Engine: 2.2 litre four cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel
Power: 110kW @ 3700rpm Torque: 375Nm @ 1500-2500rpm
Trans: six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
Suspension: (F) coil-over strut/upper & lower wishbones (R) leaf springs & live axle
Payload: 1166 kgs max
Towing: 3.5 tonnes max (braked)
Economy: 8.1 litres/100 kms (manual)
Price: $47, 986
We like trucks with a simple and honest work ethic. Toyota’s 70 Series WorkMate is a good example. Just big, basic and strong with no frills. Designed to do a tough job and not afraid to get dirty doing it – on the outside and inside.
Ford’s Ranger XL is another hard worker in the 70 Series mould. Built with a back-to-basics approach with none of the bling found in its more glamorous and expensive XLT and WildTrak stable-mates.
And it’s that minimalist, no-frills persona that makes the entry level Ranger XL Double Cab a smart buy for a variety of potential customers. Beyond the obvious appeal for government and private fleet buyers, it’s also got plenty of appeal for farmers, tradies and even urban families that value low maintenance practicality.
Park the Ranger XL alongside the XLT and its lack of eye candy is immediately apparent. However, beyond such a simple visual comparison, there are a number of financial and performance reasons why the Ranger XL might well be a better buy depending on your intended usage.
Our test vehicle
Our typically plain white Ranger XL Double Cab 4×4 Pickup was fitted with the 2.2 litre Duratorq TDCi four cylinder turbo-diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox.
The 16 valve, common rail, direct injection 2.2 is the smaller of the two turbo-diesels available for this model, with the other being the five-cylinder 3.2 litre Duratorq unit.
Both are from Ford’s ‘Puma’ engine family and according to Ford the 2.2 litre is the same engine fitted to the current Transit Van.
XL vs XLT
So what do you miss out on? Well, where there’s chrome on the XLT you get flat black and body-colour. Where there’s carpeting, you get vinyl flooring. Where there’s alloy wheels, you get painted steel rims. And where there’s a tubular chrome sports bar in the load bed you get a body-coloured load rack/window protector.
Have a look at the standard equipment lists for both models and the XL buyer also misses out on some of the more useful stuff like the XLT’s cooled console box, third power point in the rear of the console, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, tow bar (although our test truck was fitted with one), side steps, auto headlights and fog lights.
XL buyers also miss out on the XLT’s rear parking sensors, locking rear differential, protective bed-liner with 12 volt power socket, dual-zone climate control, larger 4.2-inch multi-function dashboard display monitor and four speaker sound system.
However, even with the 2.2 litre engine – which has one less cylinder and is 1.0 litre smaller in capacity than the XLT’s five cylinder version – you do get everything else that makes the Ranger XLT 4×4 such a formidable competitor in the one-tonne ute market.
These including air-conditioning, front, seat side and side curtain airbags, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) incorporating ABS, Hill Launch Assist, Trailer Sway Control, Emergency Brake Assist and Hill Descent Control. And you get a bigger payload than XLT as well.
What will it carry?
The 2.2 litre XL with six-speed auto or manual transmission matches the 3.2 XLT’s peak towing capacity (at least on paper) of 3.5 tonnes of braked trailer, 750 kgs without trailer brakes, 6.0 tonne Gross Combination Mass (GCM) and 800mm fording ability.
However, because the XL is 125 kgs lighter in kerb weight (XL 2034 kgs vs XLT 2159 kgs) it’s rewarded with a corresponding 125 kgs greater payload (1166 kgs vs 1041 kgs). That’s about six bags of cement, so it’s a fair difference.
And in manual form, Ford claims that it also drinks less diesel than the XLT (8.1L/100 kms vs 9.4L/100 kms) but we always take these factory supplied figures (from any manufacturer) with more than a grain of salt.
We averaged 9.7L/100 kms during our time with the XL, which was a combination of stop-start city driving and sealed and unsealed rural roads, with and without loads. The best we saw was 8.4 after a long freeway run, so it shows how ‘ideal’ these quoted figures are.
Even so, with one less cylinder and one litre less cubic capacity than the 3.2, it has to be more economical which is another plus.
