There are four engines, all diesels, to choose from. Three are 2.0-litre units with 128bhp (2.0 Ecoblue 130), 168bhp (2.0 Ecoblue 170) or 210bhp (2.0 Ecoblue 213), and there’s also a 198bhp 3.2-litre (3.2 Duratorq 200).
We wouldn’t bother with the 128bhp engine, because it comes only in the basic two-seater Regular Cab and isn’t very strong.
The 168bhp version, meanwhile, may grumble into life with a raucous clatter when you start it up, but it nevertheless provides the poke you expect from a vehicle intended to haul heavy loads. It feels suitably muscular from low in the rev range, proving happy to pull heavy payloads or whizz along easily at motorway speeds.
The entry-level Amarok is brisker still, mind, and its engine smoother; the Ranger's ever-present diesel clatter means you can't hope for the peace and quiet of an SUV on the motorway. Then again, engine, road and wind noise are better suppressed than in some other rivals, such as the Navara.
Step up to the 210bhp engine for punchier performance with plenty of low-end pulling power. The 3.2-litre engine is a little smoother but not much quieter; it's gradually being phased out of the range. That’s also the only engine that’s available with the old six-speed automatic gearbox – one of the worst autos in the class. Thankfully, most of the other engines can be had with a 10-speed automatic gearbox, which is much more impressive but isn't quite as smooth and decisive as the Amarok's excellent eight-speed auto.
The Ranger's manual gearbox has a longer throw than the Amarok's, but it's more accurate, making it easier to change gears. Just be aware that the clutch is quite aggressive, so you need some practice to manage smooth getaways from the lights.
As for the ride, the Ranger, like all pick-ups, bobs around even over small undulations, becoming bouncier and more unsettled as the surface gets worse. However, its decent ability to absorb the shock of bumps still sets it apart from firmer rivals such as the Navara, so while it’s hardly cosseting, it's one of the better-riding pick-ups out there, along with the Amarok. Raptor models get a more sophisticated rear suspension setup that improves the ride comfort – especially on tricky off-road terrain – but it’s expensive. Impressively, its Fox Racing shock absorbers and all-round coil springs mean the faster you go off road, the smoother the ride gets.
Although agile handling isn't necessarily a priority among commercial vehicles, you'll be pleased to learn that the Ranger is one of the most nimble pick-ups you can buy. Turn in to a tight corner and it's easy to appreciate the steering's accuracy and response, as well as the Ranger's resistance to body lean.
Most models come with four-wheel drive and the option to lock the differentials or engage hill descent control if you find yourself really roughing it, but we'd recommend keeping your Ranger in two-wheel drive mode on the road. This helps it to steer with greater finesse at low speeds (in four-wheel drive, it won't turn as sharply) and use less fuel. As with most pick-ups, you must be aware that if there’s nothing in the cargo bay, the light back end will mean the rear wheels will lose grip quite readily on a greasy road.
The Raptor has a strengthened chassis and more suspension travel, along with enormous off-road tyres, all of which help make it even more capable off the beaten track than the rest of the line-up. However, expect a little bit more body lean in corners, while the chunky off-road tyres don't have quite as much purchase on the blacktop as the more road-biased tyres fitted to other Rangers.