By: Charles Molefe
Our post-COVID-19 level 4 restrictions are proving to be a move in the right direction, especially for the motoring segment, sales have shown an incline and all seems to be heading back to the “norm”. The steady lifting of the lockdown rules allowed us to get into grips with the first FORD we have received for test purposes, it came in the form of the FORD RANGER WILDTRAK, our week-long test tenure certainly showed us the bakkies are no longer the boring and troublesome vehicles they once were, they are now filled to the brim with technology and provide an immersive experience that is causing a shift in the market, this segment is slowly capturing the hearts of motorists and may soon be regarded as the favourite.
The next couple of paragraphs will illustrate my experiences with what can be deemed as South Africa’s favourite bakkie. The past couple of years the battle between Toyota and FORD South Africa has been nothing but epic, these manufacturers have been at loggerheads trying to better each other with the latest and greatest on offer, but during this momentous battle, FORD has managed to find the edge and is continuing its path as a benchmark product in this segment.
The craftsmen at Ford have managed to craft the WILDTRAK to be a work of art, the sleek lines and sheer size come from opposite ends but somehow they have created a bakkie that is attractive to the eye and fit for any occasion whilst holding presence like no other.
FORD South Africa has spared no change when it comes to this aspect, features include, lane guidance, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision assist, smart keyless entry, park assist with parallel parking and hill launch assist. This type of technology can often be found in luxury sedans with price tags far greater than the slightly reasonable R 753 600 for the WILDTRAK.
The WILDTRAK comes equipped with the Ford SYNC®3 comprising of 6 speakers, CD, MP3, Bluetooth® and an 8” colour TFT screen, I have never had the opportunity to familiarise myself with the audio system that FORD has employed but my tenure with the WILDTRAK is nothing short of perfect, the pairing of my device was seamless and the integration with Android Auto was also a joy.
The six-speaker sound system is impressive at filling the cabin with deep basses and well rounded off trebles, you also have the option to find the perfect setting by adjusting the equaliser to your heart’s content, one feature that also grabbed my attention was the systems ability to concentrate the sound on the driver, this is a setting that can be enabled at a touch of a button. You may think its as easy as adjusting your fade and balance options you find on normal systems, but it is not. This feature manages to enchant the driver with the best audio available when activated.
Comfort and convienience
My experience with the bakkie segment has been very limited, however, I have had the opportunity to test some of the latest iterations from different manufacturers, namely the Volkswagen AMAROK V6, DARK LABEL and the Mercedes-Benz X350d, each of these bakkies have a different consumer in mind, however, the WILDTRAK is by far the most comfortable. The seats feel snug and offer ample support during spirited drives and present bucket loads of comfort on the more leisurely Sunday cruise.
Passenger comfort and convenience is a big plus for anyone who is looking at purchasing a vehicle in this segment, the WILDTRAK boasts 2 USB charging points for the front cabin, a 12v charging socket, a unique and industry-first 230V/150W power converter that can be located right behind the front seats, and to top it off it comes equipped with a cooled centre console which comes in handy, especially when you crave a chilled drink during a journey.
Performance and Economy
The WILDTRAK is powered by a 2.0L Bi-Turbo charged engine, it produces 157kW and a stonking 500Nm of torque, these figures manage to propel the WILDTRAK to 100km/h in a claimed time of 10.4 seconds with the ability to return an alleged fuel economy figure of 8.1L/100km, I tried my best to achieve those numbers but I struggled to get below 9.0L/100km, irrespective of the claim those figures are welcomed, especially for a vehicle of this size. Power is mated to a 10-speed gearbox which somehow manages to be its Achilles heel, don’t get me wrong, the gearbox is extremely smooth and manages to change cogs with utmost urgency, however, where it falls short is how indecisive it is. Whilst cruising at 100km/h you will be enticed to overtake a slower moving vehicle, instinct incites a prod of the loud pedal and this is where the 10 speed disappoints.
I see no valid reason why it would shift to a lower gear, especially with the huge amount of torque it possesses, the driver experience would certainly be heightened if it remained in the last cog. This would prevent the exaggerated event that comes along with shifting down a couple of gears. Another aspect that troubled me is how the ensemble wanted the centre stage, the cabin is well insulated, but the noise from the engine and gearbox did tend to be a bit tiresome. And to add, which is not the cars fault, the drone the tyres produce that is something I would not get used to.
At the beginning of this review, I had extremely high hopes that the WILDTRAK would blow me away like it has the competition, it has somewhat managed to do so, however, I think a little more refinement would make it the perfect daily ride. The WILDTRAK has several wow factors that would make me easily take-up vehicle financing and plot a cosy spot in my garage, but at this moment the need for a bakkie is not a priority and the history of its plagued security system will always be in the back of my mind, wondering if my contents are safe and still intact. Do bear in mind that FORD has significantly improved the security system on the RANGER so this will eliminate any doubts that you may have.
You have to nitpick at the smallest yet most apparent faults to scratch off some points on the scoreboard and this is why I think the WILDTRAK has done so well, flawed, yet perfect in every single way. There isn’t a sphere where it fails dismally and in turn, where it excels exceedingly, however, as an offering, I finally understand why it has been topping the sales charts.
To conclude, this segment is growing rapidly and there is some stiff competition that manufacturers will face, but as things stand the WILDTRAK has managed to knock the loved AMAROK DARK LABEL as our favourite bakkie, if it wasn’t for the hesitant gearbox and the slightly louder than normal road noise generated by the tyres, I would give the WILDTRAK a perfect score, however, that would be silly and nonsensical. All I can say is that FORD has created what they can proudly call the “perfect” bakkie.
9.1 / 10
Every new RANGER comes with a 4-yr/120 000km Comprehensive Warranty.
Every new RANGER comes standard with a 6-yr/90 000km Service Plan, which covers all scheduled servicing except friction materials, i.e. brake pads and wiper blades.
Cover lasts for 5-yr/unlimited km.
Cover lasts for 3-yr/unlimited km for mechanical, electrical, flat tyres, batteries, medical emergencies and towing, if needed, to the nearest Ford dealership.