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First drive: Ford Ranger Thunder – on sale now


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What an improvement Ford has made with its new Ranger pick-up, which it launched last month.

It is noticeably more refined to drive and considerably more powerful than its predecessor, which AM tested last December and found lacking. Thanks to a new 2.5-litre Duratorq TDCi engine, new Ranger’s power is up by 34bhp and torque is increased by 76lb ft.

The engine is altogether more refined than the old model’s, and its new cooling system and stiffer engine mounts mean less intrusive noise in the cabin.

Service intervals are now 12,500 miles, and combined cycle fuel efficiency has improved by almost 7mpg over the old model.

The double-cab we tested has a maximum towing capacity of 3,000kg, 200kg more than its predecessor and bettering than both the Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara. Its gross payload remains 1,175kg, and the improvements to its braking system means buyers may be more likely to make use of this.

In fact, the only weakness that remains from the old model is the 12.6m turning circle, which makes manoeuvring it around small car parks and mini-roundabouts quite a challenge. Still, buyers cannot expect a vehicle of this size and off-road ability to turn on a sixpence.

The double-cab Ranger we tested was in range-topping Thunder specification, which pushes its price almost £7,000 above the entry-level Ranger, which is more utilitarian than lifestyle orientated. However, Thunder is far from poor value – it’s cheaper than its top-spec rivals, the Nissan Navara Outlaw and the Mitsubishi L200 Animal.

For the money, buyers get a stylish metallic finish which, when combined with the chrome grille and exterior details and 16in alloys, gives it a real presence. Inside, it’s a pleasant enough environment too, as leather seats, a leather and chrome steering wheel, two-tone instrument panel and decent in-dash CD-changer create an almost car-like atmosphere. Thunder also has off-road gauges mounted on top of the dash, to indicate rate of incline, roll and compass heading.

While these seem superfluous for every day they are a useful safety feature for off-road action. We found the rear parking sensors unreliable. Sometimes they alerted only when within inches of an obstacle, and on others they remained silent when the rear touched a hedge.

Ranger has almost caught up with its Japanese competition, but it still isn’t ready to overtake them.

Price: £13,688-20,503
Engines: 2.5-litre TDCi: 141bhp
Performance: 0-62mph 11sec (est); top speed 110mph (est)
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Efficiency: Not available
CAP RV: Not available
Rivals: Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi L200, Mazda B, Toyota HiLux


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