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Haul road heroes

We were invited to JCB recently to test the new mini digger range and as an added bonus, we had a great opportunity to test some Ford Ranger pick-up trucks around Kevin Quarry in the UK’s Midlands area, and here is what we thought!

Pick-up trucks have always been a very popular choice of off-road vehicle for our followers, mainly due to the environment we all choose to work in; usually dusty, rough building sites or earthmoving projects. 4×4 pick-ups are an ideal way of lugging all that equipment around or towing mini diggers.

The Ranger is a great-looking truck that sells in very large numbers around the world and is offered in many different trim styles. Also, there are a few different body options you can choose from, starting with the two-seat Regular Cab and the occasional-four-seat Super Cab, but these tend to be reserved for the hire market or as fleet vehicles. It’s the five-seat Double Cab that’s the most popular in the market and in our industry, especially with the owner drivers and site managers, combining a good passenger space with a generous load area, this is the one that most appeals to our audience and the truck we had the opportunity to test today.

You do have the choice of a standard single cab with two-wheel drive, but most Rangers feature a tough 4×4 drivetrain. You have the standard 2.2 TDCi four-cylinder diesel or a chunky five-cylinder 3.2 TDCi – they offer 158bhp and 197bhp respectively. Manual and automatic options are also available in the range.

Although it’s down to personal preference and cost, specifically for our industry we wouldn’t bother with the base model 128bhp engine – it only comes in the very basic two-seater Regular Cab with two-wheel drive and isn’t very quick or any good for towing that mini digger to a customer on time. Let’s just skip straight to the 197bhp Wildtrak version, this model will provide the poke you expect for a vehicle intended to haul heavy loads. It pulls well and feels very responsive from low down in the rev range.

Through varied terrain including steep inclines and slushy muddy tracks, not once did the Wildtrak miss a beat and, in most cases, we did not even have to engage the 4×4 system or the low range box.”

Trim options start with the XL, which is basic to say the least and probably more suited to the tool hire industry. While the XLT improves things a little, you really need the luxurious Limited or flagship Wildcat options if you want your truck to also perform well as a weekend activity truck as well as an onsite vehicle.

The Ranger has grown in stature over the years, along with its rivals in the sector, which over recent years has become a very popular, competitive market. Alternative options include the Isuzu D-MAX, Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux, VW Amorac. All very nice trucks and commonplace on construction sites today.

Nearly 30cm of ground clearance and the addition of Hill Descent Control and Hill-Start Assist makes this truck more than capable in rough terrain. The optional Off-road Pack also adds a locking rear differential and protection for the underbody.”

Most of the top-spec Rangers come bustling with pretty much the same amount of kit and technology as other trucks in the class, with the excellent 3.5-tonne maximum towing weight on the higher spec models making it very attractive to commercial as well as recreational users. The Ranger drives well, looks good and has a nice ergonomically sturdy designed cab with pretty decent handling for such a large truck. Fuel economy is a bit on the lower side, especially for the 3.2 TDCi.

Running Costs

Although the Ford is probably one of the best-looking trucks on the market around at the moment it has never been one of the most fuel efficient, but now with all the improvements which have been made to the latest models, fuel economy has improved by up to 17 per cent. Features like Auto-Start-Stop, Electric Power Assisted Steering and a choice of final drive ratios to the range are now making this pick-up a very attractive contender in the market.

Depending what gearbox and final drive package you choose, the expected average fuel consumption will range from 36.2 to 43.5mpg with the 2.2-litre engine to 33.6mpg with the 3.2-litre versions, again based on an empty truck – in the real world, once filled with half a pack of concrete blocks or with a mini digger attached to the back, you will be talking a whole different story.

Load Space, Practicality, towing

The regular cab is a traditional two-seater pick-up with the biggest carrying capacity in the range. It’ll take a 1,296kg gross payload and has a maximum load length of 2,317mm.

The most spacious and practical Rangers, and the ones that we’d recommend for our audience are the Double Cab Limited or Wildtrak options. With the 3.5t towing capacity in addition to a nice comfortable cab with all mod cons, lots of head and leg room front and rear, it will seat four burly blokes relatively easily or five with a bit of a squeeze.

The extra weight of the 3.2-litre engine and Wildtrak accessories, like the side bars, roll bars and the electronically-adjustable seats, eats into the payload and leaves just 1033kg left for the load on the Wildtrak, which, in layman’s terms, means slightly less than half a pack of concrete blocks.

We also had the opportunity with the Wildtrak to hook up the new JCB 19-C-1 mini digger and Ifor Williams trailer combination and test around the quarry. Although we only had the option of haul roads due to insurance reasons, we thought it was a perfect scenario as this onsite environment was the most common use for our audience.

