Giant utility vehicle looks after – and thrills – its drivers and passengers
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak, at something over 5m long, is never going to be friends with a poky little off-street parkade in central Cape Town. Still, its blind-spot sensors and cameras mean it can see everything you can’t from your elevated position in the driver’s seat, and a quick 12-point turn later, you’re settled.
The huge muscle-car feel is great, as is the open road acceleration that comes with it, but all that manliness is rather undermined by the myriad small touches that mean alpha male drivers get help they’ll swear they don’t need. For instance, the wing mirrors are already the size of occasional tables, but that’s not enough, evidently. There are also ‘Blind Spot Monitor’ lights that blaze yellow-orange when anyone has the temerity to pass you on either side, which – provided your ego is not bruised – make directing something as large as the Wildtrak through heavy traffic, particularly when most other vehicles are below your sightline (especially low-profile sports cars no one can afford to accidentally obliterate), pretty easy. The dashboard-mounted infotainment screen – all 12 inches (ooh!) of it – requires less squinting than usual when navigating criss-crossing CBD streets that are sometimes so narrow that the GPS map feels lifesize. Easy reading of that map and hardly having to move your head to take it all in means minimum stress when heading into areas you’re unfamiliar with.
Other features likely designed to reduce stress might have a slightly opposite effect. When using the adaptive cruise control, the car makes small steering corrections thanks to a lane-keeping system that detects where the edge of the road and the lines of paint are. If you’re not expecting this, the first sign that the system is on is when the steering wheel moves in your hands as the Wildtrak decides that your line around a broad curve is tighter than it’d like. Given that this mode also keeps you the same distance from the car in front whatever speed they’re Giant utility vehicle looks after – and thrills – its drivers and passengers The Ford Ranger Wildtrak, at something over 5m long, is never going to be friends with a poky little off-street parkade in central Cape Town. Still, its blind-spot sensors and cameras mean it can see everything you can’t from your elevated position in the driver’s seat, and a quick 12-point turn later, you’re settled.
driving at, speeding up and slowing down as your fellow driver does, it feels like the car is self-driving. But don’t take all this assistance for granted – at all. If you experimentally take your hands off the wheel in a slow section along the way, a stern message immediately lights up the dashboard: “Keep your hands on the steering wheel!” Which is as it should be, after all – try telling the officer at the roadblock that you were trying your best to drive properly but the steering wheel kept doing its own thing. You’ll get a breathalyser test along with your erratic driving warning… It’s a bit like the early stages of a relationship: the Ford is happy to do its bit but it wants to sense that you’re making at least a reasonable effort.
Help and happiness
After dark, the vehicle’s congregation of cameras kick in with a whole new set of duties. Start the engine in comparative gloom and the headlights come on automatically and flick to powerful high-beams if there is sufficient darkness to merit it, immediately switching back to normal when the cameras detect a glimmer in front that could be the lights of an oncoming car (or perhaps streetlights or
other additional illumination). Again, for drivers who like being in control and savouring the response of their vehicles to each adjustment and action they make, such features may take a bit of the joy out of the driving experience. But they also cover a number of bases that sometimes get missed, or at least slightly misjudged, when those behind the wheel are a little fatigued or in a rush, so the value of the removal of all that risk shouldn’t be underestimated. And ultimately, the drive comfort, the engine’s response when encouraged and the low whistle of appreciation from the guy passing as you pause in a beautiful avenue to photograph the Ranger against leaves that complement its distinctive orange-gold paintwork all underline one conclusion: this is a very fine car capable of meeting more needs than were required on this trip (the 1,200ℓ cargo box is not needed for my small travel bag, and my itinerary required staying on the tarmac, so the 4×4 has the weekend off).
Text and Photography | Bruce Dennill
For more information about the Ford Ranger Wildtrak,
go to ford.co.za.