The biggest difference between what we do on a regular new-vehicle test and what we can do when we buy a new vehicle is what we can learn about it the more time we spend with it.
All those little things you learn that only come with time; peculiarities both good and bad.
We’ve always said that the latest Ford Ranger is a great vehicle and it has raised the bar for all other midsize 4x4 utes. Living with our Ranger Sport and driving it almost daily has given us no reason to change this opinion. The V6 Ranger is quite simply next-level good!
The clever placement of all the buttons and the functions within the Ranger have become so second nature to me that I have come to expect such ease of use in other vehicles, but am always disappointed.
The location and ease of use of the interior door handles is a great example; they are perfectly situated and funnily enough not in a dissimilar position to where they were in classic Aussie Fords in the late-60s through to the early-70s. It just goes to show that you can’t beat good design.
If you have to have a start button then at least the RA Ranger puts it in the correct position on the right-hand side of the steering column where your hand naturally goes to start a vehicle, so you don’t need to go looking for it.
The big tactile dials for the HVAC temperature controls and audio volume are also very easy to find and use, without having to take your eyes off the road.
Sure you could use the volume buttons on the steering wheel but the real estate on modern tillers has become so cluttered that you need to look down to find the right button… and even then they are slower to function than a fast-acting dial.
With the volume and track buttons, cruise control and menu buttons all on the steering wheel, it is very busy and not ideal. Moving the cruise control to a separate stalk like Toyota used to use would declutter the wheel and make using the cruise control easier.
While all the accessories and modification we’ve had fitted to the Ranger make it a better off-road touring vehicle, they do take away some of the excellent traits of the standard vehicle. The aggressive mud-terrain tyres can be heard and felt as you drive along, the roof racks give a little bit of wind noise once you hit 100km/h on the highway, and the storage canopy restricts rearward vision.
But these are all grievances we are prepared to put up with to make the vehicle better suited for outback use.
Something that we did find surprising was how poorly the factory suspension coped with the extra weight of the canopy on the back of the chassis. Trig Point tells us that by removing the factory steel tub and installing its aluminium canopy, you are adding around 130kg to the overall weight, but the weight moves further back on the chassis.
Our canopy also has side toolboxes, a 50-litre water tank and we’ve fitted the extensive 12-volt system inside it. But we reckon there’s no more than 350kg to 400kg on the vehicle over standard, yet the rear suspension sagged down to such a point that it was riding on the bump stops.
When you consider that the V6 Sport has a claimed payload of 934kg, it makes you wonder how it would handle that. People towing heavy vans behind Rangers have been reporting the same problem with the stock suspension, but it comes back to the way Ford has tuned it softly so that it drives and handles so well without a load on it, but is less than ideal with weight on the back.