The Middle East loves a big motor, yet until recently we weren’t exposed to some of the great midsized trucks other markets have enjoyed for decades.
Now that this sector is booming – for families with children, people building houses, small business owners and recreational types towing bikes or jet skis – it’s become an all-rounder with its four-door, five-seat configuration. This is where the all-new Ford Ranger steps in.
Designed and engineered in Australia and manufactured in South Africa, Thailand and the US, the new Ranger is a global car with some of its engineering development carried out in the Middle East.
Local input includes nearly a year of diverse terrain testing in temperatures ranging from 43C to 49C and severe sun exposure for extended periods. To meet Middle East requirements, Ford made sure the new Ranger could sustain maximum speed for extended distances in the heat and sand, and that its climate performance cooled the cabin quickly.
It’s something I experienced first-hand during its launch in the depths of the Saudi Arabian desert on the outskirts of Jeddah. The gravel-littered terrain included large tyre-piercing rocks interspersed with vast sections of soft sand. It was ideal ground to test the Ranger’s new terrain mode, which automatically selects the best traction on the move.
The modes include Normal, Economy, Tow/Haul, Slippery, Mud/Ruts and Sand, which adjust everything from the gearshift to throttle response, traction, stability, ABS and more, so it was a matter of simply selecting the terrain and going for it.
As I moved from gravel to sand at speed, I could feel and hear the various mechanisms detect each new surface and switch instantly to the appropriate mode in milliseconds. The throttle, steering and power-torque delivery all altered to suit without any input from the driver.
And then our driving party reached the wide, open plains of hard-baked mudflats. A crusty surface that broke through to quicksand-like mud underneath, outfoxing a few drivers who had to abandon ship.
But this was heavy-duty off-roading, and the fact that most Rangers made it through is testament to the gritty determination of this midsized pickup that can battle its way through an area that would catch out many, full-sized off-roaders.
As a jack of all trades, the Ranger not only managed this but, after a quick wash and detail, it was also ready to do the school run and pick up the week’s groceries.
With a new interior, The National’s Wildtrak-specced test car carries over the premium feel of the previous model with soft-touch materials used extensively throughout, complemented by contrasting leather stitching in the seats and dash surrounds.
A prominent, 12.4-inch portrait-style touchscreen, installed with Ford’s latest Sync4 connectivity and entertainment system featuring voice-activated communications, entertainment and information systems, takes centre stage on the dash. Here, occupants can see the drive modes and monitor the driveline, steering angle, vehicle pitch and roll angles in off-road situations.
Externally the new Ranger has dropped its rounded sedan-like look for a more rugged, squared-off, mini-truck appearance. This includes a new grille that incorporates matrix LED; C-clamp headlights along with a new tail light design that’s replicated inside as the pattern for the air vents; and a subtle shoulder line that integrates bolder wheel arches to give it a more muscular stance.
That wide stance comes from a chassis that’s both 50mm longer in the wheelbase and 50mm wider in track, which enables a neat trick of moving the rear suspension towers outside of the frame rails, allowing a pallet to lie fully flat on the floor. Another neat feature – based on consumer feedback – is an integrated sidestep in the bumper behind the rear tyres, which allows access into the back without having to stand on dirty wheels.
Ford’s engineers adopted a hydro-formed, front-end structure to create more space in the engine bay for what it says is “to future-proof it for other propulsion technologies”.
With its global platform, the Ranger has to suit many markets, including for people who want diesel four and six-cylinder engines. While the Middle East gets the range-topping 2.3-litre EcoBoost with 10-speed auto, it’s also a reference to future hybrid and potentially full EV power trains like the bigger F-series Lightning.
Hydro-forming was also added based on feedback from the Middle East tests, as it allows more air to get to the radiator, keeping temps low.
Prices start at Dh138,945 for the XLT and Dh193,095 for the Wildtrak, which includes a five-year/100,000km service package and a five-year/100,000km warranty for both models. Ford is taking bookings now with the first cars expected in showrooms from August.