Things changed quickly in the world of the Ford Ranger. When Ford introduced the 2.0-litre biturbo diesel (aka BiT)/10-speed automatic powertrain to New Zealand in 2018, the Ranger Raptor became a star and later became an option on other models.
Now, with the arrival of new turbo-diesel and turbo-petrol V6 models, the BiT is almost the main engine for the dual-cab Rangers, replacing the old 3.2-liter five-cylinder.
You can still get a 2.0-litre single-turbo diesel on the workhorse XL model, starting at cab-chassis level, but for every XLT featured here, it’s BiT all over: 154kW/500Nm and that smooth 10- step lever.
We’ve sung the praises of the new Ranger many times before, and they still apply to the XLT. The Ranger raises the bar for single-ton cars in terms of combining unrivaled 4×4 capability with road-worthy equipment, ride and handling.
What might need a little more explanation is where the XLT currently sits in the extended lineup. It’s the only “lifestyle” (for lack of a better word) Ranger you can still have with 2WD, so it’s important from that perspective. Those old Hi-Rider Rangers helped propel the model to the top of the New Zealand sales charts, even if Ford’s focus has now moved elsewhere.
Our test vehicle is actually the $10k XLT 4×4 for 2WD: $66,990. Dear? Yes and no. You can’t have the new turbo-diesel V6 in the XLT, but the V6 Sport isn’t a million miles away in looks and specs, and it’s close another $10k further up the ladder, at $75,490. Imagine that $10K split between the bigger engine ($5K is a premium for the V6 in the Wildtrak) and the Sport’s blacked-out exterior, larger 18-inch wheels, headliner (optional on our XLT), leather upholstery. , rear air vents, folding seats, off-road sync touchscreen menu and electronic shifter.
Or you can spend that extra to upgrade from the XLT to the Wildtrak BiT, of course. Therefore, the XLT occupies an important place, whichever way you look at it.
Now about that electronic shifter: Don’t miss it in the XLT. The brown electronic gear selector, standard on the V6 Sport and up, is a rare ergonomic misstep in the new Ranger: nice to look at and hold, but a bit finicky to drive. The old XLT lever does the job better.
The BiT transmission definitely feels beefier than the V6, but it’s as smooth and enjoyable as ever. In terms of character, it certainly holds its own against the larger capacity unit. What the BiT lacks is the brilliant four-wheel drive system that comes standard with the V6 engine; All Ranger BiT 4×4 models are part-time, meaning they’re rear-wheel drive unless you’re in off-road mode. Like most plain utes, in other words.
This AWD setup (complete with 4Auto mode) gives the Ranger a level of off-road/off-road sophistication that makes the V6 a very desirable machine. It’s certainly a want…but whether it’s a need in the context of the vastly improved road manners of the BiT models is debatable. There are reasons to pocket the extra $10k and stick with the XLT; it’s still considerably more polished than most other utes on the road.
You might be surprised how much you’ll get in a mid-range XLT. It still comes with adaptive cruise control and a wide range of active safety features (including lane assist and assist), keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, a rotating portrait infotainment screen, front and rear LED lights, side running boards , that handy “drawer step” for the trays and top-loading drawer guards (which you don’t get on the XL). And yes, the tow bar is standard.
It looks very common, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the XLT has a level of standard equipment that we couldn’t have imagined in a ute a few years ago. It’s not a glamorous Ranger by any means, but in terms of market position and customer choice it does a really important job.
By the way, the bright Blue Lightning color on our test car is not available on the Wildtrak. So the XLT can also be a bit special.
FORD RANGER XLT 4×4
ENGINE: 2.0-liter four-cylinder twin-turbodiesel (BiT).
POWER: 154 kW/500 Nm
TRANSMISSION: 10-speed automatic, partial four-wheel drive with low gear
CONSUMPTION: 7.2 l/100 km