Ford has released an entirely new Ranger bakkie range, complete with common rail diesel technology. Launched in the heartland of bakkie-country, Namibia, the new Ranger prides itself on being the quintessential pick-up truck, according to Ford marketing parlance.
Although the entire range has been significantly restyled, true blue Ford bakkie acolytes will be most interested in a new generation, 3-litre, four cylinder, common rail turbodiesel engine, a first for Ford in bakkie guise locally.
Keen to capitalise on the momentum of a burgeoning South African light-commercial market, Ford has styled the new Ranger to differentiate it from its competitors in the fiercely contested light commercial sector.
Old school styling
The new look styling harps back to a decidedly old-school, boxy bakkie look. Instead of more contemporary, soft-edge styling which has become a vogue bakkie design feature of late, the new Ranger has an overtly muscular appearance.
Rectangular front light clusters and the chrome, twin slate grille housing an oversized blue oval brooks no argument, this bakkie means business.
Besides the handsome styling are two notable exterior design features that add mightily to the all-round bakkie utility of the new Ranger.
Firstly, there's the new two-piece front bumper. This should be a real boon for farmers and other off-road users as damage on the bottom section does not require the old all-out repair job a single bumper would need.
Secondly, the load bay sidewalls have been raised by 60mm to increase the load capacity by 166- to 1 266-litres.
These heightened load bay sidewalls can accommodate interior ledges that can be fitted with custom-made shelves for flexible cargo storage.
The interior changes are less radical, with new green-needle dials the most apparent feature of the new, cleaner styled Ranger cabin.
Low noise turbodiesel
A radical new departure, and a long overdue addition to the Ranger bakkie line-up, is the addition of a direct injection, common rail injected, turbodiesel engine.
Displacing three litres, and featuring 16 valves driven by twin overhead camshafts, the new oil-burner produces 115 kW and 380 Nm.
It might feature the characteristically high injection pressures (1 600 bar) of a common rail diesel, and a variable geometry turbo charger to optimize low rev performance and circumvent turbo lag, but it hardly performs like a stereotypical diesel.
Startup is nearly instantaneous, with a negligible glow-plug warm up period, and when it does compress into life, you can hardly hear any diesel clatter inside the cabin.
At the start of the launch test route I told my driving partner repeatedly I was convinced that we had got into a 4-litre V6 petrol model by mistake. But we had not.
The new 3-litre is probably the most refined turbodiesel engine available in a bakkie on the local market today.
It performs admirably too, with heaps of low down torque augmented by a free-revving character when acceleration through the gears is called upon. It really is a very sweet motor and the solid shifting five-speed manual gearbox makes for an outstanding drivetrain combination.
On-road, the new Ranger is comfy, with low vibration and noise levels especially. Just the overly light steering detracts somewhat, especially when traversing hard dirt roads at speed.
Off-road the 3-litre diesel can handle nearly any incline in first-gear, low-range, while the rear differential lock can always be called upon when facing particularly severe obstacles.
Three body styles accommodate the new 3-litre turbo diesel, single-, super- and double cab. With its tax benefit coefficient and advantageous compromise between load bay capaciousness and interior storage space, the super cab is bound to be very popular indeed.
The super cab rear doors have been re-hinged too and now open to a full 90 degree arch, allowing seamless rear access.
Living up to Ford's marketing bill of the new Rangers being 100% 'truck' along the lines of a traditional US workhorse utility, payload capacity has been improved substantially too.
The 3-litre turbo diesel single cab can now accommodate up to 1 406 kg of payload according to Ford, the super cab 1 203 kg and the double cab 1 130 kg - all class leading performances.
Safety has hardly been glossed over either, with all XLT and XLE super- and double cab models now featuring front and side driver/front passenger airbags, a first for the local bakkie market.
A five-year/90 000 km service plan and free off-road driver training course is now included in the purchase price of each new Ranger, significantly enhancing the ownership prospect.
The 3.0TDCi models should be at dealers by 25 June, with the rest of the range following in August.
Finally, featuring the range topping turbo diesel power it has been missing, the new Ranger, with its stand apart, unfeigned bakkie styling, vast payload capacities and class leading safety features, is a very competent contender in the local bakkie market.
Pricing: Single Cab
2.2i R124 900
2.5D R147 900
2.5TD Hi Trail XL 4x2 R167 900
2.5TD 4x4 R199 900
2.5TD (dual airbags & ABS) R209 900
3.0TDCi XLT Hi-Trail 4x2 R222 900
Pricing: Super Cab
2.5TD Hi-Trial 4x2 R192 900
3.0TDCi XLT Hi-Trail 4x2 R239 00
3.0TDCi XLT 4x4 R276 900
4.0iV6 XLT Hi-Trial 4x2 R227 900
Pricing: Double Cab
2.5TD Hi-Trial 4x2 R192 900
2.5TD 4x4 (dual airbags & ABS) R239 900
2.5TD XLT 4x4 R267 900
3.0TDCi Hi-Trial XLE 4x2 R278 900
3.0TDCi XLE 4x4 R315 900
4.0i V6 Hi-Trial XLE 4x2 R265 900
4.0i V6 XLE 4x2 (Auto) R275 900
4.0i V6 XLE 4X4 (Auto) R314 900