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THE GENTLE GIANT

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FORD RANGER 2.2 XL SPORT DOUBLE CAB AUTO |

It’s a brave, new, fast-changing world out there, and to stay relevant, carmakers are increasingly adapting their products to their customers’ needs. As popular as the Ranger is, there’s always room for a more compelling offer, and Ford hit the nail on the head with recent optional upgrades to the bakkie’s XL derivative.

Responding to a changing market has become an artform for motor manufacturers as they clamour for their fair share in an increasingly challenging environment. More often than not, this means making upgrades to mid-range models to improve their appeal. Let’s face it, the adage of wanting more for less has never been truer than in today’s tight economy.

Long considered to lean more to the workhorse side of the bakkie equation, the Ford Ranger XL is increasingly sought after as a leisure vehicle, and for buyers, that means it has to look the part as well.

With the introduction of the optional Sport Pack, and by making an upgraded infotainment system with an 8″ touchscreen display available for an additional R6,080, Ford has added loads of street cred to the XL, whether in single cab, SuperCab, or double cab guise.

BITS & PIECES

We recently sampled a double cab XL derivative with all options added, and it was downright surprising how much of a difference it makes to the overall perception of the car and the way you feel while driving it. In reality, it’s the exact vehicle as the standard XL without any enhancements to any of its key dynamic aspects, such as the chassis, engine mapping or gearing. Yet, it almost feels more powerful and grander.

This was achieved by swapping the bakkie’s matte black grille for a high-gloss version, upgrading the standard alloys to black 17-inchers, and dropping a serious roll bar on the back behind the cabin. When Ford first introduced the Sport Pack option in late 2020, one could also add black powder-coated sidesteps at the dealership for an additional fee, but Ford has since added this feature to the list of additions at no extra cost. Technically that’s around R21,550 worth of value for only R16,500. Small price to pay for a lekker everyday driving experience.

I would definitely add the bigger touchscreen as well, as this completely transforms the interior. While it does not come with embedded navigation, the availability of your smartphone navigation and other services through either of the mobile platforms makes built-in navigation obsolete.

GET IN & GO

Before the XL, the last Ranger I got to sample was the most recently updated six-cylinder Ranger Wildtrak – a beast of a bakkie – and I must admit I had forgotten just what a comfortable ride the Ranger offers and how much flexibility and versatility is built into its DNA. 

Although the XL is considered an entry-level vehicle, I found it super easy to drive and live with. True to its nature, there aren’t any unnecessary frills to get used to or understand; it’s just an honest to goodness, get-in-and-go companion.

The tried-and-tested 2.2-litre turbodiesel mill thrashes out more than enough power for most applications (118 kW versus the 110 kW of its 2.4-litre Hilux competitor), and there is just enough luxury in the cabin that you need to regularly remind yourself that this is a truck and not an SUV, after all.

Competitors include the Toyota Hilux, Isuzu D-Max, and to a lesser extent, the Nissan Navara, Volkswagen Amarok, Mazda BT-50, and a handful of new GWM P-Series’. Although the current Ranger is nearing the end of its lifecycle – the all-new Ranger will reach us by 2022 – none of the current crop of competitors present significant enough newer technology to put a damper on Ranger sales. 

This is also true in terms of interior comfort and practicality, as the Ranger presents ample oddments space, head- and shoulder room, and, importantly, rear legroom.

LAST WORD

As a regular Driven reader, you will know that the bakkie segment makes up a massive portion of local sales. After the compact B-segment, South Africans buy more pick-ups than any other vehicle type, and more families use them for everyday and leisure use.

More leisure applications mean customers demand more creature comforts, and Ford’s response with the XL Sport Pack is spot on.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © FORD MOTOR COMPANY SA

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