While most of your attention has been squared on the top-spec Ranger Wildtrak, we think there is a sweeter pick in the Ranger range. Look a couple of rungs down the ladder and you’ll find this peach: a 2023 Ford Ranger XLT made better by some optional technology and a glorious diesel V6.
- Wonderful combination of technology and practicality
- Impressive dirt road performance and composure
- Powertrain equally happy on-road and off-road
- Priced too close to better-equipped Ranger Sport
- XLT goes without Wildtrak’s extra cupholders and dual glovebox
- Off-road traction control not as good as HiLux (still)
How much does the Ford Ranger cost in Australia?
The next-generation 2023 Ford Ranger has arrived in Australia surrounded by fanfare and strong interest from the Australian ute-buying public. Waiting lists are already getting long in some cases, as buyers jostle for a taste of the latest and greatest from the Blue Oval.
It’s not surprising to see the majority focus on the top-spec Wildtrak V6. This is especially the case when fitted with the optional premium pack (with Matrix LED headlights and an uprated sound system), which is the variant with the longest waiting list of them all.
There clearly isn’t a limit to how much Australians are willing to spend on a techy and flashy four-wheel-drive ute. At least, we haven’t found it yet. Yet amid this onslaught of more technological convenience and cachet, we reckon there might be a sweet spot in the Ford Ranger line-up somewhere below the pinnacle.
Sitting a long way off the $70,190 V6-powered Ranger Wildtrak, and $2500 underneath the relatively new Sport specification (also with the desirable V6), is this XLT. This is your cheapest ticket into a Ranger with a V6 under the bonnet, with a starting price of $64,190 before options and on-road costs.
This gets you a well-equipped four-wheel-drive ute despite the fact XLT sits only in the middle of its respective range. There are things like a 10.1-inch infotainment display and 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, spray-in bedliner, towbar, power-locking tailgate and digital radio. Most of these elements either match or better the top specification of rivals in many cases.
XLT used to be top-spec, once upon a time. But as the Ford Ranger has evolved over generations, XLT has found itself as a mid-range contender. However, I see this new XLT as direct competition against the likes of an Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain, Nissan Navara ST-X and Toyota HiLux SR5.
Sure, you could mount an argument that the extra little bit of kit in the Sport is worth the spend. And many will sidestep both of these specs on their way to Wildtrak glory. But if it were my own money, I’d have to mount a solid argument to pragmatically talk myself out of this exact vehicle. Except for the colour, black is simply not an option for me (personally).
We’ve got $1800 worth of options ticked in this case, half of which is the mostly reasonable Touring Pack. Ticking this box nets you a 360-degree camera, puddle lamps, zone lighting and integrated brake controller. The rest of the spend comes from decent all-terrain tyres and a spray-in tub liner, which is at least a top-quality install.
And it leaves a four-wheel-drive ute that is more ready for work, off-roading, towing and loading – straight off the showroom floor – than most others out there.
But most importantly, you’ve got the new-to-Ranger 3.0-litre diesel V6, which makes the most torque in the segment (600Nm), while it’s bested in terms of power by the soon-to-be-replaced Volkswagen Amarok (190kW along with 200kW on overboost beats the 184kW on offer here).
The Amarok is, of course, falling into line with the Ranger for its next-generation model, with both models sharing a Ford-derived platform and powertrain. It’s also worth noting one can find additional power by looking at the next size up in the American-sourced Ram and Chevrolet ‘trucks’.
But if you’ve been reading the reviews – either here or elsewhere ( I forgive you) – you’ll probably know that the hype is real. Ford’s new Ranger – with its heavy dose of Australian design and engineering influence – is a mighty fine piece of machinery. The big-ticket items all seem to hit the nail on the head with effortless accuracy.
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However, there are plenty of sharp and well-thought-through details from tip to tail, all of which I’ll get through here. Share with us in the comments section for anything I’ve missed.
|Key details||2023 Ford Ranger XLT V6|
|Price||$64,190 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Shadow Black|
|Options||Touring Pack – $900
– Integrated trailer brake controller
– 360-degree camera system
– Puddle lamps on exterior mirrors
– Four-zone lighting
Metallic paint – $675
All-terrain tyres – $500
Spray-in tub liner – $400
|Price as tested||$66,665 plus on-road costs|
|Drive-away price||$71,664 (Sydney)|
|Rivals||Isuzu D-Max | Nissan Navara | Toyota HiLux|
How much space does the Ford Ranger have inside?
