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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 January 2021

Road testing the Ford Ranger XLS: Why this well-priced diesel RV can off-road anywhere

The 2.2-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder will hit more than 1,000 kilometres before it needs refuelling

The Ford Ranger XLS is a full-spec, five-seater family carrier
The Ford Ranger XLS is a full-spec, five-seater family carrier

Mid-sized pickups like the new Ford Ranger are hugely popular in most parts of the world, but are taking a while to catch on in the UAE as privately owned recreational options. Sold in more than 180 countries, the Ford Ranger is gaining a solid following as not only a commercial vehicle but also, more importantly, as family transport for those looking for a recreational vehicle on a budget.

While it looks small compared to full-sized alternatives, such as Ford’s own F-Series pickups and the likes of the Dodge Ram, GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado, the dual-cab Ranger is still a full-spec, five-seater family carrier with plenty of room in the cargo area for a weekend’s camping.

Also, after nearly 16 years living in the UAE, this is the first diesel I've driven that could be considered family transport. So while it may be harder to find diesel pumps at the gas station, the good news is that you won’t be visiting them anywhere near as often, as this 2.2-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder will hit more than 1,000 kilometres between fills.

All about the torque

Once dropped into 4H, the Ford Ranger XLS will tackle mild dunes without needing to adjust tyre pressures. Once in 4L, it will go just about anywhere off-road 
Once dropped into 4H, the Ford Ranger XLS will tackle mild dunes without needing to adjust tyre pressure. Once in 4L, it will go just about anywhere off-road

While the engine is not overly powerful, producing 160 horsepower at 3000rpm, being a diesel, it’s all about the torque, which in this case is 385Nm from just 1600rpm. So when you combine that with a six-speed automatic transmission, it lopes along at highway pace while barely ticking over at idle thanks to a redline of just over 4000rpm. That’s the secret to its phenomenal fuel economy.

It also makes this a great powertrain for the desert. As its max torque is developed so early, it makes light work of soft sand. So as soon as it’s dropped into 4H, it will tackle mild dunes without needing to adjust tyre pressure. Drop the pressure on the 16-inch rims for the serious stuff, however, and once in 4L, the Ranger will go just about anywhere off-road.

Short overhangs front and rear give the four-door pickup very usable approach and departure angles that defy its lengthy wheelbase, while it also offers 23 centimetres of ground clearance and 800 millimetres of wadi-wading depth.

The suspension adapts nicely to both on and off-road use, as do the all-terrain tyres, while the steering is remarkably light and accurate around town yet provides good feedback through the fingertips when off-road.

The auto transmission has a sport shift feature that allows you to select gears manually, but don’t be fooled by the hype because this is no sports car. You don’t need to shift gears manually unless you’re rocking it out of trouble in soft sand.

If needed, it also has an e-locking rear differential to help maximise surface contact on tough terrain for scaling steep inclines and loose surfaces.

Design cues

Ford’s Sync1 infotainment and navigation system is adequate, but its 4.2-inch mono screen feels a touch outdated 
Ford’s Sync1 infotainment and navigation system is adequate, but its 4.2-inch mono screen feels a touch outdated

Inside, there are cup holders aplenty in all doors and in the centre console, in addition to more storage space in front of the transmission lever. The rear seat base can be folded up to allow for additional secure storage that’s out of the sun and sand, as well as dual Isofix child seat anchorage points for the two outboard seats.

Ford’s Sync1 infotainment and navigation system is adequate, but its 4.2-inch mono screen feels a generation behind the current-day trendsetters. While it has the essentials such as Bluetooth, phone and audio streaming, as well as USB connectivity and a rear-view camera with rear park assist, it could probably do with an upgrade to Ford’s more current Sync3 system with its 8.0-inch full-colour display.

Still, there are six speakers that provide great sound for the price and steering-wheel-mounted controls that operate the volume and radio stations, as well as cruise control and the hands-free phone connection.

Behind the rear seats, the cargo area measures in at 1549mm long by 1560mm wide with 1139mm between the wheel arches. That means plenty of space for the spray-in bed-liner that ensures the cargo area remains scratch-free and resists impact damage, and the load securing tie-down features that are fitted as standard.

Its payload is an impressive 1425 kilograms and it has a tow rating of up to 3.5 tonnes, aided by Ford’s Electronic Stability Programme and Trailer Sway Mitigation.

The new Ford Ranger XLS misses out on a few of the creature comforts as standard, but they can be stacked on thanks to a healthy options list before you get to the top-spec and pricier Ranger Wildtrak, but it’s built to a price and offers a lot of versatility as well as being a solid entrant in the recreational vehicle market for a lot less money than many of its larger competitors.

Updated: December 24, 2020 12:17 PM

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