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Ford Ranger: Sound and fury, but little progress

First impression of the latest Ford Ranger Wildtrak was that it’s hooooge!

To put it into perspective, it has around the same footprint as a medium-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the only difference being that the Ranger’s driving position equates to somewhere in the load area of the panel van.

This was noticed on my regular commute, where some tricky junctions were now totally blind. Climbing aboard, and I do mean climb, the obvious feature was the Wildtrak’s distinctive interior trim, featuring lots of high-quality stitched leather trim, although the orange thread and seat infill panels on black leather is a matter of taste!

Apart from the baby blue speedo needle, the instrument panel with its full colour graphics was eye-catching. I particularly liked the way that the simple bar graph for engine revs turns into a nice graphical representation of a proper rev counter dial in Sport mode. The advanced 8in touch screen infotainment is pretty comprehensive, although the sat nav input is a bit clunky.

Selecting postcodes, which seems to be the preferred method these days, you have to manually select the space and numbers, while most systems are clever enough to do that for you. Having identified where the various switches are located, and got to grips with the steering wheel and its considerable number of controls, it was time to fire-up the Wildtrak 3.2-litre six-pot. I’d like to tell you more about the technicalities, but according to the Ford website, it’s a 1364cc hatchback capable of 42.8mpg.

Whatever, moving off revealed the Ranger’s key weakness, the antique automatic transmission. Delivering lots of sound and fury but little progress, it hunted all around trying to find the best of its six ratios, accompanied by 1970’s levels of torque converter slip. Frequent clunks from the driveline didn't help. This experience was unladen, but it gives the impression that given a full load or a 3,500kg trailer on the back, it would settle down to business more efficiently.

The good news is the ride. Initially feeling traditionally pick-up firm, on the move it proved to be surprisingly resilient on poor surfaces, including the benchmark level crossing on my commute. Out on the motorway, the adaptive cruise control worked well in the busy early morning traffic.

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