They say it’s very very exciting. Which is precisely what Thunder sets out to be
Based on Ranger Wildtrak, which shares Ford’s peachy 157 kilowatt 500 Newton-metre bi-turbodiesel and ten-speed trannie, Ford’s run-out Ranger Thunder cuts a striking pose for a double-cab four-by-four. But how does it stack up?
GOOD OLD RANGER AGGRO
Well, let’s start with its strongest suit — its looks. The Wildtrak derived Ranger Thunder brings a revised honeycomb-style grille with red side nostrils, black 18-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels, blackened side mirror housings, and bright 3D Thunder badges. All of which adda an extra dose of good old Ranger aggression. Thunder’s Wildtrak roll-over bar gains an eye-catching red, albeit shoddily applied insert.
We loved the lockable Mountain Top black roller shutter bakkie top and cargo area management system with a bed divider to easily compartmentalise the load bay to secure different-sized items.
Step into the familiar Wildtrak cabin and those in the know will soon notice the red Thunder branded leather front pews and additional red contrast stitched black leather dash top, steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake shrouds. Ford’s SYNC infotainment tech brings gesture, voice or touch control for its Apple CarPlay Android Auto, Waze traffic and navigation, Bluetooth and USB. Never mind this bakkie will even park itself.
THE TOUCHY-FEELY THINGIES
We all know the new Ranger is nigh, so it’s no surprise that the interior starting to look a bit dated. It’s difficult to operate and the darker cabin helps hide some of the perhaps too plentioful badge labels from less than 20/20 eyes. And then the AC system is primarily controlled through screen instead of dials on dash — shouldn’t that be the other way around? And as good as the infotainment is, it is difficult to navigate.
On the road, Thunder is light and easy to drive — Ford’s ten-speed automatic gearbox uses its broader spread of ratios to deliver a creamy dollop of power quite literally right across the band from idle to limiter, accompanied by a mellow and friendly mechanical thrum. It has real-time adaptive shift-scheduling to pick the optimal gear, whatever the demands and will short-shift up and skip gears down its ratios.
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.
TEN TOO MANY?
All most impressive, but on the flip side, we think that ten gears is a bit much. We blame that for a laggy gearbox with a brittle reputation. Thunder however carries Wildtrak’s significantly improved ride quality over and retains its class-leading 3500 kg towing capacity. A 750k g 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 with 230 mm ground clearance and 800 mm wading. That 10-speed box actually comes into its own off-road, armed with a low range for absolutely effortless 4×4 crawling. Add the rear diff lock and throttle and brake responsive hill descent control, not to mention that its ride suppleness and silence carry ovr impressively on dirt roads.
We managed just under10 litres per hundred on average in mixed test driving conditions, which is a touch off what we’d have preferred. Or expected. But the Ford Ranger Thunder is still among the quickest four-pot double-cab 4x4s out there.
GOOD REASON NOT TO GO WITH THE FLOW
At the end of the day, the Ford Ranger Thunder proved a decent all-round bakkie with a funky design that turned some heads. It is sufficiently powerful, has a comfortable ride, a decent audio and a responsive infotainment system. We’d say it’s a fair rival to the top Hilux Legend, but also remember that an all-new Ranger arrives later this year.
Will that alter the status quo? Well that remains to be seen! For now this Ford Ranger Thunder is a pretty decent compromise. For those of you who prefer not to go with the flow… Giordano & Michele Lupini
Images: Michele Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Ford Ranger 2.0 biturbo DC 4x4 Thunder Engine: 157kW 500Nm 1998cc turbodiesel I4 Drive: 10-speed automatic 4x4 Payload: 750 kg Max Towing: 3500 kg ROAD TESTED: 0-60km/h: 4.05 sec 0-100km/h: 9.48 sec 0-160km/h 28.81 sec 400m: 16.8 sec @ 131 km/h 80-120km/h: 7.36 sec 120-160km/h 15.09 sec CLAIMED: VMax: 180 km/h Fuel: 8.1 l/100km CO2: 215 g/km Warranty/Service: 4y 120K/6y 90K km LIST PRICE: R830K RATED: 7