Engine: 3.2 litre five-cylinder common-rail turbocharged diesel
Power: 147Kw @ 3000rpm Torque: 470Nm @ 1500-2750rpm
Trans: six speed automatic (standard)
Suspension: (F) coil-over strut/upper & lower wishbones (R) leaf springs & live axle
Payload: 1176 kgs max
Towing: 3.35 tonnes max (braked)
Economy: 8.9 litres/100 kms (auto)
Price: $47,318 (drive away)
We couldn’t help noticing similarities between this vehicle and Ford’s Falcon ute-based RTV released in 2003 but no longer in production. They both feature raised suspension, extended cabs, separate cabin and pickup bodies, 4×2 drivetrains with the convenience of electronic locking rear differentials and available in style-side box, cab-chassis or with optional aluminium tray.
But the Ranger is more of a ‘truck’ in the traditional sense, with a full body-on-frame construction as opposed to the RTV’s uni-body front/full frame rear hybrid design. And it has the latest common rail injected turbo diesel as opposed to the RTV’s choice of six and V8 petrol engines, even though the RTV’s thirstier 5.4 litre SOHC V8 produced the same torque figure.
The Ranger Hi-Rider would likely appeal to the same kind of buyer that was attracted to the RTV. We’re thinking tradesmen and farmers that want a larger cab than standard to carry all their office-on-wheels stuff (plus the occasional rear passenger or two in this case) without losing the extra rear load length that a crew cab eats into. Plus the increased ground clearance and security of a locking diff for worksites with difficult access, or farmers that need to cross creek beds etc.
Also some government and non-government fleets, for which the RTV was also well suited. And of course the recreational buyer, probably a single bloke or a couple with no kids, that want to be able to tow a van or boat, or throw an overnight bag or two on the back seats, strap a couple of bikes in the back and escape for the weekend over some very ordinary back roads. And with the locker diff, be able to cope with a slippery boat ramp or boggy camp ground when needed.
It’s an interesting combination Ford has come up with here; one of dozens of different configurations that can only be made available when you’re building a truck designed to be built on three continents and sold in huge numbers in 180 countries.
The amortisation of production costs under this ‘One Ford’ world truck strategy has allowed Ford to rediscover its past, in being able to offer buyers a huge range of choices to tailor-make a truck ideally suited to their needs. And in that sense, the Hi-Rider 4×2 succeeds.
What will it carry?
This is where it gets interesting. The 4×2 Hi-Rider is identical to the 4×4 version in all key specifications including ride height, except it doesn’t have the added weight of another drivetrain required to get power to the front wheels. That results in a kerb weight 94 kgs lighter than its 4×4 stable-mate with a corresponding 94 kgs greater payload capacity (1176 kgs vs 1082 kgs).
That’s about the same as five 20kg bags of cement, so you can see that a 4×4 drivetrain is a lot of unnecessary extra weight to be dragging around if you don’t really need it.
At 1847mm, the floor length of the Super Cab’s style-side box is almost 300mm longer than the Double Cab’s 1549mm load floor length. That’s about the same length as a school ruler, which could mean the difference between carrying longer items with the tailgate closed or open. Given the extra cab space, it’s a good compromise.
The width between the load floor’s wheel-housings is 1139mm, meaning standard 900mm-wide builder’s sheets of plywood, gyprock etc will lay flat between them, but the wider 1200mm sheets and up won’t.
You’d also need to shave one millimetre off a standard ‘Australian’ ISO pallet (1140 x 1140mm) and use a well-oiled crowbar to make it fit, but the increasingly common (and more relevant in this region of the world) Asian pallet at 1100 x 1100mm will slot neatly between them.
The 1165mm Australian Standard Pallet is also a no-go obviously. However, given the increasing use of the smaller Asian pallet globally and that Ford’s research during the Ranger’s design phase showed that carrying pallets was not a high priority for customers anyway, the fact that the orphan Aussie pallet won’t fit probably ranked about 146th on the designer’s priority scale.
There’s plenty of stout tie-down points in the box and heaps of room for transporting all sorts of recreational toys, including pushbikes and/or a motorcycle.
Unlike the Falcon RTV, you can easily carry kids or adults in the back of the cab because there’s not only a lot more room but also separate forward-opening passenger access doors. However, these can only be opened after (a) the front seat belts are released as they are anchored on these rear doors and (b) the front doors are opened first.
So in terms of getting rear passengers in and out it’s sort of like owning a two-door coupe, but at least the driver and front passenger can remain seated without having to jump out and tilt their seats forward like you have to do in a traditional two-door.
This passenger-loading/unloading process could get annoying if you had to carry passengers regularly. Which you probably shouldn’t do anyway, because even though proper lap-sash belts are provided, the seat cushions and backrests are only thin foam pads and there’s no head restraints fitted, so clearly it’s only designed for occasional short distance travel or emergency use.
The front seats, instrumentation and controls, along with general cabin noise and comfort showed Ford has done some excellent work here (manual version shown below). Our only concern before driving it was that the steering wheel only adjusts for tilt and not reach, like the good old Aussie Falcon does. However, we soon discovered that it doesn’t need such a function, because it’s a very comfortable drive even for drivers close to 2.0 metres tall like us.
Where will it go?
If you’ve ever driven a 2WD truck with a fully locked diff, you’ll know that if driven thoughtfully this kind of vehicle can go pretty much anywhere a 4×4 can go in most situations a typical owner will find themselves in.
