Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
There are diesel engines to choose from. Three are 2.0-litre four-cylinder 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 five-cylinder (3.2 Duratorq 200).
There’s no doubt that the Ecoblue 213 provides more than acceptable acceleration. It pulls strongly from low revs and has plenty of punch to get up to motorway speeds in short order, or to overtake on a single-carriageway road. However, in the wider, heavier Raptor model, it doesn’t live up to the model’s Ford Performance nametag. Indeed, if you want a quick truck, the top-spec Volkswagen Amarok is an awful lot faster.
You’ll also find the Amarok’s engine to be smoother; the Ranger’s most powerful 2.0-litre diesel is by no means bad for the class, but those expecting SUV levels of refinement might be a little disappointed by its ever-present diesel soundtrack. We’re yet to try the less powerful 2.0-litre engines or the manual gearbox.
So, what about the 3.2-litre engine? Well, we wouldn’t bother; it doesn’t feel any stronger than the Ecoblue 213, yet, in our experience, is far thirstier. Yes, the 3.2 is a little smoother, but you also have to put up with its old-school six-speed automatic gearbox, which isn’t as good as the 10-speed auto that’s available on the 2.0-litre engines.
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 Toyota Hilux, 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.
All models come with four-wheel drive and the option to add a locking rear differential (standard on the Wiltrak and Raptor) to boost off-road ability, 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.
Compared with other models, the Raptor has a strengthened chassis and greater 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.
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