While the Ranger has picked up an extra 50mm of wheelbase over the previous-generation model, this has come from the front axle being moved forward. Why? It’s been done to fit in a wider array of powertrains, including future-proofing the Ranger for electrification.
In fact, the Ford Ranger has managed to drop 76mm of overall length according to spec-sheet comparisons with the previous-generation model. I’d wager that big a difference comes from something like including a towball or towbar in the measurements.
But don’t worry: the Ranger has always been a four-wheel-drive ute with a larger footprint, even before the wheelbase grew to 3270mm. And that yields an interior that is quite spacious and comfortable for a four-wheel-drive ute.
Important updates and inclusions inside include air vents for the second row, an 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster (which is used across the range) and 10.1-inch infotainment display that is shared with everything bar Wildtrak. It gets something slightly larger at 12.3 inches.
Naturally, a big portrait-style infotainment display dominates the dashboard, but there are plenty of finer details and nicer elements around the cabin that prove Ford really obsessed over the minute details on this 2023 Ford Ranger.
The storage shelf on the passenger side of the dashboard makes perfect sense for storing incidental bits and bobs. There’s additional storage in the form of cupholders in the centre console, room for bottles in the door cards, and a spot in front of the shifter for your takeaway hot chips.
This is not your old-school round barrel of chips, by the way. They will fit in a cupholder I suppose. What I mean is the French-fries style, from the Golden Arches for example.
Unfortunately, everything bar Wildtrak misses out on the additional pop-out cupholders below the air vents, and the kind-of-hidden second glovebox in front of the passenger.
Isuzu and Mazda found it in their hearts to include such things in lower specification grades, and it would be great to see Ford do the same. Because I’m a sucker for some extra storage and cupholders, especially in a four-wheel drive.
The relatively large size of the Ranger is appreciated in the second row, where there are good levels of legroom and headroom afforded. It’s not as good as a medium-sized or large SUV, but it’s one of the better takes in a four-wheel-drive ute. There are air vents located above the single power outlet, and cupholders located in the pop-down armrest.
Under-seat storage carries over and has been improved this time around with more space. The storage area has been improved, and the underside of the seat base has also been scalloped out for some additional room. It works well, and is a great piece of attention that Ford designers have given to a relatively small detail that some buyers may miss altogether.
Unlike some other utes, the seat back also folds forward in a Ranger. This allows you to use the seat back as a loading platform (and saving your seats from potential damage), but you can also squeeze a few bits into the space around the tyre-change equipment.
|2023 Ford Ranger XLT V6|
|Gross vehicle mass (GVM)||3280kg|
|Braked towing capacity||3500kg|
|Gross combination mass (GCM)||6400kg|
Does the Ford Ranger have Apple CarPlay?
While the Wildtrak-specification Ranger enjoys a larger 12.3-inch infotainment display, other grades have to make do with ‘only’ 10.1 inches of portrait-style digital real estate, which is itself one of the biggest displays in the segment. And a lesser-thought-of element here is that a smaller infotainment display yields slightly better storage space below, with a larger spot for things like phones and wallets underneath.
And let’s face it: 10.1 inches is still impressive for looking at and using. It’s a quality display in terms of graphics and response times, with an operating system that walks a nice balance between simplicity and features. One can spend a lot of time digging through the various options, modes and customisations on offer, but some smartly placed shortcuts allow you to get to the important bits quickly.
Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work as a wired and wireless connection in the 2023 Ford Ranger, which can be the source of a troublesome connection sometimes. After connecting my (Android) smartphone to half a dozen different Rangers so far, the car (and/or I) got confused between wired and wireless connections, and I had to reset things to make it finally work. And while a wireless connection might have a bit of a latest-and-greatest appeal, the benefits don’t seem to outweigh a wired connection in my opinion.
The 8.0-inch instrument cluster in front of the driver is good as well. There are vertical-style coolant temperature and fuel level gauges on each side, along with extra digital readouts (like a tachometer and digital speedometer) available through the screen itself. This display is shared across all Ranger variants and works well.
Is the Ford Ranger a safe car?
