Published on April 15th, 2016 | by Subhash Nair0
Ford Ranger Driven Through One of Sabah’s Toughest Off-Road Trail
Few pick up trucks come close to achieving what the Ford Ranger boasts. With class leading features, an interior to rival passenger cars twice its price and uncompromised safety it has broken boundaries as to what customers should expect when shopping in the sector. Yet for all its refinement, the Ranger still manages to be as robust as any other pick up.
Ford demonstrated this to us last year when they took us through an obstacle course in Tadom designed to put the Ranger through the worst of conditions. It passed with flying colours, but that wasn’t enough.
To show us what the Ranger could do in an non-controlled environment, Ford and Sime Darby Auto Connexion (who distribute Ford vehicles in Malaysia) organised something a little more raw. We were taken into the depths of Sabah’s dense rainforest where the members of our convoy became the only real safety rope.
The Tamparuli off-road course we found ourselves on was no walk in the park. Not only where there a couple of instances where we had to cross streams, but it also featured descents and ascents steep enough to rekindle a dormant fear of heights.
The Ford Ranger is well equipped for these sort of challenges though. Not ten years ago, most off-roaders would have required experienced drivers behind the wheel to tackle tougher obstacles like steep descents. There would be slipping and sliding that would panic those without any experience off tarmac. But with Hill Descent Control (HDC), the Ranger was able to comfortably cruise down some really perilous cliff-like slopes with ease.
So, what IS HDC? Functionally, it’s a bit like cruise control, except at much lower speeds and with more emphasis over braking individual wheels over throttle control. As such, when HDC is engaged, the speed of descent is logically controlled using the cruise control buttons.
Even when equipped with a 6-speed manual, the Ranger still comes with HDC, so off-roading capabilities are pretty much standard across the range. The 2.2-litre turbodiesel Ford engines were extremely well refined and fuel-efficient. We had absolutely no trouble taking the Rangers across Tamparuli’s tough terrain challenges – even wadding across a river at one point. The base engine is a large enough heart to power the Ranger through the toughest of obstacles and even impresses on the highway too.
But if it’s raw power you really want, then look no further than the Ranger Wildtrak. With its 3.2-litre 5-cylinder Duratorq engine churning out 200 PS (about 197 hp) and 470Nm of torque, you’ll never be left wanting more power.
Of course, pick up trucks aren’t built for speed. But if things do get out of hand in an emergency, Ford have outfitted all Rangers with ABS, EBD and the all important Electronic Stability Control (which is still absent in a number of vehicles in this price bracket). Even if you’ve got something in tow, the Ranger’s Trailer Sway Control is there to provide greater stability.
It’s rare to see a pick up to get this much in terms of driver aids – and we’re barely scratching the surface here. The top-of-the-range Wildtrak even comes with Adaptive Cruise Control and Land Keeping Aid which nudges the steering wheel to keep the Ranger a safe distance from the vehicle ahead as well as in correct lane by nudging the Electric Power Steering in the right direction.
Of course, with such great technology, safety and power comes great expectations in terms of comfort as well. Needless to say, Ford have elevated the game in this regard too. Not only does the Ranger come with the largest cargo bed, but one of the most spacious interiors too. Legspace for four large adults is never a problem but a rear air cond blower is still missing even on the Wildtrak model.
All Rangers come with Premium Fabric designed to resist dirt and liquids but the Wildtrak goes a step further by furnishing the interior in a splash of orange and adding leather inserts in places. The Wildtrak also comes with a semi-digital instrument cluster and a high-res 8” screen with SYNC 2 – by far the most well-integrated and functional infotainment systems around.
The trip to Sabah cemented our understanding of the Ranger’s position at the top of the pack. We knew early on that Ford was upping the game in terms of size and refinement, but it took an expedition East and away from safety to understand what ‘Tough Done Smarter’ really meant. All-in-all, the Ranger is a prime example of trickle-down technology done right. It really does show how if you wait long enough, even the humblest of vehicle segments can be equipped with high tech equipment.