Ford recently caused a stir with the announcement of the all-new Ranger pickup truck.
It looks terrific, and the return of a 3.0 litre V6 diesel option will delight many fans of the marque. There should also be electric versions of the new Ranger in due course.
However, the new Ford Ranger won’t be available in Britain until 2023 so anybody wanting one will have a bit of a wait.
In the meantime it’s just as well the current generation Ford Ranger is still a hugely impressive piece of kit. It comes with a 2.0 litre diesel which comes in various strengths, the best being the 213bhp twin-turbo version I drove.
There are basic “working” Ranger models, and the lifestyle oriented Wildtrak version. Ford recently added three special editions – Wolftrak, MS-RT and Stormtrak – that are also aimed squarely at lifestyle buyers.
At the top of the Ranger tree is the hugely capable Raptor, which will set you back nearly £50,000.
I travelled to Wales to put the Wildtrak and the Raptor models through some challenging off road routes.
Our base was the Brecon Beacons National Park, containing some of Wales’ most beautiful hills and valleys.
We set off as the sun was rising to do some “green laning.” In England and Wales many non-tarmac roads are still public highways and can be legally driven on – as long as you show common sense and respect.
The legal situation on green laning in Scotland is less clear, so it was a treat to be able to head onto a forest track then up onto a trail across high moorland without having to ask anyone’s permission.
I set off in the Ranger Wildtrak (information in the Facts section is for this model). For those who haven’t driven a pickup for a long time, they’re a lot more comfortable than you might remember.
Mine came with leather seats, heated seats, keyless entry, a large touchscreen and all the features you’d find in a quality saloon car.
What the Ranger can do that a saloon car can’t is venture into the wilderness. We cruised through some muddy forestry tracks, the early morning sunshine slanting through the trees and the odd wisp of mist making it a wonderfully atmospheric experience.
From there it was a tricky scramble up a rocky path. One of Ford’s professional off road drivers directed me along the best route and the Ranger handled it with ease.
We were gaining elevation rapidly, the morning mist had burned off, and the Brecon valley below was bathed in sunshine.
The next hour saw us cross miles of remote moorland. The sun may have been shining but Wales is no stranger to wet weather and had experienced weeks of rain. The result were deep ruts filled with muddy water that rose to the tops of our wheel arches in places.
After a fantastic morning we arrived at Ford’s base of operations for the event. This was a muddy field on a steep hillside. I get to visit the most glamorous locations.
Here was where we would really put the Ranger through its paces.
With an off road instructor leading in another vehicle, we switched the pickups into low range four-wheel drive and set off for some more filthy adventures.
Fields were a quagmire and my Ranger slipped and slid a fair bit in its search for traction. We soon reached a small quarry, where there was a variety of steep slopes to really push the vehicle.
It was some of the most challenging off roading I’ve done. You really had to charge at the mud-slicked inclines to reach the top. On one occasion I ground to a halt halfway up and had to roll back down before making it on a second attempt.
Back at base it was time to switch over to the Ranger Raptor for even more fun. The Raptor has an extra 50mm of ground clearance over the already formidable Ranger Wildtrack.
It also has bigger wheels and tyres even more geared up for off road driving.
That was just as well, as Ford had created a race circuit out of mud. The next 15 minutes were hilarious, as I slid and drifted the Ranger around some bends.
This had next to nothing to do with what the Ford Ranger is designed for but was an incredibly fun way to round off the event.
I’m excited to drive the new Ranger when it arrives. Until then the current model is more than good enough. There’s a good reason the Ranger is the UK’s bestselling pickup.
Model: Ford Ranger Wildtrak
0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Towing weight: 3,500kgs