• Park Ranger

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    ford20140729The weather is never too foul, the grill always hot when a tailgate party involves the Ford Ranger
    CRUMMY weather, check. Camping gear, lovely landscape, burgers on the grill—check, check, check. True, Bear Grylls roughing it up in the great outdoors we were not. But then the guy wouldn’t really have to endure things as much if only he drives a Ford Ranger.

    Apparently confident the Ranger is completely up to the task of taking on the torrential rains, Ford last week pushed through with a driving gig meant to show the outdoorsy qualities of and the promise of recreational adventure that the pickup holds. And as the drive up to Zambawood in San Narciso, Zambales, turned out, the Ranger thrives in weather most foul.

    Brought out for the trip were a bunch of Ranger XLTs and Wildtraks, meaning some of the trucks are powered by either 2.2-liter or 3.2-liter engines, have five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, and roll on 4×2 or 4×4 drivetrains. The route taken crossed urban traffic, open expressways, a bit of winding roads, flooded two-lane provincial highways and muddy/sandy trails—all of which were soaked and soggy. This allowed the Rangers to demo that their mechanical bits, techie features and cabin amenities are cushy and competent whether the roads are paved or bad. Or if they do not exist at all.

    Consider: In 2.2-liter spec the Ranger’s engine makes 148hp and 375Nm, and the top dog 3.2-liter mill spins out 197hp and 470Nm, so the lack of hauling power will never be a concern with the trucks. The engines bolt to transmissions that boast ample gear ratios, ensuring grunt is broadly distributed at whatever speed. The truck’s 4×4 versions can engage four-wheel drive mode at the twist of a knob, perfect when surfaces turn from bad to worse. They roll on 18-inch alloys wrapped with tires that can grip nasty terrain. The Wildtraks clear the ground by 223 millimeters and can ford waters 800 millimeters deep—the best among trucks its size. Clearly, the Ranger is built to take on the tough stuff.

    But slogging through muck is one thing, enjoying the outdoorsy bits when one has gotten past the muck is another. In this regard, the Ranger is equally adept, with one of the things going for it being a large cargo bed that can lug lots of active lifestyle toys.

    In the vast expanse of Zambawood, amid the lush foliage of pine trees incongruously set on a sandy beach, a pair of Rangers served as the perfect lawn ornaments as they sat fitted with Rhino Racks awning and Tag-Along Tent. The kit transformed the trucks from tough transports into comfy commodes from where one could shelter from the rain (or heat, when the weather turns around), and generally soak in picture-pretty scenery. As always, the Ranger’s thoughtful items like cargo rails and liner and—in this age of power gizmos—the all-important 12-volt socket in the bed should come handy in this setting. Never have lawn ornaments promise such usefulness.

    Meals, of course, are a key attraction in any trip. And on this Ranger adventure the highlight was a burger cook-off among those who joined the trip. Split up in pairs, participants were first tasked to shop for ingredients at a grocery store inside Subic, drive further deeper into Zambales, and then were given almost an hour-and-a-half to shape, season, grill, garnish, plate and present to a quad of judges—Ford Phils. President Kay Hart, Assistant Vice Presidents Joseph Ayllon and Dino Obias, and Zambawood owner Rachel Harrison—their burger concoctions. Surrounding the flurry of chopping, grilling, trash-talking and dining (for the judges), and the mess of portable grill pits, prep tables and tents, were the bunch of muddied Rangers blending in the backdrop of rain, fog and pine trees. Guess it’s safe to assume tailgate parties rarely get classier—or more picturesque—than this.

    If only Bear Grylls drives a Ranger.

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