JUST two years ago, hapless “investors” were throwing ridiculous amounts of money at the last Land Rover Defender models coming down the production line.
But it’s far better to put money into something sensible that you won’t be afraid to use, such as the latest Ford Ranger pick-up.
The Ranger is as tough as you like and Ford has enhanced the deals for it by adding it to its scrappage scheme that has been extended into the first quarter of 2018.
That means that if you have some dog-eared old car, van, or pick-up registered before December 31, 2010, you can get a sweeter deal on your Ranger by getting the remnants of your runaround to your Ford dealer provided you have owned it for at least 90 days and your new Ranger is registered in the same surname and address as your old banger!.
That sounds like a really good way to start the year with a 4×4 investment, one that will pay you back with a tough approach to hard work.
A bit like the famous chocolate bar, it will help you work, rest, and play with the advantage of not putting any weight on. Even so, weight is not something to worry the Ranger. It can carry up to almost 1.3 tonnes and pull 3.5 tonnes of braked trailer with a noseweight of 220 kgs, far beefier than your average car.
That makes it ideal for very tough tasks – one Ranger driver I know of has done 44,000 miles in his year-old example with much of that distance pulling a heavily laden trailer around the country delivering vehicles. That’s demanding work that anything fragile could never cope with and underlines the Ranger’s appetite for work.
Of course, not everyone needs to pull that much weight and for them there’s the option of a higher final drive ratio. It increases fuel economy but cuts the towing capacity to 1.8 tonnes which, let’s face it, is still a very heavy caravan or horsebox.
If you take the big guns approach to your 4×4 motoring, then maybe it’s the five cylinder, 3.2 litre turbodiesel for you. With 200 PS and 470 Nm of torque (347 lb ft for those working in old money) there’s serious power on tap. While you’re likely to notice 3.5 tonnes on the towbar, if only because the trailer is so obvious in your rear view mirror, the overall effect on daily driving will be minimal.
Couple that engine to the optional six speed automatic gearbox and driving for work becomes effortless. The auto box, which offers manual override, also helps with off-road traction because gear changes never involve a loss of traction as can happen momentarily with a manual box when the clutch is dipped.
The auto Ranger also has the wonderful ability to walk itself over rough terrain in high range first gear while the driver simply points it in the right direction.
Naturally, there’s also a low range on 4×4 versions as well as the option for two-wheel rear wheel drive on-road. Selection is controlled by a rotary knob and can be done at up to 62mph between 4×2 and 4×4 high range. Ground clearance is just over nine inches while wading depth at 800mm will make non-swimmers feel easier about taking to water. Of course, deep, swift-flowing water should not be tackled by the inexperienced while standing water should always be checked for sudden troughs or hidden obstacles.
Fuel economy averaging around 29mpg, despite plenty of off-road gadding about on the tracks of Salisbury Plain to facilitate watching a fantastic gathering of hundreds of thousands of starlings in a remote gorse patch, was very good. It could be enhanced by fitting one of the many options for the rear deck, from a full hard top to a load cover, any of which would smooth the profile of that huge load box and prevent the tailgate acting as an airbrake.
Interior comfort was excellent, with space for five passengers and, on the Limited test vehicle from Edwards Ford in Salisbury, built-in heating for the leather front seats, as much electronic gadgetry as anyone could wish for, and a heating and ventilation system that didn’t require opening up slats in the front bulkhead.
There was no need to drive in waterproofs to avoid the leaks that always plagued Defenders, and the Ranger is just as versatile as the old Land Rover in terms of how it can be equipped.
It truly is a shire horse for weekdays and a thoroughbred for weekends.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Ford Ranger Limited 3.2 Duratorq TDCi automatic
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 10.6 secs
Top speed: 109 mph
PS: 200 @ rpm
Torque: 470 Nm @ 1500 – 2750 rpm
…and your wallet…
Price: £33,924 (or £28,336 plus VAT)
Combined: 32.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 231 g/km
Best bits: easily ranges as far and wide as you like