Did you know that the Ford Ranger now accounts for more than 50 per cent of the Blue Oval brand’s total sales in Australia?
In other words, Ford’s days of being reliant on the Australia-made Falcon are long gone, but the Australian-developed Ranger has simply stepped into the breach.
In fact, this workhorse is now Australia’s second most popular new vehicle of any type, behind only the Toyota HiLux yet ahead of the Corolla. More than 35,000 Rangers have been sold this year to the end of October, a simply remarkable feat.
Indeed, the money-spinning Ranger 4×4 line-up has actually outsold the mighty HiLux 4x4family this year, with the Toyota only the overall number one because its 4×2 entry models continue to dominate at the sub-$25,000 pricing point.
Within this massively successful Ranger 4×4 family, it’s the higher-end versions with big profit margins (before invariable discounting) that are doing particularly well. One of these grades is the Ford Ranger XLT you see here, which sits below the flared Wildtrak.
Our test model features the six-speed automatic gearbox option that the majority of buyers want, taking the RRP to $57,690 before on-road costs, $1300 more than the HiLux SR5.
Only the Volkswagen Amarok Highline is more expensive among rival utes, but clearly tradies don’t care – VW Australia sells as many as it can source from the Argentinian factory that makes them.
Yet we’d add that Ford is always happy to do deals on the Ranger, such is its need to shift stock now that supply is good. We’ve seen Ranger XLT autos going for $55,490 drive-away on ads featured on our site, for example – a saving of thousands.
Why else is the Ranger so popular? Bargain hunters would be better off looking at a Mitsubishi Triton, Holden Colorado or an Isuzu D-Max, but luckily for Ford (and Toyota) it’s not bargain hunters that dominate the ute market.
Looks certainly play a part. The post-update Ranger has the kind of macho American styling that people want. Solid marketing helps, as does the simple fact the Ranger is a damned good new ute that’s ridiculously easy to drive.
It’s won its fair share of comparison tests we’ve run before this review.
There may also be some level of patriotism involved, since it was Ford Australia’s engineers and designers in Victoria that created the Ranger for more than 100 markets worldwide.
It’s now the most ‘Aussie’ car we have left, even though ours are made in Thailand where factory workers get paid way less than those here.
Reliability? Well, frankly we hear mixed feedback from the commercial vehicle community on how a number of pick-ups handle heavy-duty work a few years down the track, Ranger included.
Some people have done 200,000km-plus without too much fuss, while others have not. It’s a tricky thing for us to address, because every case is different. Tell us your story below.
Perhaps the best thing about the Ranger beyond the US tough-truck styling is how easy it is to live with. We often talk about how utes are increasingly becoming second family cars, and nothing embodies this better than the Ranger.
The only indication that the cabin belongs to a truck rather than an SUV is the copious use of low-grade plastics pretty much everywhere – easy to clean but about as luxurious as a kitchen with linoleum floors, and well below the quality feel of those in the Nissan Navara, for one example – and the lack of telescopic steering column adjustment.