LET THE GAMES begin: The much-hyped battle of the giants, when talking bakkies in our very own South African marketplace, is shaping up to be something of a real bun fight â€” no â€” rather make that a power struggle. For the opening gambit weâ€™ve elected to pair Toyotaâ€™s seminal Hilux 3.0-litre D-4D double cab 4×4 Raider with the new kid on the block, the much-awaited Ford Ranger XLT 3.2-litre TDCi D/C.
It might seem something of an oxymoron to call a bakkie pretty, but in the case of the Ranger we can justifiably do that. Just about everyone in the office reckons sheâ€™s a good looker from any angle, even though sheâ€™s been largely designed and developed Down Under, under the watchful eye of Ford US. (We promise not to mention that particular continent again in this article!)
Despite a recent nip and tuck the 3.0-litre D-4D Toyota Hilux Raider thatâ€™s built in Prospecton, Durban, still looks remarkably anodyne when compared to the Rangerâ€™s strikingly handsome and up-to-date good looks. A new bonnet, complete with power bulge, a new radiator grille and new front and rear lights â€“ along with other cosmetic changes to be found throughout, leave it decidedly trailing in the must-have stakes. With its 5â€‰260mm overall length and 1â€‰835mm body width dimensions it maybe suffers from an inferiority complex from the Ford newcomer.
Ford has chosen to call its new Ranger â€˜21st Century Toughâ€™, an accolade that needs to be earned. Still, it certainly exudes a taut and muscular appearance whether seen in single-, double-cab or WildTrak styling. Interestingly, the Ranger is built in Silverton, Pretoria. Thereâ€™s lots of local content coming through â€” not a bad thing, we reckon. Ford has export orders for it from countries across the globe. Everything is entirely new, from the chassis, to exterior sheet metal, even theinterior fixtures and fittings. At 5â€‰274mm long and 2â€‰163mm wide, it is considerably bigger than the bakkie it replaces.
The 3.2-litre turbodiesel motor fitted to the Ford is a five-cylinder unit thatâ€™s also manufactured locally (as well as the 2.2-litre four-cylinder TDCi mill) at Fordâ€™s Struandale engine plant in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. Boasting 147kW of power at 3â€‰000rpm in the 3.2-litre motor, thereâ€™s a whopping 470Nm of torque available from as low down as 1â€‰500rpm. Stump-pulling figures that are class leading right now.
The tried and tested Hilux four-cylinder 3.0-litre turbodiesel motor (2â€‰982cc), meanwhile, is certainly lusty and powerful enough, but does fall short to the tune of 27kW in real power stakes â€” and to an awful lot of people that matters. The tale of the tape might continue to negate the Hiluxâ€™s appeal: with just 373Nm on offer it gives away 129Nm to the Ranger, and thatâ€™s a significant amount.
Thatâ€™s not to say the powerplant in the Hilux is weedy â€” far from it, in fact â€” but rather other manufacturers have simply upped their game â€” especially Ford.
Surprises were always going to be of the pleasant kind when getting behind the wheel of the Ranger XLT. Itâ€™s big, yes, but a real pussycat to drive. Available in bothmanual and automatic guise, our two pedal test unit featured a â€˜tiptronic-typeâ€™ gearbox thatâ€™s operated by simply flicking the gear lever over to the right.
Sure-footed, accomplished and devoid of any rattles or strange noises on the highway, it was much the same traversing rutted and corrugated dirt roads in the Boland where we spent an afternoon getting a feel for the shootout. The suspension may have seemed a little harsh on the rebound over a serious pothole, but most likely attributed to the really robust chassis setup its been blessed with – twice as stiff as the outgoing model, Iâ€™m told. A five-speed manual gearbox is fitted to the Hilux, alas the gear lever wiggling and jiggling over anything but the smoothest of roads.
The fact remains the Hilux is hard to fault. It does everything rather well â€“ but just on a slightly lesser scale. Little wonder then that the hallowed name has been around for well over 40 years now â€“ that kind of pedigree has to be well and truly earned.
Itâ€™s no coincidence to discover that the Hilux has been SAâ€™s favourite bakkie for more years than the company might care to rememberâ€‰.â€‰.â€‰.
Wading through water wasnâ€™t ever going to be on the agenda in the Rawsonville area, but here the Ranger would have been in its element and surely the winner because it can handle a (derivative dependent) 800mm wading depth, if one hits upon swollen rivers.
