A TRUCK THROUGH AND TRUE

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Ranger20140107In base 2.2-liter XLT 4×2 MT trim, the Ranger builds on time-proven competence of Ford pickups
UNITAS 6497. It is the name of a hand-wound movement—a watch’s “engine,”—that has been around since people started pocketing, then later on strapping, timepieces on their wrists. It is an engineering marvel; fairly accurate, reliable and virtually indestructible as it goes about doing what it was designed to do with utter simplicity. No frills or fuss. Wind it, it runs.

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Speaking of simple things that work excellently; Ford’s Ranger, in 2.2-liter XLT 4×2 trim with a manual gearbox (priced at P1.069 million), is a prime example.

In base spec (or at least in one that’s sold for personal use and not for business duty) the Ranger eschews its pricier Wildtrak and bigger-engine siblings’ Bluetooth/multimedia/USB/leathers/auto climate/18-inch alloys package. So the truck does not have many things by way of toys besides audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel. But the important thing remains—it is a truck built by Ford, and one intended to reach a global audience at that.

That means this latest in the long line of the Ranger nameplate had benefitted from extensive research-and-dev work, something I can attest to after having gone through international “deep-dive” sessions regarding the truck. Some of the small yet notable things drilled in: The Ranger’s door pocket can fit a 1.5-liter bottle, the glove box swallows a laptop flat, electrical parts likely to go haywire when they get soaked in floodwater have been placed high up, an electrical socket in the truck bed is tucked in so anything plugged into it won’t get snagged. To do deep dive sessions, a Ford engineer traveled around the planet with a can of table salt, which he used to visually demo the effects of vibration and frequency on sheet metal. Indeed, Ford paid attention to details when it built this pickup.

In sundry driving events held by Ford, both locally and abroad, this type of development work did not always come up the surface. But it does when you drive the truck for more than a couple of days as you fit the task in your daily routine. Then the well-thought-of quality of the Ranger becomes more obvious—it’s fairly quiet in the cabin (thanks to excellent insulation), the fit and finish are top-notch (panel gaps are small and consistent, the materials and control switches feel sturdy), and all furniture work as they were designed to (seats slide or adjust smoothly, windows roll up or down quickly enough, doors close with a solid thump).

On the road, the Ranger rides like the truck that it is, so don’t expect traits associated with cars. Because without anything to weigh down the cargo bed, the Ranger bounces over bumps and hops over bad surfaces, the result of a stiffly sprung suspension that anticipates hauling duties. The truck’s rigid chassis, also designed to carry loads, adds to this stiff ride. Be aware, though, that the Ranger is a new-gen truck, and so it rides a lot better than older-model pickups while being more competent—or at least, equally—at loading and hauling.

It certainly steers and brakes better, too, areas in which the Ranger is comparable with sedans. Its steering is ideally boosted so as not to be heavy but not dead in your hands either. Its brakes let you know they’re about to bite, meaning they’re easily modulated and so you don’t look like a newbie doofus in traffic. Gear shifting, meanwhile, is a totally macho affair as rowing through the six gears requires some muscle power.

Propulsion power, by the way, is provided by a diesel-burning 2.2-liter four-pot engine that spins out 148hp and 375Nm of torque. True, those can’t beat the figures churned out by the 3.2-liter mill packed by pricier Ranger variants, but they are ample. The 2.2 can launch the truck briskly away from stoplights and its fat torque curve means little need for downshifting when passing slow traffic. The combination of plentiful torque and the six-gear transmission leads to relaxed engine spinning, especially on highways, and so to miserly fuel use, too. Clearly, Ford had put its decades of truck-making experience to good use in the present-gen Ranger—which, it should be noted, runs like clockwork.

And in the 2.2 XLT’s case, very simply at that, too.

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