The Ford Ranger Wildtrak is a big car. It is a mans car. If it was a chocolate bar it would be a Yorkie and when you get behind the wheel and you feel like the king of the road. Driving the 2012 Ford Ranger is like the automotive equivalent of penile enlargement surgery. It is by no means perfect but often you can forgive its foibles for the way it makes you feel. With its high stance, rugged looks and ‘look-at-me’ orange paintwork, it gets attention in much the same way a high end sports car would.

2012 Ford Ranger Wildtrak First Drive

In Wildtrak spec, the Ranger is not your standard utilitarian work vehicle. You get leather, iPod control, bluetooth, sat-nav, reversing camera and other goodies. The bright paint, dark grille and plethora of Wildtrak stickers further separate it from its lesser brethren. It still has a large loadbay and space for four large adults but the clientele Ford is targeting with this truck is not your average farmer or builder. Since the introduction of pick-ups like the Warrior and the sportier Navaras, the market for large leisure vehicles has grown and grown.

It is perfectly suited for someone looking to load the back with bikes, kayaks & other adventure gear and go off in pursuit of the ultimate thrill. It is less suited to the world I live in, the city. Its proportions are almost comical set against the urban backdrop of city life. That being said I did venture into a local multi-storey car-park and despite its colossal size, I was able to get in and out with ease thanks to great visibility, parking sensors and a very effective reversing camera.

Interior & Equipment

For me standard equipment is very important. I tried to buy a modest hatch-back from a German manufacturer a few years ago and with just some modest add-ons the price had gone up by over £4000. I walked away and bought something with everything as standard for £1000 less and it was a quicker car.

The Ranger Wildtrak has a great deal of standard kit. Some of the highlights are a decent Sat-Nav, Bluetooth (Music and Calls), iPod connectivity, an impressive set of speakers, auto headlights and wipers, 18” alloy wheels and a reversing camera to name but a few. The big comfy seats are also covered in some half-decent leather and are heated and electrically adjustable.

The build quality is not as good as some but it feels rugged and usable. Most of the buttons can be used with gloves on even if at times the layout can appear a little confusing. The sporty dials and sci-fi dash arrangement seems out of character with a vehicle of this type but goes perfectly with the image the Wildtrak wants to portray. The model we tested was a double-cab and there is more space in the back than in most pick-ups I have been in, easily fitting two tall adults in the back comfortably.

On the road

As I’ve already said the Ranger is a big vehicle but after a day or so you get used the proportions and navigating it around becomes fairly straightforward. I tested it in a variety of situations. First driving it on a 500-mile round trip on mainly motorways and major roads. The 3.2l engine puts out a healthy 200 or so hp so the Ranger has no problem hauling itself along the road. It is surprisingly quiet at motorway speeds and the 470nm (346lbft) of torque helps you get back up to speed when you get caught behind slower moving traffic. It is comfortable enough for all but the longest of journeys, with a nice upright seating position, and managed a healthy (for it’s size) 30.5mpg on a mixture of motorway and city driving.

Around town it can feel quite big at times but that’s because it is. It’s high seating position and good all-round visibility help you navigate through some of the tighter spaces and the reversing camera makes parallel parking a doddle (if you can find a space big enough). What really lets the Ranger down is the gearbox. It’s fine at cruising speed (when you aren’t changing gears) but at low speeds it feels clumsy and agricultural. Maybe with an auto-box it would be easier to live with but in 2012 we should be expecting a slightly classier drivetrain, especially given this particular versions target market.

We didn’t get to try the Ranger on the muddy stuff but I have no doubt that it is a competent off-roader and capable of tackling some pretty rough stuff when required. Despite the 18” wheels it has high-profile tyres and a raised ride height which help to smooth out any bumps you may come across and makes for a smooth ride on good surfaces. The low-ratio gearbox and switchable four wheel drive system add to the Ranger’s off road capability, though obviously the longer wheelbase may come up against some problems, but only on the very toughest terrain.

2012 Ford Ranger Wildtrak First Drive Verdict

Is this the best pick-up on the market? Maybe, we’ll have to wait until we test some of its main rivals to decide that. It certainly ticks all the boxes for a vehicle of this type with its rugged looks and versatile nature. It is far from perfect but it is not going up against the X5s and MLs of this world so you can forgive a few rough edges. The five cylinder diesel is smooth and more than capable but it’s let down by a poor manual gearbox. Overall the Ford is a well priced and well spec’d truck for those looking for something a bit different, but the gearbox alone puts serious question marks over the long term want of owning one, if you want a manual, this isn’t for you, speccing the automatic when ordering is a must.

Price as Tested: £29,794.36
Engine: 3.2-litre five cylinder diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power: 197bhp
0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
Top speed: 109mph
Economy: 26.7mpg
CO2: 274g/km
Equipment: Sat-nav, Bluetooth, iPod connection, heated seats, part leather upholstery, reversing camera, parking sensors.
On sale: Now

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