Generally, any bakkie thatâ€™s devoid of a cargo-carrying load tends to pitch and roll, but once again the Ranger remained largely composed and acceptable in this regard.
Yes the interior of the Hilux has been modernized with the addition of USB and iPod connectability and some shiny new faux-metal detailing â€“ but why the omission of providing a really chunky steering wheel, for example? Low/high range selection is by a stubby gearlever alongside the main one. For many this is very reassuring, but oh so mechanical in action. In the Ranger, off-road selection is applied simply by the flick of a button and back again to disengage on the fly â€¦ couldnâ€™t be easier, could it?
As mentioned earlier, an all-new vehicle really does benefit from being created from a clean sheet of paper. Perhaps one of the most gratifying and obvious improvements is to be found when entering or exiting the vehicle via the Rangerâ€™s rear doors: these are now simply ultra-wide compared to the outgoing model. Knee and shoulder room for rear-seated adults couldnâ€™t be better – about 75mm, in fact.
The Ranger boasts clear, easy-to-read clocks and robust looking switches and levers and the general styling in the cockpit is modern as can be. In the name of safety Isofix seats will interest the moms out there, along with the door-locking switch to be found in the centre console. With about two dozen storage spaces spread around it, the centre console can accommodate and cool six cold drink cans, while underneath the rear seat thereâ€™s a large stowage compartment for tools, etc. The glove box is capable of accepting a regular-sized laptop â€“ I know â€“ because we tried it.
These days, bakkies are very car-like in just about every way: air-conditioning, power steering, a really good sound system, power windows and mirrors and more are all there as standard fare in the Ford. Creature comfort levels remain good in the Hilux but how
intuitive are they when push comes to shove and thereâ€™s an 844-page handbook deemed necessary to explain how it all works â€“ one that takes up most of the cubby hole, I might add!
Two power outlets are a minimum requirement these days in a vehicle of this type (the Ranger has three). Donâ€™t manufacturers realize that cell phone(s) have to be charged and iPods connected on a daily basis to keep children happy? Nevertheless, the Hilux remains a good place to be â€” albeit a little low rent by comparison to the Ford.
The Ranger would be easy to live with. Yes its big, but with that comes real street presence. It genuinely can transport five adults in real comfort on short- or long journeys. Factor in the immense towing and cargo carrying abilities (1â€‰049kg) and it becomes quite obvious itâ€™s undoubtedly the leader in its class. If you only had space for one vehicle on your driveway this might just be a very good choice.
Is there anywhere on the planet a Hilux of some sort hasnâ€™t visited since its inception in 1969? I wouldnâ€™t be at all surprised to learn the Americans left one parked on the moon on one of their visits, they can be a bit careless at times. Seriously, both of these vehicles are very capable workhorses day in and day out, but if you want a Shire horse thereâ€™s really just the one option.
Thereâ€™s a full raft of new generation passive safety technologies including multiple airbags to be found in the Ford. Side curtain airbags are standard on this model, as is frontal impact airbags for the driver and passenger. Naturally thereâ€™s seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters, ABS with EBD, ESP with DSC, hill descent control and an alarm/immobiliser, make the Ranger an all-round, safe package.
It is pleasing to report that both rivals offer outstanding levels of safety, along with ABS and EBD, along with side-curtain airbags.
The ticket price for the above-specced Ranger XLT 4×4 D/C turbodiesel is R436â€‰700 â€“ a figure that represents fair value for money. Servicing is only required at 15000km intervals. Always subjective I know, but given the closeness of the two in the price stakes (Ranger R436â€‰700 as against the D-4D Toyota Hilux Raiderâ€™s R416â€‰000), there seems possibly more to be gained by Ford ownership because thereâ€™s a slightly better warranty on offer, coupled to lengthier servicing intervals.
To sum up, weâ€™d say the Ford Ranger wins this round perhaps a little too easily. With a new Hilux model (assuming Toyota will still call it that) two years away at best, maybe its time for Ford to exert some new pecking order in the marketplace â€“ and what better way than flexing its muscles Ranger style.
The all-new Ranger comes with a five-year/90â€‰000km service plan and a comprehensive four-year/120â€‰000km warranty. New owners will benefit from three-years of roadside assistance and a five-year corrosion warranty as part of the Ford Ranger package. (All new Ranger 4×4 customers receive free off-road driver training.)
The Hilux, meanwhile, boasts a three-year/100â€‰000km warranty and a five-year/90â€‰000km service plan. Servicing is required every 10000kmâ€¦No driver training required.