IF the Ford Motor Company has been under the whip in South Africa in the aftermath of the much-reported Kuga fire issues, it has had cause to smile about the continued success of its locally-manufactured Ranger bakkies which were mildly tweaked in April 2017.
Few would have predicted that the long-term segment sales leader, the Toyota Hilux, would find itself fending off a Ford bakkie but that’s what happened to such good effect that the Ranger has often headed the sales charts in the last couple of years.
The Ranger was the first of the double cabs to put on a marked growth spurt which, truth be told, has made the model a tad unwieldy in urban car parks even if that growth liberated better space in the rear and a more commodious load area to boot.
The test unit was configured in what I regard as the sweet spot in the range, namely XLT trim with 2.2D power and a 6-speed auto.
This motor gives little away to the rather old school 3.2 litre 5-cylinder and despite its smaller displacement, it just seems more relaxed in the way it delivers muscle. Apart from sounding like it’s consuming baked beans when the motor is stone cold, diesel clatter is well suppressed, especially so on the open road where 120 clicks can be maintained at a mere 2 000rpm.
Around town, the auto box shifts smoothly and with reasonable alacrity for the application but it’s not averse to slipping under load which causes a mildly disconcerting rise in revs in return for no speed increase. Nonetheless, the auto box is infinitely more user friendly than a manual and is nicely matched to the meaty torque output of the engine which means that incessant shifting is avoided.
That old bugbear of bakkies, the quality of ride, is masked pretty well in the Ranger thanks to a decent measure of pliancy, but in an unladen state, small imperfections do cause a shuffling movement and transverse ridges can trigger a rather sharp vertical movement. Admittedly, I only drove the Ranger two-up and therefore suggest that with more kilogrammes on-board, suspension movement will be quelled to the benefit of ride comfort.
The power steering, by the way, is nicely judged in terms of reduced effort but of necessity given the very large alloy wheels it has to deal with, gearing is on the low side which means more wheel twirling than a regular passenger vehicle would demand.
Externally, the Ranger shows off smooth paintwork and precise panel gaps while inside, being the top XLT model, occupants are presented with leather-faced seats and a decent array of equipment including air con (with fiddly controls), SYNC3 infotainment with satnav, electric windows and mirrors, central locking, electronic driving aids, air bags for Africa, reversing camera and much more, details of which can be accessed on www.ford.co.za. Internally, the presentation is neat and tidy but hard surfaces are pervasive and the colour theme rather grey.
Given that motor manufacturers exist to attract as many punters as possible to their badge, the Ranger has been an undisputed success in South Africa. Truth is, it doesn’t stand out in any particular area – internal space excepted – and it doesn’t bring any new technology to the bakkie party but it does blend all the ingredients with notable aplomb such that the overall package is conservatively pleasing and is blessed with masculine overtones which I suspect are important in image terms. At the end of the day, let the cash tills do the talking.
FORD EVEREST 2.2TDCi XLS 6MT 4WD
I vividly remember attending the press launch of the Everest in the Western Cape as our hosts had the misfortune to pick one of the rarer storm-affected days in the region that unleashed enough water to prevent our use of a 4×4 course. A pity as I simply won’t venture into the wilds under my own auspices even when armed with a 4×4 as was the case with this latest iteration of the Everest breed.
So let me simply advise that power is fed via an intelligent 4WD system complete with advanced Terrain Management that offers four settings – Normal, Snow/Grass, Sand and Rock. Past experience though, suggests this is a formidable off-road contender which is especially well-suited to the 118kW 2.2D mounted under the long and imposing nose.
Talking of dimensions, the Everest is big and imposing and comes with 7 seats for those who believe in extended families. This particular example, painted in ubiquitous and nicely-applied white, was notable for its exceptionally well executed bodywork which means panel alignment and gaps were absolutely spot on. Despite this, two of the doors were reluctant to close without a good thump, something not shared by the huge tailgate which fitted within its aperture with astonishing precision.
Inside, the Everest is pure Ranger in terms of execution. That means neatly-executed but hard black and grey surfaces, to some extent disguised by very visible graining. Happily, and because this model happened to be a less snobbish XLS, it was decked out with high quality patterned black cloth seating which adds a softness and warmth that is somewhat lacking when leather seating is used. Frankly, I think that cloth is nicer to sit on full stop but its dust-attracting qualities may not be so smart in a 4WD vehicle.
Access to the third row of seats, which provide reasonable accommodation for two normally-sized people, is aided by a sliding middle row. When this third row is folded, it doesn’t quite sit flat but remaining luggage space is still generous in volume terms although Ford has made a fundamental error in lining the sides of the load area in easily-scratched grey plastic.
Talking of comfort, the Everest is a body-on-frame design which in one word spells “bakkie.” Fear not though as the use of (softer?) coil springs all round endows the Everest with a greater sense of isolation from the elements than was noted in the Ranger.
Sure, the suspension still shuffles on relatively minor imperfections but more tenacious defects in the road are dealt with more comfortably in this application which is doubtless assisted by the deep-wall 265/65R17 tyres. Steering effort too is very low but tight turns demand more steering wheel movement than smaller vehicles would need.
In addition, the 6-speed manual shift requires deliberate but not excessive effort but forget any ideas of flick-shift, knife-though-butter qualities. This after all is a big, hefty people carrier with good off-road credentials, so allowance must be made for this. But be aware that even in XLS spec, the Everest is extremely well decked out with electronic driving and safety aids together with passive aids and a pretty generous level of equipment niceties all of which can be checked out in detail on www.ford.co.za.
For those on the hunt for a large, well-equipped and apparently rugged but comfortable 7-seat SUV that won’t break the bank, the Everest makes a strong case for itself. Its refinement levels proved something of a surprise for a ladder-on-frame design and its effortless cruising ability with the 2.2D motor will make it a most pleasing long distance companion. Be aware though that its bulk and rather awful rear three-quarter visibility require added concentration in typical congested city driving.