Live life one muddy incline at a time? These new Ford Rangers might be the start of your next build | Top Gear
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Live life one muddy incline at a time? These new Ford Rangers might be the start of your next build

Wildtrak X and Tremor versions give the Ranger even more off-road clout. Because that’s what was clearly lacking here

Published: 28 Mar 2023

What’s the most important thing to off-roading types? Besides an ARB catalogue, of course.

It’s simple, really: knowing that the rig they’re running can be pointed at whichever horizon feels most attractive, and will clomp and claw its way to that horizon, regardless of the geography on the way.

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That goal translates to some equally simple parameters for what makes an off-roader a good starting point for their build*. The 4x4 in question will need... well, to be a 4x4, of course. The proper kind, with full-time four-wheel drive and many massive meshing cogs to ensure it remains so. It’ll also need the kind of ground clearance usually reserved for giraffes, a wide track to make sure it doesn’t topple over and the kind of tyres that make molehills out of mountains.

And to find that the latest versions of the new Ford Ranger have full-time 4WD and massive all-terrain tyres, and sit 26mm further from the ground while stretching another 30mm across it from side to side... well, you can see what Ford has in mind for its latest versions of the Ranger: the Wildtrak X and Tremor.

That taller ride height also includes “long-travel suspension with Bilstein dampers", which you can probably consider a halfway house between the regular setup and the full remote-reservoir Fox shocks on the Raptor. There’s a steel bash plate if you go beyond their hard limits for compression or ground clearance, and off-road assistance systems to ensure you stay within their dynamic limits.

Like trail turn assist, which removes the need for three (or four, or five...) point turns to navigate tight switchbacks on narrow trails – or indeed the oversteer heroics people like us tend to employ to pivot around them. It brakes the inside wheel for a basic kind of torque vectoring, helping the outside wheel over-rotate and reducing the turning radius by as much as 25 per cent. We’d still pick our way, but we can see why you might not.

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There’s also a trail control system, which is basically like an off-road cruise control. The driver can set a constant speed up to 20mph, which the Ranger will then maintain. The idea is that it lessens the mental workload and allows better focus on steering, navigation and choosing lines. If you think that sounds like a great way to remove the challenges that make off-roading an appealing and rewarding activity, we’re right there with you. But there’s nothing forcing you to turn it on, of course.

And if you’ve any off-roading nous at all, you’ll likely never have to – with 10 gears to choose from in Ford’s ‘more is more’ 10R80 automatic gearbox and 369lb ft available at just 1,750rpm, there’s the very real prospect that your responsibilities will be reduced to ‘point and add power’.

Which again feels like a great way to remove yourself from the get-stuck-in world of off-roading – picking lines over obstacles, the sound a tyre makes against a stone when it starts to spin and erases your momentum, and the constant jumping in and out of the cabin to lock the front hubs, act as spotter, check the depth of a ford or the million things that get you out in the elements and covered in mud.

But then you’d likely not want to get particularly stuck in or muddy, considering the Wildtrak X has suede-trimmed seats with “exclusive Wildtrak X embroidery”, with suede also finding its way to the dashboard, door trims and centre console. And if you’re wondering how to square suede’s ‘don’t go out in the rain’ care instructions with the big-tyres-and-bash-plates nature of the Wildtrak X... we honestly don’t have anything for you.

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Way back when, we used to drive a Mazda Bravo (which was rebadged and sold as the Ford Courier – the predecessor of the Ranger), which had the wipe-down plastic and vinyl you’d expect from a work truck. The seats had fabric that’d rival industrial carpets on the front and – you guessed it – more vinyl on the back. Hardly felt upmarket, but then again it was a ladder-framed work vehicle, so it felt right.

And if that still feels right to you, then a) you might be our kind of person, and b) we have some good news: you can still get that same proper work-truck experience (not to mention the practical benefits) of a wipe-down interior.

Yes, almost as if Ford is pre-empting the ‘but it’s meant to be out in the countryside, getting muddy’ crew, the Ranger Tremor has “water-resistant, easily cleaned vinyl trim” on the seats and floor. Other practical considerations include a pair of easy-access front tow hooks and cast-aluminium side steps, while the standard-fit ‘sports bar’ (that is, the big tubular steel arrangement bolted in the tub) offers a convenient spot to mount lights and aerials without drilling into the roof.

There’s also the option for a pre-wired, six-switch control unit for aftermarket winches, light bars, air compressors, tyre deflators and other accoutrements that the people who actually go off-road almost invariably fit before heading there. And we’re guessing they will, given the Tremor boasts the same mechanical and technological upgrades as the Wildtrak X – just without the worry about scuffing the interior to pieces.

And yes, it is called the Tremor, which means you’re basically honour-bound to do your best Burt Gummer – elephant gun optional, of course. But that does seem like a small price to pay to get the full tech complement of the top-of-the-tree Wildtrak X with an interior that actually suits what you’re doing – and the leftover cash to splash on what any four-wheel-driver wants the most: a mountain of accessories.

Where Ford’s new top rack system fits in rather depends on how much a surf, stand-up paddle or snow board factors into their weekend plans. Or indeed how much a ladder forms a part of their workday plans. In any case, the so-called Flexible Rack System (points for brevity and accuracy there) can slide back and forth to carry loads of varying lengths – and up to 80kg – wherever the owner can manage to get their Ranger. But we did note that Ford also rates the static load (what the bars can carry when the Ranger is stationary) at 250kg. Which means some kind of extendable roof tent must be on the horizon soon. Time to check the ARB catalogue...

*Because no off-roader can ever run a stock 4x4. Don’t be ridiculous.

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