Not content with allowing VW’s Amarok a monopoly on premium status on their shared platform, Ford fires back with a lavishly-equipped Ranger Platinum
When considering what we’ve previously called the reigning “prom king and queen” of dual-cab utes – the common-chassis Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok – it has been pretty fair to regard the Ranger as the more workmanlike of the pair and the Amarok the more premium, largely because of the latter vehicle’s upmarket cabin design and seats.
But with this month’s addition of a Platinum grade to the Ranger lineup, such a generalisation requires more nuanced analysis.
The $78,190 (before on-roads) Platinum slots between those grades as an unashamed luxury-spec Ranger.
Ford’s 184kW/600Nm 3.0-litre diesel V6 is standard – as are attractive 20-inch wheels and a peppering of matte chrome trim outside – while the front seats and dashboard are taken from the Everest Platinum four-wheel drive.
That means the Ranger’s open dashboard storage is nixed in favour of a more couth faux-leather-lined double glovebox on the passenger side appropriately tagged with Platinum badging.
The same adorns this luxe Ranger’s front pews, which are the same basic seat as a Wildtrak seat but with a comprehensive upholstery upgrade.
It’s out with the Wildtrak’s scratchy and low-rent leather and in with the Everest Platinum’s charcoal quilted nappa leather seats with 10-way power adjustment, seat heating, seat cooling, and memory for the driver’s side.
When it comes to dealership appeal, the Ranger Platinum’s plush-looking pews will win over plenty of fans.
Especially because no grade of Volkswagen’s Amarok can be had with seat ventilation – an extremely desirable feature in warm Australia.
But while the Platinum’s fanned cushions are welcome, the Ranger-specific seat shaping, which lacks bolstering and sufficient squab angle adjustment, remains well behind the Amarok’s far more ergonomic chairs.
On the same three-hour country drive loop we used to evaluate the (uncooled) seats of an Amarok Panamericana – emerging in comfort if with some residual hind heat – the Ranger Platinum left us sore, mostly from having to brace against the interior while cornering.
That’s because, like the other ‘T6.2’ platform vehicles – Ford’s Everest and the Amarok – the Ranger Platinum demonstrates cornering capabilities and body control well beyond most body-on-frame vehicles on sale in Australia.
While its steering ratio is on the slower side, a faithful tiller, good rigidity (for a ute) and the additional sharpness of its Goodyear Territory highway-terrain tyres on 20-inch wheels all endow the Ranger Platinum with a pleasant keenness and fleetness of foot while being driven down a curving country road.
If only the driver was held in place better.
The Ranger’s handling is distinctly SUV-like much of the time, and no more than in the Platinum – given the road bias of its tyres.
SUV-like is also a fair descriptor of the Ford’s diesel V6, which is silky and linear, always feeling more than adequate. It delivers good quantitative performance, managing a 7.9sec 0-100km/h sprint in our independent test.
What is not SUV-like is the ride quality. Compared to just about any SUV, the Ranger’s ride would have to be called agricultural or choppy. It’s a ute thing: while the Platinum’s chrome-and-nappa detailing suggests you can have it all, even in a midsize pick-up, you can’t.
Ford has retained the Ranger’s heavy-duty leaf-sprung rear suspension and 912kg payload even in the posh model, lest it wander onto a worksite.
If you are seeking comfortable ride quality, high towing capacity and V6 capability for under $100,000, the Ford Everest Platinum may suit better – though its handling on (larger) 21-inch wheels is compromised by markedly limited grip when pushed.
The unrelated Volkswagen Touareg 170TDI, a Chasing Cars Gold Star winner, is also worth a close look.
But that ignores what many see as a cool factor that comes from the pick-up format. The Ranger Platinum looks good, and that may well make up for the fact that it cannot live up to its SUV-like styling in the ride quality department.
Or in braking—like other T6.2 vehicles, the Platinum’s stops are long. We’re unimpressed by 42.91 metres to stop from 100-0km/h.
To be fair: compared to other utes – not SUVs – the Ranger Platinum’s ride is remarkably well balanced. It does err more to the side of softness than its direct rival, the Volkswagen Amarok Aventura, but both of them ride considerably better than any Toyota Hilux or Isuzu D-Max, for instance.
Returning to the Ranger’s pick-up selling points: Ford has used the release of the Platinum grade to debut its Flexible Rack system, a feature the ute’s Australian engineers are particularly proud of.
And it is well-designed: a moving sail-plane that can sit flush against the rear window, as normal, or be easily slid all the way to the tailgate.
But the magic is in the sliding sail-plane’s deployable crossbar, which lifts up easily.
Along with the Platinum’s standard roof crossbars – which swing very neatly into the roof-runners when not being used, to reduce drag and noise, the three cross bars mean that very long items like surfboards can be easily carried. The load rating is 80kg on each bar.
It sounds like a simple thing – and it is impressive in its simplicity – but the Platinum in full load-carrying spec elicited a number of wonderous gasps from our logistics team at Chasing Cars.
It’s a well-done solution penned by Ford Australia. The Flexible Rack will also be fitted to the limited-time Wildtrak X variant ($75,990).
The Platinum also gains the exclusive-to-Ranger option of equinox bronze paint ($700) – an expensive-looking purply-brown hue that comes from the Everest palette. Beyond the interior finishings taken from that wagon model, the Platinum is otherwise a mish-mash of equipment from the Wildtrak and Raptor.
Its infotainment package is taken from the latter, meaning the Ranger Platinum scores twin 12-inch screens: a vertical touch panel integrated into the slab-like dashboard shape, and a landscape digital driver display that replaces a dinkier eight-inch unit in the Wildtrak.
The tech runs on Ford’s Sync 4 software that is reasonably intuitive, if lacking in some customisation for the driver screen.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are fitted and the connection was stable in our testing, while we liked both the physical climate controls and the crisp acoustic of the Platinum’s standard-fit B&O premium stereo.
Rear seat space is adequate if not outstanding, with a not-too-upright seatback and ample legroom for six-footers, with second-row air vents and a flip-down armrest present.
The Platinum will join the remainder of the Ranger lineup—except the Raptor—in receiving a five-star ANCAP crash and safety rating in Australia.
The Ranger scored 84 percent for occupant protection, 93 percent for child occupant protection, 74 percent for vulnerable road user protection and 83 percent for its safety assist systems.
Standard safety tech on the Ranger Platinum includes adaptive cruise control, a (relatively weak) lane assist system, forwards AEB that detects cars, pedestrians and cyclists while also operating at junctions, blind spot monitoring, and reversing AEB.
A five-year, unlimited-kilometre new car warranty applies to the Ranger Platinum, while servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km. The first five years/75,000km of servicing is capped at $1726, which is reasonably affordable in this segment.
Australia is the biggest market for the new Volkswagen Amarok – and a first drive of the vehicle reflects how closely the Ford-VW collaboration hews to local tastes
Variant tested PLATINUM 3.0 (4x4)
Key specs (as tested)
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