The rain started to pour in buckets as we tiptoed our way through Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve, right on the edge of the Okavango Delta.
Heavy rain has been a feature of the last couple of days in Botswana, and the sandy road, such as it was, had become waterlogged, while the washed-out dips were now filled with dirty brown water which swirled and sucked at our tyres each time we powered through.
In fact we were becoming quite blasé, for no matter how deep, how rutted, or how muddy, the Ranger just took it all in its stride, and only once had I needed to engage the rear diff. lock when I fell into a hole under the water and the car came to a sudden dead halt.
However, I had engaged reverse, flicked the diff. lock switch, and merely reversed out so I could have another go - this time with more throttle.
So there we were, with the rain sheeting down, and the thought of a cold beer at our camp uppermost in our minds, when we came across a huge sea of water that had replaced the road.
Andre van Zyl, our guide from Destination Africa, went in first, but I could see from the way his heavily-laden manual transmission double cab was bucking and sliding that he was having a tough time. Suddenly he stopped, the water started to froth as the wheels spun, and he was stuck.
It didn't take much effort to winch him out, though, and then we had a go at the "crossing" (for want of a better word) with the automatic gearbox Ranger.
I took a slightly different line, but I could still feel the drag from water that would have washed over the bonnet and swamped the engine if I'd gone too fast. It was that deep. In fact a lower-powered vehicle would have meant more revs and speed - could have spelled disaster.
But we went through without much fuss, the rest of the convoy followed our path, and we were on our way again.
The latest Ford Ranger was first shown in September last year, but the 4-litre wasn't available at that time.
Now, though, it is in full production, and Ford SA's public relations and marketing teams were keen to show off the new car in conditions that would test it to the full.
More to the point, though, they wanted us to see that the top-of-the-range Ranger is more than just a big engine - it's the most lavishly equipped 4x4 pickup on the local market.
Thus we see standard features that include a leather-rimmed steering wheel, a full leather interior, plus air conditioning, a front loader CD player/radio, electric windows and mirrors, an air-con linked cooler box which will take a six-pack, big 15 inch alloy wheels shod with 265/70 R15 tyres, and stainless steel pipework protection on the rear, sides, and front.
A nifty feature, which is unique to the new Ford Ranger Super- and Double Cabs, is the 12V power point at the rear of the loadbox, which is ideal for powering equipment such as refrigerators.
More importantly in this class of vehicle, however, are the safety features.
The Ranger 4-litre has dual front airbags and ABS brakes as standard, and is the only double cab with a full 1-ton payload capacity.
Developed locally, it features a 4-litre German-built V6 all-alloy engine lifted from Ford's top-selling US 4x4, the Explorer, and comes with either a 5-speed manual gearbox, or, for R12 000 more, a superb locking 5-speed automatic - the latter another first for this country.
The car easily exceeds all SABS crash test requirements, and has been specifically designed with the front bull bars and side protectors as integral parts of the crumple zones and air bag deployment.
The chassis is the same as that used on the tough turbo-diesel version (the V6 engine in fact weighs less than the four-cylinder diesel) but with much better trim levels, including lots of chromed brightwork on the bumpers, grille, door handles, and mirrors.
At the same time the bodywork sits 20 mm higher on the chassis than on other Ranger models, resulting in better ground clearance for the bodywork and a "meatier" look.
Ground clearance is 225 mm, and there are auto locking front hubs.
The fuel tank is also slightly bigger than in other Rangers, at 84 litres.
The Ranger 4-litre V6 is available in a total of six versions, ranging from a 4x2 Super Cab through to the top-of-the-tree 4x4 Double Cab models we drove in Botswana.
On the road
Double Cab bakkies these days present something of a dichotomy. They are great load luggers, especially when fitted with a canopy, they are tough and, compared to equivalent station wagons, they are relatively inexpensive.
However, demands from the South African public has led to a new lineage of double cabs with a very high specification, and the Ranger 4-litre is arguably the top branch of this new tree.
As a result the engineers at Ford South Africa had to ensure it would be able to deal with the tough demands owners would place on it - hence the 1-ton payload - without sacrificing ride quality, whether laden or unladen.
In this first requirement I can tell you they have succeeded admirably.
We drove in conditions - and sometimes at speeds - that would have rattled your fillings out in most pickups, but by and large the Ranger coped as well as a super-lux 4x4 station wagon.
Yet on smooth roads there was none of the jouncing that is so typical of a bakkie.
All this comes courtesy of independent suspension with a double wishbone, torsion bar and stabiliser at the front, while the rear suspension incorporates semi-elliptical leaf springs with Berlin eye mounts and bias mounted shock absorbers.
And that grunt! The 4-litre V6 is a relatively low revver, with its power of 154 kW peaking at 5 250 r/min and an enormous 323 Nm of torque at just 3 000 r/min, most of it available from low, low down.
As mentioned, this is coupled to either a slick-shifting 5-speed manual gearbox or a very smooth 5-speed auto shifter.
Translated into driving dynamics, on the manual it means you don't have to change gear often as the huge torque enables you to pull through.
But of the two, I much prefer the automatic, which gives almost the same benefits as the manual - but with a few more added.
For instance, the auto box can be locked in either first or second gear for climbing or descending steep hills, at which point IT WILL NOT SHIFT.
Or it can be locked into fourth gear, a boon when towing in hilly country, as this means the gearbox doesn't hunt between fourth and fifth all the time.
On top of that, in slippery conditions, as we encountered, the torque converter makes allowances for variations in grip through the wheels, making light work of river crossings or mud plugging without having to revert to the diff. lock, which can be saved for when you're stuck.
Service intervals are 10 000 km and the 4-litre Ranger comes with a 3-year/100 000 km warranty, as well as a 3-year Roadside Assistance programme.
In addition a free off-road training course is provided by the Ford No Boundaries club.
4000 V6 Supercab XLT 4x2
4000 V6 Supercab XLT 4x4
4000 V6 Double Cab XLE 4x2
4000 V6 Double Cab XLE 4x2 A/T
4000 V6 Double Cab XLE 4x4
4000 V6 Double Cab XLE 4x4 A/T