Pickup trucks have been around for ages, but like the diesel that propels them, their popularity among urbanites only rose in recent decades. In Malaysia, the Ford Courier of the 1990s is often credited as the ‘lifestyle pickup’ that started it all. This heritage is upheld by the current Ford Ranger, which is the bestselling Ford here today.
Unlike the agricultural users of yore, today’s customers are more interested in features like semi-autonomous driving assistance, touchscreen infotainment and big, shiny wheels. For the longest time, Ford has been bundling these creature comforts into the Wildtrak spec reserved for the 3.2-litre model, which is the brawniest variant of the T6 Ranger to date.
The extra grunt it offers is nice, but some buyers couldn’t justify paying more for power they didn’t ask for and the heftier road tax that comes with it. The annual fee payable to JPJ is RM1,956.80 for the 3.2L versus RM598.40 for the 2.2L. And we haven’t even factored in insurance and running costs, which are obviously going to favour the trimmer of the two. That’s exactly why the 2.2L Wildtrak now exists.
For RM121k – RM11k less than the 3.2L Wildtrak – buyers get the full-fat Ranger minus the heftier engine you’d want to have on an off-road excursion. You’re still getting a 4x4 pickup, though. And the loss of grunt is a trivial trade-off for town users who’d be too thrilled about having features like Adaptive Cruise Control, Sync 3 infotainment and Wildtrak-specific semi-leather seats on top of the nameplate’s signature exterior trim, 18-inch wheels included, to bother about the powertrain.
Of course, the avid driver will find the 2.2L Wildtrak to be slower than its amped-up looks suggest. The Duratorq engine makes 158bhp and 385Nm, which falls a bit short of the standards set by the slew of 400-plus-Nm workhorses on sale today. It definitely takes a while to build momentum when rallied, and audibly so. But put it to work on the daily grind and you’ll be hard-pressed to spot the differences between it and rival turbodiesels of higher capacities.
The Ranger is, after all, often lauded as one of the most car-like offerings in its segment. Its driving refinement and ease-of-use can also be attributed to the 6-speed automatic transmission, which doesn’t overwhelm the driver with excessive torque when it isn’t needed on tarmac. The Wildtrak’s 18-inch wheels even add an extra click of stability to the mix at higher speeds. But they also magnify bumpiness over uneven surfaces, especially in the rear. The cheaper 2.2L XLT is still a comfier ride.
But you don’t get Ford’s new Sync 3 infotainment if you cheap out. In the 2.2L Wildtrak, this system is operated via an eight-inch touchscreen that’s both responsive and visually organised. Hooking up your phone to it using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is a breeze. You can also access climate settings through the touchscreen, which may be one quirk too many for our liking. But it’s an otherwise fluid setup which puts to shame some rivalling systems in premium makes.
Factor in the 2.2L Wildtrak’s semi-autonomy – its Adaptive Cruise Control is backed by Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid and Forward Collision Alert – and Ford’s hot pickup feels more tech-laden than some exec offerings twice its price. They’re not just gimmicks either. The Lane Keeping Aid, for one, is especially useful on narrow roads given the Ranger’s girth and you’ll definitely feel it intercepting your steering at times. You’d expect a car with these features to start at the sound of your voice, but, no, you’d still need to twist the key here, which is rather anticlimactic.
Then again, the Ranger’s appeal has always been in its delightful blend of modern styling and amenities with the rugged charms of a good old pickup. It’s not a strategy unique to Ford, but many carmakers have driven their prices a mile too far this way, the Blue Oval included. The 2.2L Wildtrak draws buyers back into their comfort zone by focussing on the items deemed most relevant at present, making it one of the most well packaged vehicles for the cultured utilitarian of today.
Not as powerful as it looks, but still plentiful for daily use. Wealth of creature comforts makes it ideal for the casual driver.
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Credible challenger in terms of driving refinement. Black Series package helps it look the part.
|Engine||2,198cc, turbodiesel, 4x4, 158bhp, 385Nm|