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Ford Ranger Thunder 2.5 TD

For a road test of the new Ford Ranger, listen to UKMotorTalk's podcast #0702

Ever wondered why so many crew cab pickups have appeared on the road in the last few years? Well they are the highly visible result of a budget quirk, a tax break which favours small pickups with a double cab that can seat 5 and carry a minimum 1 ton payload in the back. So that might already seem to be the end of the story, just another builder’s truck albeit a smaller one.

Bizarre perhaps but these load luggers have proved astonishingly popular not just with their intended target audience of small businesses but as an all purpose leisure vehicle appealing to a much larger niche audience of surfers, windsurfers, off road bikers, weekend horse riders, indeed all manner of interests that need gear moving.

Ford - and its competitors – quickly realised that these types of vehicles can reach an even wider audience if they are car like to drive and with equipment levels that meet the expectations of a discerning audience who can afford and want such a practical vehicle for their leisure interests. In Ford’s case they already had a lot of experience in the USA where this type of vehicle is hugely popular.

The Ford Ranger Thunder is the top of the 3 car range which includes 2 and 4 wheel drive versions, different trim levels from utilitarian to very comfortable in a price band from just £12, 000 to the Thunder at around £17, 500, a very attractive price in a fiercely competitive market place.

It’s a big chunky beast to look at but it doesn’t feel like it on the road. The pickup takes a payload of just over a ton and is easily accessed by a low level tail gate for stress free loading and is fully protected by a tough plastic liner. That chunky body sits on some massive alloys with substantial cill and front bars and some big rubber for serious off roading when needed, you certainly get the feeling this car will take you anywhere and more importantly bring you back, it’s a as tough as John Wayne’s old boots.

In the double cab it’s very classy, all leather seating and trim, lots of legroom and comfortable seating for 5, a massive amount of in cab stowage space, equipment levels rivalling much more expensive cars with aircon, multi cd, parking sensors and some more unusual fittings like a compass and inclinometer for when you’re really out in the wilds.

As easily driven as any car the 2.5 litre turbo diesel pushes out 154 bhp so the Ranger is no slouch and the massive amount of torque means you’re not constantly stirring the gearbox, it just pulls strongly all the way. The big 2/4 wheel drive transfer box is well to hand, the light power steering and sure handling are impressive for a tall vehicle and the well sorted suspension gives a soft ride with plenty of travel when on the bumpier stuff.

No white van man’s lumbering truck the Ranger is well thought out in design and marketing, sophisticated and very comfortable in the cabin, easily driven and quite extraordinary value for money. Of course if it’s actually bought for business those tax advantages make the package even more irresistible but buying trends suggest even more of these cars are now being bought for weekend pleasure use rather than the weekday rough and tumble.

Article © Graham Benge 2007

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