We found the Wildtrak performed really well; all-round visibility was good and hitching up the trailer was made very easy due to the rear-view camera neatly situated in the rear number plate surround. While towing the trailer, the truck also performed very well in deep mud. Through varied terrain including steep inclines and slushy muddy tracks, not once did the Wildtrak miss a beat and, in most cases, we did not even have to engage the 4×4 system or the low range box. The leaf-sprung rear end of the Ranger holds up well without too much shimmy and shake; it feels planted and stable on the muddy tracks and haul roads from a driver’s perspective. Its ride comfort and body control are competitive, if not class-leading, and the electric power steering is particularly good for a pick-up in terms of its weight and responsiveness.

Safety

All Rangers get driver, passenger, thorax and driver’s knee airbags plus a collapsible steering column and an advanced ESC stability control system. This includes Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Load Adaptive Control, Roll-over Mitigation and Trailer Sway Control, so the truck is fully tooled-up in terms of technology to keep it on the straight and narrow. Optional dealer upgrades include a multitude of packages such as the Driver’s Assistance Pack, which adds advanced technologies like Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Aid, Auto High Beam headlights, Traffic Sign Recognition and Collision Mitigation.

Driving and Performance

The engines are strong, particularly if you opt for the 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel that sets the standard in the pick-up class with 197bhp and 470Nm. It’ll do the 0-62mph sprint in 10.6 seconds.

Off Road

The Ford Ranger has the full package when it comes to off-road equipment, making for good off-road performance. The electronically-controlled 4×4 transmission fitted to most models enables you to switch between two and four-wheel-drive modes on the move via a small dial on the console. There’s also a low range 4×4 mode that’ll be useful if you plan on testing the Ranger’s 28-degree approach angle.

Nearly 30cm of ground clearance and the addition of Hill Descent Control and Hill-Start Assist makes this truck more than capable in rough terrain. The optional Off-road Pack also adds a locking rear differential and protection for the underbody to make it a great choice for people who’ll be taking their truck onsite.

Cab and Interior

The cab is very plush, and a great place to be with its high driving position. The driver is treated to a vast array of mod cons including a comfortable seat that gets six-way manual adjustment on entry-level models, while Limited and Wildtrak versions get standard eight-way powered seats. At this level, buyers get the whole nine yards, including Wildtrak logos all over the interior, satellite navigation, a rear-view camera and coloured lighting for the interior.

Ford Ranger MS-RT

Well, if the above truck is not enough for you, enter the 3.2-litre diesel Ranger Wildtrak MS-RT, modified by rally car-builder M-Sport. This company has previously built motorsport-inspired Transits.

The builders have wisely concentrated on décor and suspension for these new improved models, rather than changing the powertrains or messing with the ultra-convenient selectable four-wheel drive system.

And what a truck it is too, boasting some really cool upgrades including 18” Graphite Alloys with Michelin all-terrain tyres which come as standard, MS-RT front bumper and grill, Laser LED full-beam assist lights and daytime running lights, bespoke duel-exit MS-RT Sports Exhaust System, a Laser LED roof-mounted light bar, and Pedders full-suspension lift kit.

Raw Power

Tough jobs aren’t a problem with Ford’s 3.2L TDCi Duratorq diesel engine. With 200PS and 470 Nm of torque at your fingers – and 90% of this impressive pulling power available from 1,500 to 2,750 rpm – you’re guaranteed performance when you need it.

Off Road  

Need to go off road? Ford’s four-wheel drive system is optimised by a comprehensive ESC system. And with the Michelin all-terrain tyres and optional Off-Road Pack, you’ll have incredible control you can trust – whatever the weather throws at you.

Optional Extras

Options include: MS-RT exterior rally sticker designs, Mountain Top Industries roller shutter, Mountain Top Industries cross bars for roller shutter – rated to carry 75kg – Style-X snorkel.

MS-RT tech specs:

  • 18” graphite alloys with Michelin all-terrain tyres
  • MS-RT sports exhaust system
  • Matt black side steps with rubber tread
  • Full MS-RT nappa leather interior
  • MS-RT sports steering wheel
  • MS-RT bespoke exterior body styling
  • Matt black tubular sports bar with Load box Illumination*
  • Laser LED Lights as main beam assist
  • Daytime running lights
  • Tailgate assist
  • C-channel tie down system
  • Privacy glass on rear windows
  • Power foldable matt black door mirrors with puddle lights and side indicators
  • Coolbox in centre console
  • Dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control air conditioning
  • Loadbox liner with 12v socket
  • MS-RT front and rear mudflaps
  • Radio/CD/DAB with 8” TFT touchscreen
  • Ford SYNC 3 with voice control, bluetooth and USB connectivity
  • Satellite navigation*
  • Rear view camera*
  • Front-parking sensors*
  • Tow bar with 13 pin Euro Connector with 12 V auxiliary supply*
  • 230V interior invertor*
  • 8-way electrically-adjustable heated driver’s seat with lumbar support

 

About Dale Hawkins

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