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Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

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Armoured pillow: Ford's Armadillo

2010-08-10 08:14

Les Stephenson

Some of the latest double-cab bakkies are so good that - short of outright performance - they can be compared with luxury cars: one such is the latest Ford Ranger, the one with the Wildtrak conversion.

The others aren’t bad either...

Trouble is no bakkie has a lockable boot like a hatch or sedan so, when you do the monthly shopping, spend a day in the country or at the beach, there’s nowhere secure to leave the Pick ’n Betaal plastic sacks, your bicycles, your golf clubs or your bodyboards.

Ford SA has solved the problem, in a kinda rough ’n ready way, with the Wildtrak. It’s clad with eye-catching decals and some extra body bits but the piece de resistance is the retractable roller cover for the load box - rather like a roller-shutter garage door gone horizontal.

This rig, with its sturdy lock, can be fully retracted, fully closed, or locked in several positions in between to suit the load - think a washing machine at the tailgate and a wedding’s-worth of flower arrangements filling the rest of the plastic-sheathed load box.

Which is where the “armoured pillow” comes in...

A couple of local youngsters, aged seven or eight, were pushing their bikes along the beachfront in the ex-fishing village where I live. One had a flat tyre.

“Want a lift?” I asked them as I slowed alongside. “You can chuck your bikes in the back and I’ll drop you at the petrol station to get the flat fixed.”

Two big grins were enough of an answer so I pulled over, stopped on the grass, got out and headed for the tailgate. The grins had eased to a couple of questioning smiles. “How we gonna do it, sir - the bikes’ll slide off!”

“Naw. I’ll slide back the Armadillo cover to get the bikes in,” I explained.

“What’s an armoured pillow?” asked the bigger of the two. So I told him to stand on the back step, next to the (optional) tow hitch, and read the label on the lock. ARMADILLO CONCEPTS.

He caught on immediately; the sections of the cover, each about 3cm wide and sliding in a track attached to the load-box sides, are linked and hinged and look like the leathery, bony shells of the American insect-eaters.

The young guys were equally impressed by the five-seater cabin during the ride to the Caltex station, especially the extra bank of instruments centred on top of the fascia to show incline and tilt angles, compass heading and cabin and outside temperatures.

Each of the Alcantara-trimmed, leather-look seats has orange stitching and an orange WILDTRAK logo.

The two front seats are easily as comfortable as those in a luxury car, if with manual adjustment.

Only 400 Wildtrak units will be assembled – split according to order in rear or all-wheel drive (the latter with low range) but each with pretty frugal 3.0 TDCi, 115kW/380Nm Duratorq turbodiesel engine; we drove it locally for a week and the fuel gauge was still between full and three-quarters when the affable Dave Fall came to collect it.

Ben Pillay, marketing manager for Ford SA, explained: "The Wildtrak has trendy design and premium specs such as rear parking sensors* and an Armadillo load-box cover while maintaining its existing strengths - durability, economy, off-road ability and safety."

The bakkies can also be identified by their Wildtrak-design nudge bar, special indicator repeaters and puddle lights in the external mirrors.

Also standard are silver roof rails, a branded load-liner box, Wildtrak-themed load-box edge rails and 18-inch diamond-cut alloy rims, scuff plates and floor mats.

Exclusivity, of course, doesn’t come cheap...

Wildtrak 3.0 TDCi 4x2 Double Cab - R375 990
Wildtrak 3.0 TDCi 4x4 Double Cab - R421 870

Just for reference, the XLE Ranger double-cabs with the same engine cost R345 120 and R391 000.

*More “armoured pillow” stuff... The sensors can be turned off - a great idea for buyers who do head into the bush for weekend and get tired of the constant beep-beep when negotiating tight spaces through the thorn scrub.


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