It’s Monday 22nd August, we depart at 8:00 am with a group of journalists from JKIA onboard KQ destined for Jo’Burg at the O.R Tambo international Airport. Four hours later, we touch down.
We are picked up by Ford Southern Africa representative, for the brand new FORD Ranger 2.2 automatic. After a brief introduction, we were chauffeured off to Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria to witness the automated assembly plant where the FORD Ranger is manufactured.
We arrive at the assembly plant where the Kenyan delegation meets with the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa journalists who had arrived a day before. We sign the indemnity form and then we are given protective gear to wear. The plant safety manager takes us through the safety measures that we are supposed to take while we are in the plant.
The objective of the FORD Southern Africa team was to give journalists a wholesome experience. We are taken on the assembly line to witness how the FORD Ranger series is made. The assembly makes over 400 FORD Rangers per day. We later learn that the month of August was good. Called “the record-breaking month,” in August 2016, some 8 548 locally assembled Ranger units left South African port, shipped off to markets in the rest of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
Trip to George
The next day early in the morning, we head off to George, Western Cape from the OR Tambo International airport. From a vibrant busy city to a sleepy town near the ocean, we arrive at a town that was sunny but as cold as a freezer. But as I later came to discover, the terrain in this part of South Africa is diverse, breathtaking and incredible for a true test drive. From sand dunes, to narrow winding roads to an off-road experience, the Ford Ranger automatic 2.2 was going to be put to the test to prove whether the manufacturer’s claims were right or not.
The driving experience
After taking light breakfast at the airport, we are ushered into the parking lot where we are paired into two. Jackson Biko, an instructor and I end up in a grey 4*4 Ford Ranger double cabin. Seated on the driver’s seat of the Ranger, and as the ignition key and the fuel pedal do a collaboration to start the engine, I begin to think about my home country Kenya.
Why is it so hard to buy a brand new car in this country? Could it be that our love for second-hand cars is just an issue that’s all in the mind? That’s a discussion for another day. Back to the FORD Ranger Automatic 2.2.
We set off from the parking lot of George Airport. The first phase of the ride and drive is to test the capability of the car on tar. Specifically, the Lane Keeping Aid, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Driver Impairment Monitor.
The new Ford Ranger is tough, but a smart kind of tough. It’s not just rugged, it also offers a reasonable degree of comfort and refinement. The Ranger doesn’t compromise on the rugged capability that most of its enthusiasts have come to appreciate. The ruggedness easily appeals for any terrain in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The new Ranger begin with an updated exterior design. Driving on some narrow roads in George, we could tell that the bold, more modern look lends Ranger a powerful presence on the road as it dwarfed other cars on the road.
For muddy off-road enthusiasts, it’s water wading depth set at 800mm, and ground clearance at 230mm appealed to my Kenyan instincts.
The rugged exterior might deceive someone who is about to drive the Ranger. On the contrary, the interior is cosy, sleek and modern, and car-like. It is spacious enough to accommodate a family.
The instrument cluster has a display screen that gives the driver ample information about the vehicle e.g. the volume controls, weather etc. There are Bluetooth, hotspot tethering, and a USB port.
The Ford SYNC system that utilises voice commands to activate and control certain functions of the vehicle. The driver can control the car’s climate, entertainment system and phone functions more easily than ever before. An eight-inch touch screen places more controls at the driver’s fingertips, with color-coded corners for easy menu navigation.
Breaking away from the hydraulic steering system, the electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) system is a turn on. It provides precise steering with a natural and confident grasp on the wheels. Steering is the driver’s main line of communication with the car; alteration in the control channel makes all other perception more difficult to grasp.
The Ford Ranger 2,2 TDCi XLS double cab 4×4 has a 2,2-litre, 4-cylinder, turbo diesel engine churning around 118 kW at 3 700 r/min of power and 385 N.m at 1 500 r/min of Torque.
An electronically controlled transfer case allows drivers in 4×4 models to shift on the fly from 4×2 to 4×4 high via a knob on the centre console. For low-speed torque or additional downhill control, drivers can also engage low-range 4×4 gearing, while an electronic locking rear differential helps to improve traction in difficult conditions.
The Ford team designed a very elaborate route where we covered tar, loose gravel road and the ultimate test of brawn on the sand dunes near Vleesbaai south of Mossel Bay.
The Ranger becomes the second car in the pickup category to introduce the automatic gearbox after the Mitsubishi L200 Triton. With the demand for an automatic gearbox hitting the roof, we hope to see other brands following suit.
Subscribe to his blog to get fresh content in your email.