While Drive understands the Ford Ranger is currently undergoing testing at the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), a final result is yet to be determined. While we don’t yet know how many stars it will be endowed with, initial signs from the spec sheet are good.
Firstly, there are nine airbags on the inside of the 2023 Ford Ranger. Along with dual front, side curtain and knee airbags up front, there’s also one situated in between front occupants (something becoming more commonplace in five-star-rated vehicles). This front centre airbag is designed to reduce impact between occupants.
Ford hasn’t hoarded safety equipment for only high-specification models either. It’s something all manufacturers should do, and it means our XLT-specification Ranger has a good range of safety and driving convenience equipment at the ready.
Along with basic safety and convenience technology like automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers, there’s stuff like adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go functionality), traffic sign recognition, lane centering and intelligent speed assistance.
Blind-spot monitoring can be calibrated to work with an attached trailer up to 2.4m wide and up to 10m long. There’s also evasive steering assistance, lane-keeping assistance (with road edge detection), tyre pressure monitoring and a driver alert system.
|2023 Ford Ranger XLT V6|
How much does the Ford Ranger cost to maintain?
Service costs for a 2023 Ford Ranger are listed at $1316 for four years or 60,000km, or a flat rate of $329 per year for the first four years. Beyond that point, the capped-price servicing no longer applies, and you can be relatively sure that service costs will increase at that stage. That rate of $329 stays the same between 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre powered Rangers, along with the twin-turbocharged petrol Ranger Raptor.
A comprehensive insurance quote from one of Australia’s biggest names in insurance, based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW, was $1716 per year for the Ranger. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.
|At a glance||2023 Ford Ranger XLT V6|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1316 (4 years)|
Is the Ford Ranger V6 fuel-efficient?
Perhaps the only discipline where the V6 loses points to the inline four is – unsurprisingly – fuel efficiency.
Claimed fuel economy figures are leaner for the smaller donk, and our experience would indicate that real-world efficiency figures follow that trend. The 8.4 litres per 100km claim pins the V6 as being thirstier by 1.2L/100km, but there is a real chance that this gap might tighten up when vehicles start to tow or become laden with big weights.
During our time with the Ranger – which was a combination of town, country and off-road driving – we saw a figure of 10.5L/100km.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||8.4L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||10.5L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||80L|
What is the Ford Ranger like to drive?
While the 2.0-litre BiTurbo engine feels better in this next-generation Ranger, and is far from feeling sluggish or inadequate, the diesel V6 in this Ranger feels perfectly at home in this application. While there might be 50 per cent more engine under the bonnet, you’re not looking at a commensurate jump in power and torque over the 143kW/500Nm of the smaller engine option.
Instead, you’ve got 184kW at 3250rpm and 600Nm at 1750–2250rpm. Both of these peak figures arrive lower in the rev range and speak to the relaxed nature of this powertrain. Whereas the smaller engine might do a great job of hiding the fact it’s pulling good numbers from a relatively small displacement, this V6 doesn’t need to dance that dance.
Dirt road driving, something we were able to do more of in this test, was another impressive element. Whereas the previous-generation Ranger was no slouch in this regard, the next-generation model does a noticeably better job here.
While the Ranger’s highly successful, Australian-developed T6 platform might have been a starting point for this new model, it’s effectively all new. It’s a more modular design and has updated components, suspension geometry and tuning.
Throw in a selectable automatic all-wheel-drive system, and you’ve got a ute that feels impressively well balanced and comfortable on unsealed surfaces. Even in two-wheel drive, you don’t have that feeling of imbalance between front and rear that most other utes have, with a tail that is often too happy to wag through faster corners.
This Ranger steers accurately and predictably on loose surfaces, and the rear end follows suit without theatre. For someone who wants (or needs) to drive long distances on dirt, this is a big advantage.
On-road, the improvements are less marked. It’s still very good, but because this new Ranger is building up from such a high base, improvements are minimal at best. It still rides very well for a ute. The quintessential unladen jiggle is still there, improved slightly compared to the outgoing Ranger, but with a high payload and towing capacity leaving an unsettled feeling over imperfect surfaces.
It’s something that all utes – or anything with a healthy payload – suffers from.
Otherwise, steering and handling feel to be right at the pointy end of the segment and continuing the legacy of the previous-generation Ranger. It’s enjoyable to drive and responds smartly to driver inputs through the tiller.
