The multi-tasking ute is muscling in on the turf of the regular wagon hauler.
Crew cab utes increasingly are filling the role of family trucks. Despite their working class backgrounds, these tough utes are becoming more civilised.
But what are they like to live with day to day? To find out, this writer piled his family into the facelifted Ford Ranger XLT before a spell in a regular family hauler, a Ford Territory TX diesel.
The Ranger is, at this stage, the most advanced ute on sale in Australia with car-like electric assisted steering, radar-based adaptive cruise control, active lane-keeping assistance that pushes you back into the lane and an interior straight from a premium passenger car.
It’s available as a single cab, space cab (with two tiny temporary use seats) and the five-seater crew cab.
The entry-level Rangers, the XL and XLS, are both far too rough and loud to suit families. They also lack a reversing camera, which should be standard on every model.
That leaves the XLT crew cab, which will cost $48,690 as rear-drive automatic. If you want a 4WD, add $8000. If you have cash to burn, the 4WD-only Wildtrak auto is $60,090. The Ranger is a lot cheaper than the imminent Everest 4WD wagon, which at a starting price of $54,990 comes with a lot less gear than the XLT Ranger and has a dirt-cheap interior.
As for Territory, the base diesel (the petrol is very thirsty) has all you need, if in a very plain wrapper. You get all the safety gear, including camera. Step up to the Titanium ($51,740) for more gear but the interior is still plain and dated.
What to like
Once you have owed a ute, it is hard to live without one. Yes, you can get by with a trailer but they take up space and are a pain to use.
For the many folk who owned a Falcon or Commodore ute, the crew cabs are great because now the kids can come along too. The crew cab ute tray is not as long as those of the single cabs but can even take dirt bikes with the tailgate down.
For us, it allows us to load up a mini quad bike, a Pee Wee 50, pushbike or scooter — otherwise, we’d have to hitch a trailer.
The Ranger tows a mighty 3500kg, which is enough for a giant caravan, a decent boat or track car. In rear-drive, it can get many places, thanks partly to a rear differential lock, while the 4WD has extreme off-road capability, including a massive 800mm of wading depth. A whole new range of campsites beckons.
Second-row space is vast, so the kids can’t kick the back of your seat. The Ranger’s Isofix seat points (absent from the Territory) enable easy, secure fitment of baby seats.
In the Territory, the gains are the comfort and the large boot. There isn’t much space for bikes and the like but it is enclosed and lockable.
It is also very easy to park. OK, it is not small but feels that way when compared to the Ranger. The seven-seat option is handy, even if there’s not much room back there, but it is good for short trips for youngsters.
What to dislike
The biggest issue for the Ranger is the lack of a closable boot. If it’s going to be a family hauler, you’ll need to consider where to put the pram, shopping etc. A rollout tonneau cover, an option on XLT and standard on Wildtrak, can be locked and retracted. A hard tonneau cover limits what you can carry — a canopy is also an option.
Surprisingly heavy, the Ranger’s tailgate drops fast, which could be an issue for some.
Parking can be tricky. Tested in a multistorey carpark, the Ranger was easy to move around with its super light steering, and the ability to fold the wing mirrors is a big help.
The Ranger pulled a caravan with ease but the Territory was not as sure footed
But its size was daunting. Length is the biggest issue (it is 5350mm). Parking sensors and reversing camera are crucial here but the camera is not standard. It seems absurd to pay up to $57,000, then shell out another $1100 for the tech pack that stupidly bundles the camera with adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist (both of which I turn off).
It is a lot quieter than the cheaper Ranger models but the XLT is still a bit noisy under hard acceleration. An under bonnet sound pad, standard only on the Wildtrak, can be an aftermarket fitment.
The Territory is plain inside compared to the new Ranger, which has three high-resolution screens and new-look instruments. It looks very old, because it is, and misses out on things like adaptive cruise control and such.
On the road
The Ranger is not as refined as the Territory diesel, which is smooth and quiet. But given the outputs of its big 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel (147kW/470Nm), it doesn’t have to work too hard.
The Territory rides and handles very well for an SUV, while the Ranger moves around a bit more it is also at the top of the ute class for ride and handling.
If a family were limited to one car, the Ranger could be made to work out
The Ranger sits up super high, which a lot of people enjoy. It is great vehicle to drive long distances and is very comfortable as well.
The Ranger pulled a caravan with ease but the Territory (towing capacity, 2400kg) was not as sure footed.
It also looks fantastic (except for the wheel design); our three-year-old boy just loved it.
So, it’s no surprise that the Territory makes more sense as a family wagon.
If a family were limited to one car, the Ranger could be made to work out. Mine was hooked on the idea of the XLT Ranger as a second family vehicle.
The steep price means we’ll have to save up for a while longer before we can sign on the dotted line. Maybe the reversing camera will be standard by then.
At a glance
Ford Ranger XLT
Price from: $48,690
Safety: 6 airbags, 5 stars, no standard rear camera
Engine: 3.2-litre 5-cyl turbo diesel, 147kW/470Nm
Transmission: 4-speed auto; RWD
Ford Territory TX
Price from: $40,740
Safety: 6 airbags, 5 stars, standard rear camera
Engine: 2.7-litre V6 turbo diesel, 140kW/440Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; RWD