Tow Tested
  • Old faithful starred on tow, made us excited about New Ranger

We really thought we’d seen the last of the old Ford Ranger. The new one’s local launch now turns out will be later than we’d imagined it would be, and the opportunity to tow our race car a 2000 km round trip to a recent meeting handed us the opportunity to not just say one last goodbye to old faithful. It also afforded us the opportunity to imagine how much the new one will improve.

Looking ahead, while the new one will be improved across the board, Ranger’s basic hardware will continue much as is. This flagship 4×4’ Stormtrack’s Gqeberha-built 157 kW 500 Nm 2-litre biturbo diesel four pot should continue unchanged. Its 10-speed automatic is likely to gain an upgrade, but driving it will be pretty much the same. So there’s no harm in reporting how this fine fully specced double-cab pulled our race car to East London and back.

Peachy 2-litre bi-turbodiesel

Based on Ranger Wildtrak, which shares Ford’s peachy 157 kilowatt 500 Newton-metre bi-turbodiesel and ten-speed trannie with he outgoing Raptor, Ford’s run-out Stormtrak cuts a striking pose for a double-cab four-by-four .Especially in this ruby red get-up. First things first, was to load her up. Stormtrak’s rubberised bak has a power roller cover and a neat load divider inside.

The roller mechanism steals a little space up front, but we had ample shorter stuff to stack in there, so no loss. The divider came in handy. You can slide it forward and back to adapt the spaces each side to suit whatever you need. We ended up with the race wheels at the back and a bunch of tools and kit in the front ‘compartment. Then just hitch the trailer, load the car up check the lights, strap it down and voila! We’re on the road again.

Now before we move on, there’s plenty news about the all-new Ranger’s load bay. Sure, we loved what Stormtrak offers, but… The new bakkie will make huge strides there. 50 mm wider, the new one will for instance be able to take a pretty fundamental Euro pallet or a sheet of building plywood between the arches. Old faithful doesn’t quite manage either.

The New Ranger will be even better

The new one also gets a tough new plastic moulded bed liner, rather than just a splotchy coat of ugly rubber. Add extra cargo tie down points on strong steel tube rails, durable, flexible load box caps and an even cooler new cargo management system. It adds dividers to hold various sized items and even create smaller compartments to stow all shapes and forms of cargo. The tailgate will even double as a mobile work bench with an integrated ruler and clamp pockets.

The new one will even get load box lighting, while zone lighting SYNC screen controlled zone lighting will bring 360-degree lighting around the truck. And while old faithful over here has a fair 750 kg load capacity in there, the new one will pack in between 925 and 1,191 kg, depending on the model. It will also bring improved 350 kg static and 85 kg dynamic roof top load limits.

Getting back to our Stormtrak, our race car weighs just over 1300 kg above the 900 kilo trailer, so that’s around 2.3 tonnes. Considering it’s 3.5 tonne towing capacity, we opted to load some of the kit into the car to be sure that we stayed within that 750 kg of registered load, including the 200 kilos of super prime beef in the front seats. That additional 200 kg or so will be able to stay on the new bakkie, which will retains a 3,500 kg braked trailer capacity and 350 kg tow ball limit.

On the Road, Imagining New ranger

Up at 5am and driving east through the misty Southern Cape, the biturbo rumbled quietly in the distance. Its ten-speed automatic was always busy in its eternal quest to seek out the optimal cog, which can become frustrating. Floor it and the trailer hitch gently clunks on the ball as that stout turbo lump pulls hard. The autobox skips a few cogs down to precisely the right ratio. And then it will quietly shift back up as the road levels or drops away. Always in effortless comfort.

We have heard that that this box has been brittle on occasion, but the new one will likely be upgraded anyway. And same of the fuzzy logic is odd. It will keep in a too low gear until it gets to just under 100 km/h, and then when you pass that threshold, it shifts two or the cogs up all at once. A better staggered shift program would better suit so may applications and we look forward to see if the new one improves in that respect, too.

Ride quality is a tad agricultural and we anticipate discovering how all those updates will work in the new one. But as a towing tool as we used it, it was comfy and gentle, handled well and pulled as hard as we ever needed when tugging past the occasional truck en route. Now if we thought that was good, we can’t wait for new Ranger. It will get a brand new Tow / Haul mode designed just for folk like us who tow heavy load with a laden vehicle. That’s one trick we cannot wait to try.

New Ranger will get Tow Mode

Selecting Tow / Haul mode will optimise the new Ranger’s gear shift timing to maintain power when you’re climbing up a hill or deliver the right amount of engine braking when you’re descending a decline. Next-gen Ranger will also get an integrated electric trailer brake controller, trailer connection checklist and trailer light check to simplify the hooking up process. And remove the need to check those trailer lights and indicators every time.

Now you should know by now that we were more than satisfied with how this 2 litre biturbo diesel pulled. It packs bypass tech to allow the two turbochargers to operate in series. Or to shut the smaller turbo off to allow the larger blower to deliver optimal high power when asked. It and its 10-speed box will continue in new Ranger, but if that’s still not enough, the new one will also get a 184 kW 600 Nm 3-litre V6 turbodiesel, said to feel like a far bigger truck on the road.

Longer and wider, new Ranger will also get a new on-demand four-wheel drive system and a SYNC screen operated electronic rear differential lock. Newly outboard-mounted dampers will deliver improved control when loaded and eliminate bounce or skip when unladen. And improved 30 degree approach and 23 degrees departure angle even with a towbar fitted, and 800 mm wading ability, even in reverse, will bring off-roading improvements too.

Wieldy and easy to Drive

Getting back to towing with old faithful, the older Ford has an impressive turning circle, front and rear park sensors with a rear-view camera certainly eased backing up and loading the tailer. And navigating a packed paddock complete with loaded trailer after the races. Driving in the dark, standard HID LED head and daytime running lights were good enough and its Auto High Beam is a treat and works well. All of which we hear will also be even better in the new bakkie

The cabin is comfy, although the seats look a bit last season. It’s well stacked with Ford SYNC, CarPlay, Auto, Waze traffic and navigation gizmos. Some of it is a bit complex to operate, with hard to read buttons and iffy ergonomics for 2022. Happily, new one’s tablet system will surely ease all the frustration. Albeit dated now, this old one still has it all though.

Indeed, the Ford Ranger is now beyond long in the tooth. It certainly still does a good job well and would make a clever call for a run-out special or a good used unit. Scratch a little, there are some cool deals to bw had right now. But then the new Ford Ranger is very close, and judging by how good the old one is, and what we have been led to believe about its replacement, we can’t wait for the New Ford Ranger. Bring it on! – Michele Lupini

Images & Test Data: Giordano Lupini

TOW TESTED: Ford Ranger 2.0 bt DC 4x4 Stormtrak
Engine: 157kW 500Nm 1998cc turbodiesel I4
Drive: 10-speed automatic 4x4
Payload: 750 kg
Max Towing: 3500 kg
0-60 km/h 4.05 sec
0-100km/h: 9.48 sec
0-120 km/h: 14.05 sec
0-160 km/h 28.81 sec
400m: 16.8 sec @ 131 km/h
80-120km/h: 7.36 sec
120-160 km/h 15.09 sec
VMax: 180 km/h
Fuel: 8.1 l/100km
CO2: 215 g/km
Warranty/Service: 4y 120K/6y 90K km
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