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Ford Ranger Thunder 2.5 Duratorq TDCi Double Cab 4x4

Click to view picture gallery“Despite taking a big hit in 2007
10 years of significant growth
  as ‘lifestyle
vehicles, pick-ups like
Fords new Ranger Thunder can
still handle function and fashion

PICK-UP SALES TOOK A BIG HIT in 2007 when the tax-grabbing Treasury upped the pick-up's 700 Benefit-in-Kind taxation level to 3,000. The increase in personal taxation for company car users, the reduction in lifestyle use (partly down to the recession), high running costs and perhaps owners losing their love-affair with 4x4s meant sales dropped by 38% in 2008 and this year they are down by another 30%.

But life goes on and long planned model changes still take place despite the market conditions. So the new Ford Ranger models are now ready for private, business or workhorse customers. With prices from 13,400 excluding VAT (15,410 with VAT) up to 25,127, the Ranger line-up is huge although there are just two diesel engine options. The majority of models are available with the 2.5-litre 141bhp/243lb ft TDCi turbodiesel engine but the luxury lifestyle Wildtrak version uses a 3.0-litre 154bhp/280lb ft diesel unit.

The most popular model in the new line-up will be the Thunder 2.5 Double Cab priced at 22,540. This model will account for around 45% of sales and will appeal to private customers as well as business users and to commercial operators who want a stylish and well equipped vehicle, even for work use. And, of course, having five seats with access through four doors is good for either family or work use.

Electrically-operated windows, air conditioning, privacy glass, leather seat trim, heated front seats, 16-inch alloy wheels and a loadbed liner and sidewall protector means this model will meet all needs. The all important loadbed length doesn't come up short either at 1,530mm — the longest in its class.

Commercial users or mud-larkin' families might well think the cheaper XL or XLT versions (still with electrically-operated windows and mirrors and air conditioning for the XLT) suit their needs just as well, and their functional interior surfaces will be easier to clean and more durable.

All models have a payload of 1,000kg and all 4x4 versions have a braked towing capacity of 3,000kg: ideal for caravan or boat towing by retail owners or trailer lugging for business and commercial users.

The new range offers real power and distinctive muscular styling but in common with Ford's latest passenger cars the interior quality and specification has been increased significantly.

Ride comfort seems to have been improved as have the road manners. The evolution of steering and suspension performance means the Ranger Double Cab can now compete with most affordable SUV 4x4s as a realistic alternative when load and people carrying plus towing ability are important requirements. The 2.5-litre unit is strong and responsive — quiet as well. The 3.0-litre unit is more of the same and perhaps handles the taller fuel and CO2-saving fifth gear better on country roads.

Whilst the Ranger's on-road driving manners have improved, the greatest improvement has come from the vehicle's off-road abilities. With two- or four-wheel drive and with high or low ratio gear selection and a new anti-stall low engine speed system, the Ranger can crawl up and down significantly steep, muddy and rocky tracks as well as ford water up to 750mm in depth. During some driving on and off road in Scotland recently, this is where the newcomer impressed the most. It appears that Ford, during their past ownership of Land Rover, learnt one or two tricks about off-roading capabilities.

Over five metres long and with a wide turning circle, the Ranger is difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces. But that's about the only real criticism. In its favour, the Ranger has smart styling (still truck-like but it looks good), improved quality inside and out, a comprehensive car-like specification, good road and much improved off-road performance, an anti-stall feature for serious off road work, a practical long loadbed length and huge 3,000kg towing capability. — David Miles

Ford Ranger Thunder 2.5 Duratorq TDCi Double Cab 4x4
| 22,540
Maximum speed: 98mph | 0-60mph: 12.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 30.4mpg
Power: 141bhp | Torque: 243lb ft | CO2 225g/km | Insurance group 14A