To my mind, the Ford Ranger has always been the pickup that can: can do anything, can go anywhere. That impression was due to the relatively tiny first-generation Ranger’s ability to crawl and claw its way through the lahar dunes surrounding Mt. Pinatubo, then return casually to the city as if it had just gone for a drive around the park. Now, some 20 years later, it’s the turn of a new generation of Ranger to prove its mettle.
The all-new Ranger (actually dubbed the “Next Gen Ranger”) is one handsome beast. It’s not always easy to identify one pickup from another from afar, but the Ranger manages to be distinctive, thanks to its daytime running lights, dubbed the C-clamps, and a large horizontal grille that relates it to its larger Ford brethren like the F-150. The sides feature heavily sculpted metal, the scalloped lines extending rearward to the pickup bed and tailgate.
On the Ranger, there’s an indentation just aft of the rear wheels, and when you see its purpose, you wonder why this isn’t a standard feature on all trucks. It’s a side-step conveniently integrated into the body molding. This makes stepping up and accessing the bed area much easier. This was included by Ford after observing how customers used their trucks. Months before the launch, Ford previewed the Ranger’s design and features in an online session to the media. What the company continually emphasized is how extensively they observed and listened to customers as to what they needed and wanted in the next-generation pickup. That approach evidently pays of in meaningful touches like these.
The wide and tall front door allows easy ingress into the cabin. The cockpit is inviting, cool and comfortable. We are driving the Ranger Sport variant, which features a Batman-approved all-black interior. Materials and finishes look and feel premium, including the satin aluminum accents on the patterned air vents, and a matte metallic accent on the lower dashboard to give a bit of contrast with the blackness. The dark finish is matched outside by the black-on-black grille and 18-inch alloy wheels with Asphalt Black accents.
What you can’t miss is the large, iPad size (10-inch) LED touchscreen mounted portrait-style in the middle of the dash. It allows easy access to secondary features like audio and vehicle settings. The huge display really comes alive when you connect it to your smartphone via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto’s wired or wireless connection. With the large screen, navigation and audio functions, in particular, are intuitive to operate.
Next-Gen Ranger is powered by a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine, with 170ps and 405Nm. It’s well-matched to the 6-speed automatic transmission. Progress through the gears is smooth and seamless. Four-wheel drive can be actuated by a knob on the center console. Low range is available, with a locking rear differential for really sticky situations. The ride is firm but not jolting, just a level below the positively plush ride of the Raptor with its progressive shocks.
Comfortable cabin notwithstanding, the Ranger is built for work, too. The pickup bed, now with greater space between the wheel arches, was designed to fit a Euro-standard pallet. There are clamp pockets in the tailgate, molded capping to protect the bedliner, and mounting points for accessories like tents and canopies. Molded slots in the bed liner will grip dividers in case you need to compartmentalize the space.
What’s striking about the Ranger is how easy it is to maneuver around town, even with its long and wide body. It’s 50mm wider than the previous model, which, when you’re parking in a mall or condo basement, is too wide for comfort. But with the Ranger’s light steering and reasonable turning radius, it’s still manageable in tight quarters. The standard rear camera on the Ranger Sport helps a lot, although we sorely missed the parking sensors that are available on the Wildtrak. Ranger Sport starts at P1,479,000.