’s interior?

What an improvement. The outgoing Ranger cabins were a victim of old age, but now we have digital screen overload across every model.

There’s an 8-inch digital dashboard showing your vitals in large, easy to view format. This includes digital speedo, traffic sign recognition, off-road angles etc. and there’s a fair level of customisation. It’s not flash as you’ll find in premium cars or Kia’s latest superb efforts, but a far more eye-catching effort than old.

Ford Ranger Sport 2022 interior dash

All Rangers score a vertical central infotainment touchscreen. It’s plenty big enough in regular 10.1-inch size, although range-topping Wildtrak’s 12-incher adds even more bragging rights.

When Ford asked customers their touchscreen preferences, the demand was to keep climate controls and volume separate. It would have been cleaner and cheaper to do everything through the screen, but kudos to Ford, physical climate buttons sit just below the screen in all grades, meaning rapid access to these.

The screen, running Ford’s SYNC 4A, proved faultless on test. Quick to flick through menus, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto worked without glitch. Great, easy-to-use connectivity. All grades work with the FordPass app, bringing remote lock and unlock, remote start and pre-heating and cooling. Imagine that on your entry-level work truck a decade ago.

Ford Ranger XLT 2022 front seats

Such goodies look incredibly generous on the entry-level XL, not least when much of the rest feels old-school workmanlike ute. It shares its chunky dash design, handy trinket tray and intricate vertical air vents with other Rangers, but fabric seats, vinyl floor, and plenty of hard plastics remind it’s your blue collar starter.

Centre consoles on XL and XLS are a bit barren, but from XLT there’s an electric parking brake – a segment first. Option the V6 and you get a chunky e-Shifter instead of a cumbersome normal gear-shifter, although said e-Shifter is a bit over-sensitive and it takes time to get used to the little inputs demanded to move between gears. Overshooting ‘R’ and into ‘P’ was a constant mistake.

The XLT looks a decent target kit-wise. Its dark silver 17-inch alloys and C-Clamp DRLs suit the bad-boy Ranger look, and inside there’s carpet, dual zone climate, embedded sat nav and voice assistant. It feels a classier offering too with more soft plastics, leather steering wheel and gear shifter, and keyless entry and start.

Ford Ranger Sport 2022 interior back seat

Sport and Wildtrak raise the generosity to reflect their price, and are your proper lifestyle all-rounders. The black-trimmed Sport’s leather accented seats have a decent luxury feel, with the driver’s eight-way power adjustable. Wireless charging makes the cable-free CarPlay and Android Auto more relevant.

As suspected, Wildtrak is the over-subscribed grade when a V6 engine’s optioned. It adds heated front seats, 360-degree camera, ambient lightning and it even parks itself – read our full review of it here.

Much-needed additions (missing on old Rangers) include telescopic to go with tilt adjust for the steering column, plus rear air vents for the first time (except on XL). Much better for family use, and rear seating – although typically upright – is comfortable for two adults or three kids.

Ford Ranger Sport 2022 tray

The tub now fits a Euro-seized pallet, but the coolest addition is a box step in the rear bumper. This innovation gives easier side access to stuff inside the tub – far safer than climbing on the tyre. Simple, and brilliantly effective. It’s large enough to handle work boots, and strong enough to take the load of even your heaviest work mate. Payload, by the way, is between 934kg and 951kg on these 4×4 dual cabs.

More cleverness is seen with integrated fixing points on the box for fitting accessories, while the tailgate is lift-assisted so can be raised with a few fingers. XLT and above score sports bar, tub illumination and a bedliner, while Wildtrak adds a fancy power roller shutter, aluminium tie down rails and an integrated trailer brake controller.

Interior scorecard
Layout & materials
7.5
Cabin technology
9.0
Driver comfort
5.0
Passenger space
5.0

What are the Ranger T6.2’s running costs?

For double cab 4×4 pickups, those using the 2.0-litre single-turbo diesel achieve 7.9L/100km. The 2.0-litre biturbo-diesel is more frugal with its 10-speed gearbox, returning 7.2L/100km in the XLS and XLT, or 7.6L/100km in XL, Sport and Wildtrak. The 3.0-litre V6 gives a reasonable 8.4L/100km – bettering the 8.9L/100km from the old Ranger’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder.

Our launch test saw us filtering through vehicles quite quickly, some on-road, some off-road and some with load in the back. For what it’s worth, we returned 8.2L/100km in the 2.0-litre turbo; 9.0L/100km in the biturbo 2.0-litre and 10.3L/100km in the V6.

Ford Ranger XLT 2022 lights and grille

Scheduled services are every year/15,000km. Ford says capped price services are $329 for the first four general services up to four years/60,000km. Additional items that may be required, such as brake fluid replacement and tyre rotation, aren’t included in this price.

Ford’s warranty coverage is five years/unlimited kilometres, which is average for the industry.

Running costs scorecard
Consumption
Good
Servicing
Good
Warranty
Good

The final verdict

It feels like other dual cab utes now have to play catchup. Some by a lot. The new Ranger has made giant steps where it was most needed – inside the cabin most obviously – and the technology, interior presentation and innovative features for on- and off-road use are superb.

The engine line-up and overall drive experience are deeply impressive for a pickup, improving on the Ranger’s existing talents in this area.

Massive pre-launch sales show Australia’s faith in the big Ford, and buyers won’t be disappointed. In the short-term, only its twin-under-the-skin VW Amarok looks set to rival it, and it’s still over six months away.

Overall rating
Overall rating
8.0
Drivability
8.0
Interior
8.0
Running costs
Good
Overall rating
8.0
Drivability
8.0
Interior
8.0
Running costs
Good
$66,690
Details
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges
$70,169

Key specs (as tested)

Engine
Capacity
2993 cc
Cylinders
v6
Induction
Diesel Turbo
Power
184kW at 3750rpm
Torque
600Nm at 1750rpm
Power to weight ratio
80kW/tonne
Fuel
Fuel type
Diesel
Fuel capacity
0 litres
Drivetrain
Transmission
Automatic
Drivetrain
4x4
Gears
10
Dimensions
Length
0 mm
Width
0 mm
Height
0 mm
Unoccupied weight
2300 kg

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