The Double Cab’s load floor length is 1549mm and the width between the wheel housings is 1139mm, meaning standard 900mm-wide builder’s sheets of plywood, gyprock etc will lay flat between them with the gate down, but the wider 1200mm sheets and up won’t.
The standard 1100 x 1100mm Asian pallet, which is increasingly common in this part of the world, will slot neatly between them. There’s also plenty of stout tie-down points in the box to secure your load.
What we found particularly useful at the front of the pick-up bed was the painted frame that serves as both a load frame and rear window protector.
Sure, it doesn’t look as sexy as the XLT chrome tubular roll bar but it’s a lot more useful if you’ve got long lengths of wood, electrical conduit, concrete reinforcing mesh or PVC pipes you need to carry. The pivoting brackets mounted on each side swing up and lock into position to stop these long items from falling off the sides after you’ve strapped them in place.
What’s it like to drive?
You may be thinking that being smaller in engine capacity, the 2.2 litre four-pot XL would feel a bit sluggish compared to its more powerful 3.2 litre five-pot sibling. We can happily report that’s not the case.
The 2.2 produces 110kW @ 3700 rpm compared to the 3.2’s 147 kW @ 3000 rpm – a deficit of 37 kW. Of more importance to us though are the torque figures; 375 Nm @ 1500-2500 rpm for the 2.2 compared to 470 Nm @ 1500-2750 rpm for the 3.2 – a difference of 95 Nm.
37 kW less power and 95 Nm less torque seems like a lot on paper, but as we discovered with our recent test of the Isuzu D-Max Crew Cab one-tonner, power to weight ratio makes a big difference to a truck’s throttle response and overall agility despite having less cubic engine capacity and torque than some of its competitors.
When Ford confirmed that the Transit Van and XL 2.2 turbo-diesels were the same, it put an instant smile on our dials because having driven the latest Transit Van we were already aware of the excellence of this 2.2 litre four as a light truck engine.
It not only has an abundance of low down torque and pulling power, but it’s the way the torque is delivered that is impressive. The response is instant whenever you get back on the throttle pedal. It’s a smooth and unrelenting surge with none of the turbo lag or comparatively sluggish response we have experienced in other small bore turbo-diesels.
We didn’t get a chance to do any heavy towing during our brief time with this truck, so we can’t comment on how the 2.2 performed with a big load hanging off the tow-ball. We suspect that the 95 Nm difference between the 2.2 and 3.2 would be more noticeable when towing, so we would appreciate any feedback from people that have towed big loads with the 2.2.
You don’t need to rev the 2.2 beyond 2500 rpm between shifts, because when you pick up the next cog it’s generally in that 1500-2500 rpm maximum torque band.
The six-speed manual gearbox is light and precise to use, well matched to the engine’s torque characteristics with a useful selection of ratios for everything this truck needs to do. The overdriven top gear is handy on the highway too, where you can sit at 110 km/h with only 2000 rpm on the tacho.
We didn’t venture too far off road in the XL, largely due to the road tyres fitted to our test vehicle. They don’t tend to grip very well, particular when you strike mud and the shallow treads quickly clog up. Given the amount of rain at the time, we decided not to get too adventurous.
The fact that the XL doesn’t come with the XLT’s Locking Rear Differential (which is not available as an option) shows where Ford is aiming this workhorse and what its typical buyer needs.
If you want a hard working Ford Ranger that can do pretty much everything the XLT can do without all the bells and whistles, the 2.2 litre manual XL Double Cab Pickup represents a massive saving of around $10,000 in purchase price over the 3.2 XLT version (XL $47,986 vs XLT $57,768 based on Ford drive-away estimates).
Even if you fitted an aftermarket tow bar and replaced the ‘poverty pack’ appearance of those steel wheels with a nice set of Ford Accessory or aftermarket alloys and chunkier off road tyres, you’d still be way ahead.
And you never have to worry about scratches on your premium metallic paint. Or muddy boots, beach sand or sticky kids’ stuff ruining your carpet. There’s a lot be said for back-to-basics in this market segment. TJ