Fact is, what usually stops a 2WD vehicle with a standard diff in its tracks on rough terrain is that when one driven wheel loses grip and starts to spin, all the power goes to that spinning wheel and the other wheel stops driving – and you get stuck.
But with a locked diff, the two back wheels are in effect connected by one solid axle like a go-kart, so that if one wheel comes off the ground the other one keeps powering along as normal.
So, combined with the same ride height and wheel travel as the 4×4 Ranger and being mindful of where you’re placing your rear wheels when the tough gets going, you’d have to get into some pretty extreme off road situations to stop this jigger.
How’s it drive?
As good as you would expect from this latest generation of the Ford Ranger, which is a quantum leap in all areas over its predecessors. The PX model’s build quality, refinement, cabin space, safety, ergonomics and performance are global benchmarks in one tonne pickup trucks.
The XLT example we drove was fitted with the standard six-speed automatic transmission which has two modes – standard and sport – with a nice spread of relatively close and useful ratios.
The manual-shifting sport option is great for heavy towing, as the driver can hold ratios to stop the auto continually hunting for gears as autos tend to do under load and to keep the engine in the 1500-2750 rpm ‘sweet spot’ to make full use of all that 470Nm of torque for maximum pulling power.
Ford claims a best fuel economy figure for the auto version of 8.9 litres/100km. However at one stage during our test, with no load and two occupants on a long freeway haul, we cruised for hours at 110km/h (with the engine ticking over at just 1900 rpm) and saw a best figure of 8.1, which is staggering efficiency given that this thing weighs just over two tonnes (2024 kgs).
The Hi-Rider 4×2 doesn’t miss out on the very handy and in some cases potentially life-saving electronic features of its 4×4 variant, including Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) incorporating ABS, Hill Launch Assist, Trailer Sway Control, Load Adaptive Control and Emergency Brake Assist.
The only thing not shared is the 4×4’s excellent Hill Descent Control, which uses advanced electronics to automatically apply braking to all four wheels independent of each other, to safely tippy-toe your way down treacherously steep and slippery inclines with safety.
But that’s not the kind of extreme terrain the 4×2 version is designed for anyway, so if you’re in a situation in a Hi-Rider where you’re palms are sweating and you’re thinking Hill Descent Control would be kinda handy right now, then you’re in over your head, mate!
Ride quality is excellent on most surfaces. Excellent rack and pinion steering feel and accuracy is matched by sure-footed cornering and braking attributes that soon make you forget you’re driving a truck.
Sure, when the bitumen ends and you’re powering along a dusty, corrugated, pot-holed bush trail with no load over the back wheels, the ride gets choppy and less comfortable, but that’s to be expected with the suspension stiffness and huge axles required to carry more than a tonne and tow more than three tonnes.
We reckon if you can’t put up with a bit of that, then don’t buy a truck. Any truck, because although some are better designed than others, they all do it to some extent.
We like this truck. Really like it, because the fact that the PX Ranger is even offered in this 4×2 Hi Rider specification says a lot about Ford’s sharp market research.
Fact is, a lot of people that own 4x4s hardly ever (sometimes never) select 4H or 4L, but they like the higher more commanding driving position with its better all-round vision plus increased rough road ability, overall ruggedness and general practicality for towing, camping and carrying larger loads.
But they pay a lot more upfront when they buy the vehicle and a lot more in running costs (fuel consumption, tyre wear etc) during their ownership.
The pragmatic appeal of the Hi-Rider 4×2 is this. At a drive-away price of $47,318, it’s a whopping $10,000 cheaper than the 4×4 version of the Super Cab ($57,256) and cheaper to run. While it can be argued that a 4×4 will command a higher resale value than a 4×2, that has to be weighed up against the massive difference in purchase price and accumulated savings in running costs during ownership.
Fact is, if you don’t really need a 4×4, this gives you all the other benefits and practicalities – plus a bigger payload – for a lot less money. And that makes plenty of sense to us. TJ
For detailed specifications on the PX Ford Ranger 4×2 SuperCab Hi-Rider and all other models, check out the official Ford website at: www.ford.com.au
Toyota has given us some great advertising campaigns over the decades but we reckon the one that topped them all was the infamous Hilux TV commercial of the late 1990s.
Made by Saatchi & Saatchi in New Zealand, the ad was designed to appeal to NZ and Aussie Hilux buyers based on a series of hilarious farming mishaps, with each incident provoking the same one word response – ‘Bugger!’
In fact ‘bugger’ and ‘bugger me’ were pretty much the only dialogue used in the commercial, which was a big factor in its larrikan appeal to Australian and New Zealand audiences.
And word is they had to find an Aussie actor to play the farmer, because they couldn’t find a Kiwi actor that could say ‘bugger!’ convincingly enough.
While the use of a word that describes sodomy could have caused great offence in other countries, its wide-held acceptance as a laconic slang term in Australia and NZ (to describe great annoyance or disgust at something) made it unique to TV screens in that part of the world.
Even so, when this commercial first appeared on NZ television in 1999, the Television Standards Complaint Authority received 120 complaints! The advert was immediately banned and remained off air until the TSCA ruled that ‘bugger’ was unlikely to cause serious offence and it returned – only this time in adult viewing time after 8.30pm.
In Australia, the advert only attracted one complaint (must have been a Kiwi on holidays!) and universal praise for its irreverance and laid-back humour. It also got the point across about the Hilux pick-up truck’s legendary power, strength and durability, which was the whole point of course. It’s just a really funny ad. Why don’t they make ‘em like this anymore? TJ