The off-road performance of the Ranger proved to be quite good during our first test, which allowed us to dig into things like traction and capability a little further.
Overall, it’s not a dramatic shift or improvement in terms of raw capability, especially in this XLT specification. There is an improved sense of overall stability coming from the 50mm increase in both wheel track and wheelbase. Its suspension retains a leaf-sprung rear end and independent front wishbone suspension as before.
For comparison’s sake, the current Isuzu D-Max represented a big move forward in terms of capability for the brand (and that model in particular). However, the Ranger hasn’t experienced the same shift, because the previous-generation Ranger was already quite a competent off-roader with its locking rear differential, decent levels of ground clearance, and off-road traction control.
The new Ranger keeps all of these elements, with smaller tweaks coming in the form of a new rear differential housing, rear shock absorbers mounted outboard of the chassis (they were previously inboard), and a slightly different tyre size. Compared to the 265/65R17 tyres on the old Ranger, the 2023 Ford Ranger XLT gets slightly taller and narrower 255/70R17 tyres. In the old money, these work out to be 31.1 inches in diameter.
And while the 50mm increase in wheelbase might help overall stability and improve the approach angle slightly, there is a commensurate reduction in rampover angle. It’s not a huge shift, but you might notice a few extra belly rubs from time to time on rough ground off-road. Ford has done a lot of work streamlining the towbar design to improve clearance and reduce the chance of being hung up on the hardware, but the departure angle is still overall similar to the outgoing model.
The off-road traction control – missing the more sophisticated selectable modes available in more expensive variants – doesn’t feel like much of a shift or improvement over the previous-generation model. There needs to be a noticeable amount of wheel spin and wheel speed needed to activate the system, which will then start to brake.
If you’re programmed to ease off the throttle as soon as you feel wheel spin, you won’t be doing yourself any favours. In the Ranger, you need to keep a steady, ample amount of throttle engaged for the electronics to do their magic. It works, but it’s not as seamless or as fast to react as the leader in this regard, the Toyota HiLux.
Once that rear locking differential has been engaged, the Ranger feels like a different animal. I was working to get traction control to kick in at this stage, but couldn’t find a bit of track (that wouldn’t cause damage) that would do the trick. The Ranger was stable and very happy at a slow crawl, with the available torque and rear end articulation doing a good job to keep the wheels turning with traction.
Having the optional Touring Pack fitted – with its good-quality 360-degree camera system – is handy for off-roading. Some extra vision for wheel placement and incoming obstacles makes sense, especially when you might not have the luxury of a spotter to guide you through tricky spots.
|Key details||2023 Ford Ranger XLT V6|
|Engine||3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel|
|Power||184kW @ 3250rpm|
|Torque||600Nm @ 1750–2250rpm|
|Drive type||Automatic all-wheel drive|
|Transmission||10-speed torque converter automatic,
low-range transfer case, locking rear differential
|Off-road clearance angles||Approach angle: 30°
Rampover angle: 21°
Departure angle: 23°
|Spare tyre type||Full-size (underslung)|
|Tow rating||3500 braked
Should I buy a Ford Ranger?
This is a mightily impressive ute in many respects. The V6 powertrain is a no-brainer for the Australian market, and Ford has thankfully tuned and engineered the powertrain to work well with the rest of the car.
Its off-road performance is just about as good as you can ask for from a stock-standard dual-cab ute, although the Toyota HiLux might still have a slight edge in this regard. But that point feels kind of moot, because most serious off-roaders will add their own complement of accessories and modifications to suit their own tastes and needs.
Aside from off-road prowess, it’s the combination of practicality, technology, details and the driving experience – all wrapped up in a package that doesn’t seem to have any big weakness – that makes the Ranger so appealing.
So while it is expensive, the Ranger seems quite able to command a premium because it’s relatively well equipped for the asking price – especially against competition that have been creeping up their prices. But also because it seems so well engineered and delivered. The big-ticket things like the powertrain and infotainment display are no doubt impressive, as is the integration of technology.
But other details, like the rear tub step, or the simple fact that Ford went to the effort of maximising underseat storage in the second row, are equally worthy of praise. As is the rest of the vehicle, and this Ford Ranger feels like it really hits the nail on the head.