Premium Ford Ranger Wildtrak 2-litre biturbo has it all. We put it to the test.
Afrikaans is a wonderful tongue in so many ways. Take this story headline for instance. Two perfectly South African words brought together to so succinctly describe the story at hand. There’s no way we’d have better described it. For those of you who don’t understand, allow me to explain…
Bakkie is the diminutive of bak, which basically means box and in a vehicular sense. Bakkie was applied to a light commercial vehicle by a fellow by the name of John Stanton, I believe as part of a late-‘60s Datsun ad campaign. About when the then fledgling brand was about to unleash its ‘bakkies’ ton an unsuspecting South Africa. The rest is history.
What’s a bielie?
Bielie is a bit of a misnomer — there’s no single direct translation. Beyond that it describes a splendid example of something. I imagine a bielie in the context of Jan Pierewiet and the lyrics – defining a swashbuckling bushveld adventurer. Dodging the blackwater as he chased down another young maiden. So now you should understand what Bielie Bakkie stands for!
Anyway, bielie of a bakkie well defines this 157 kilowatt 500 Newton-metre bi-turbocharged diesel ten-speed double-cab four-by-four Ford Ranger Wildtrak. So how does it stack up?
The 2-litre biturbo sits on top of the Ranger engine pile. It’s the same made in SA lump that’s in the Raptor and sits atop the single turbo 2-litre and the good old 2.2 and 3.2 TDCi turbodiesels on the range.
Packing a variable-vane high-pressure turbo along with a fixed low-pressure unit, the two chargers work together to deliver a, broad wedge of output right across the range. The smaller turbo pumps harder at lower revs to build a Table Mountain torque curve from idle and up to lower to middling engine speeds. By when the bigger snail is spooled up to boost the relatively small capacity 2-litre lump all the way to the top end of its power delivery.
Wildtrak packs supreme tech
That’s all aided and abetted by Ford’s ten-speed automatic gearbox, which uses its broader spread of ratios ¬to deliver a creamy dollop of power quite literally right across the power band from idle to limiter, accompanied by a mellow and friendly mechanical thrum. That box has many a trick, including real-time adaptive shift-scheduling to pick the optimal gear, whatever the demands and the ability to short-shift up and skip gears down its ratios.
The yet again refined Ranger also benefits significantly improved ride quality courtesy of the anti-roll bar now sitting behind the front axle for improved control, softer front spring rates that vastly improve comfort, specific 4×4 damper rates and reduced tyre pressures for a most impressive leap in dynamics, ride and comfort. Wildtrak retains a 3500kg towing capacity, but its 750kg load capacity may be a worry if you want to hunt with a few big mates and still load the kudu in the bak.
Wildtrak is excellent off the beaten track, by the way. That new 10-speed box is armed with a low range for absolutely effortless 4×4 crawling. It’s aided and abetted by a rear diff lock and throttle and brake responsive hill descent control. Ranger’s newfound ride suppleness and silence are especially noticeable on dirt roads. It also packs 230mm ground clearance and will drive 800mm into a dam, were you ever so inclined.
The tech rich Wildtrak packs a lot of kit that is becoming common in premium bakkies today, from HID LED daytime headlamps to Auto High Beam. Driver and safety aids include Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision and Lane-Keeping Alerts. And comprehensive Electronic Stability Control with Traction, Trailer Sway, Hill Descent and Adaptive Load Controls; Hill Start Assist and Roll Over Mitigation. Add Passive Entry and Start, a Category 1 alarm and even a spare wheel lock.
This Ford however stands apart by its SYNC infotainment tech. It now adds gesture, voice or touch control for its Apple CarPlay Android Auto, Waze traffic and navigation, Bluetooth and USB. And the Wildtrak’s Semi-Automatic Parallel Park Assist uniquely allows the bakkie to park itself.
Right, now we know Wildtrak’s immaculate pedigree. But how does it stack up?
How this engine works together with that sophisticated 10-speed automatic box is most impressive. Feather it off the line and the biturbo pulls hard. Floor it and it shoves you back in the seat. In normal driving, it’s pleasing to play the throttle and feel the combined effects of the gearbox seamlessly engaging the ideal cog for your current speed and throttle position.
The box skips a few cogs down to precisely the right ratio for quickest acceleration when asked. And secretly drops a gear or two, as the incline rises against you, or shifts back up as the road levels or drops away. Always in absolutely effortless comfort. On the open road, it sips in the sevens per hundred, where the old 3.2 would struggle to find the nines.
That effortlessness is this biturbo’s hallmark though, it brings sophisticated contemporary executive saloon-like simplicity to your driving — and this is a bakkie, remember. A bielie of a bakkie!
So, while Wildtrak steps up a gear — er, four gears, how does it really perform?
Well that’s the acid test. Is all this tech really good enough to steal our famous King of Bakkies crown from the Mitsubishi Triton? We knew that Wildtrak biturbo marginally beat the Mitsubishi in fuel economy and towing ability. But the Triton came back in payload. So, how do they match up where the faithful expect the king to win — on the drag strip?
To pull it off, the Ford needed to rush to 100km quicker than 9.47 seconds, complete the quarter mile at 16.6 seconds at 132km/h and pull from 80 to 120km/h in less than 6.87 seconds. Wildtrak starts off on the back foot — it’s a few hundredths off the pace to 60km/h, but it bounces back to crucially shave five hundredths off by the time it reaches 100km/h. The blue oval bakkie however fails to beat its tri-star rival to the quarter and Triton is still the overtaking boss too.
So to say that new Ranger is the new king would be a touch risqué, because it only shares the crown, it does not own it.
But match that Mitsubishi, Wildtrak 2.0 certainly does. The trouble in that equation comes back to price — is Wildtrak really worth a hundred and fifty grand more than the Mitsubishi? Perhaps not. Maybe Ford’s influence, dealer body and back-up come in to make Ranger more the bielie bakkie than the king.
The other question remains how Wildtrak stacks up the bakkie it wants to topple in monthly sales. This Ranger comes in at thirteen grand more than the more than just compatible new Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 Legend. The Toyota now packs a handy 150kW 500Nm version of its old-school big-bore engine. And now it all but matches Wildtrack performance, economy and the rest.
In all, the Ranger Wildtrak fully meets our bielie promise to deliver a technologically superb bakkie that matches or beats the best in every aspect — whether that be Triton performance or Hilux credibility. Or versus any other contemporary in any other discipline, across the broader base, the Ford certainly is a well-positioned rival. And if you wand that bit more, you can Thunder yours up for an extra ten grand or so.
All of which leaves us to conclude that as a stalwart, a stout fellow, a corker or a splendid example, Ranger Wildtrak bakkie certainly defines bielie quite perfectly! – Michele Lupini
Images – Michele Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Ford Ranger Wildtrak DC 2.0BT 4x4 auto Engine: 157kW 500Nm 1998cc turbodiesel I4 Drive: 10-speed automatic 4x4 Payload: 750 kg 5 Max Towing: 3500 kg 9 ROAD TESTED: 0-60km/h: 4.05 sec 9 0-100km/h: 9.48 sec 9 0-160km/h 28.81 sec 400m: 16.8 sec @ 131 km/h 10 80-120km/h: 7.36 sec 8 120-160km/h 15.09 sec CLAIMED: VMax: 180 km/h Fuel: 8.1 l/100km 7 CO2: 215 g/km 6 Warranty/Service: 4y 120K/6y 90K km 8 LIST PRICE: R778K 5 RATED: 76