Ford Ranger XL Sport: Not just a pretty face

Ford Ranger XL Sport, not just a pretty face

Still reeling from the high of an exhilarating 4×4 off-roading adventure in the Ford Ranger XL, someone said to me: “I would never be able to drive those roads! Just the thought of driving on gravel scares me, let alone climbing mountains in a 4×4.”

The truth is we are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. How would you know what you are capable of unless you try? Imagine how much of life you’d let slip through your hands if you didn’t take a leap of faith and just do it.

The year 2020 gave us everything but adventure. So the idea of exploring the spectacular backroads of South Africa from Hoedspruit to Johannesburg in the Ford Ranger XL Sport Pack was a welcomed adventure.

The upgrades to the exterior are easy to spot – a slick gloss black front grille and sporty 17-inch black allow wheels shift add a refreshing touch.

The new slick gloss black front grille.

Inside, an optional 8-inch touchscreen introduces Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the range.

The question on everyone’s mind is what makes the sport pack different? It’s a change Ford was hoping to make earlier in the year, and then lockdown derailed their plans. The main reason is to add affordable flair to the vehicle. We all need a little extra pazazz right about now.

The infotainment system is a new addition.

“The Ranger XL is our value-oriented offering that suits a wide variety of applications, from the hard-working Single Cab with its spacious loadbox, the practical SuperCab that provides additional storage capacity behind the front seats, or the comfortable Double Cab that is equally suited to business or family use,” says Doreen Mashinini, General Manager Marketing at FMCSA.

A further addition is a tubular sports bar in the rear load compartment, and a black rear bumper. In truth the upgrade is superficial.

As with any Ford Ranger, the real respect is earned when it effortlessly traverses rocks, loose gravel and adverse road conditions to give you a superior ride. Travelling from Mpumalanga to Limpopo along the backroads enables you to understand the integrity of all the features.

With 30 steep kilometres of pure off-road pleasure, the Orrie Baragwanath Pass in Limpopo snakes through the Lekgamaleetse Nature Reserve and is the perfect playground to test out the Ford Ranger.

The road is only suitable for 4×4 vehicles and off-road bikes in both directions. The terrain is treacherous but the view from the top is worth every bump in the road. A simple turn of a dial takes the bakkie to from 2H to 4H, which enables the wheels to turn slower and engage higher torque to deal with a tougher terrain. The ranger pummels over rocks and cuts through the dirt effortlessly. Hold on tight though, the ride is anything but smooth – but smooth is not what we came for. The grip is remarkable and the vehicle pushes ahead over the most challenging areas of the pass. When we reach the top, there is complete silence at the indescribable beauty of the view before us. Rifts and valleys fill out the landscape for as far as can meet the eye. Nature is breathtaking. And then a deep appreciation for the ranger that brought us here to experience this.

Navigating the Orrie Baragwanath Pass in Limpopo.

On the way down we slink along narrow roads next to a sheer drop all the way to the bottom – it is invigorating to coax the 4-wheel drive around unknown corners and dusty roads. You experience a huge sense of accomplishment when you finally hit tar again.

In short, the Ford Ranger XL Sport does exactly what it says it will. It is everything you want in an affordable 4×4. With off-road capabilities, bin space to execute a profitable business and space to lug around the kids and dogs, it is a win.

The Sport Pack adds a few touches you couldn’t otherwise afford in the more expensive models, so of course it is a welcome addition. It is priced at R522 300 for a double cab 4×4, which is affordable for it’s durability and versatility.

The Ranger XL is powered by Ford’s proven, economical 2.2-litre four-cylinder Duratorq TDCi engine which produces 118kW of power, along with 385Nm of torque from 1 500 to 2 500 r/min.

The Single Cab and SuperCab models are available in two and four-wheel drive specification mated to a six-speed manual transmission, or a six-speed automatic in the 4×2 derivative. The Ranger XL Double Cab can be specified in 4×2 or 4×4 versions, with both available in manual or automatic.

The XL Sport Pack adds R16,500 to the base price of the Ranger XL series, while the optional eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system and dealer-fitted side steps are available for R6,080 and R5,050, respectively, VAT inclusive.

Full specs and prices available here.

Pictures: Nidha Narrandes and supplied