Housing developers need to start building larger car porches for residential homes judging from the increasing preference for pickups as a family vehicle.
It was not too long ago when these pickup trucks used to be exclusive to those sun-baked construction-site workers. They would literally jump up onto these colossal grime-covered off-road sloggers, throw their hefty toolbox behind and dive head on towards the hostile muddy terrains these vehicles call home.
That visualisation of a four-wheel-drive vehicle has increasingly changed over the years as more and more families rely on them these days for their family, recreational and daily use. While it evidently remains colossal and tough in appearance, its’ comfort, interior features and capabilities have evolved substantially since.
Leveraging on modern engine technology, passenger comfort and ease of drivability, today’s pickups are equally comfortable ferrying the children around, hitting the shopping mall or accompanying the family for a weekend getaway, as they are if utilised for carrying bulky construction materials or for towing around machineries and other heavy equipment.
Echoing this growing option for car owners is the Ford Ranger 2.2L XLT. Although almost four years on since it was first unveiled to the world, this four-wheel-drive pickup remarkably still manages to preserve its contemporary overall design and balanced exterior. Its most recent tweaks were to incorporate the handy electronic stability programme as well as an added peace of mind for parents with the IsoFix device for child-seat attachment at the back row.
Driven by a 2,198cc commonrail direct injection diesel engine and managed by a 6-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode that enables manual interjection, which I relied on frequently having found the auto gear ratio too distanced between each shift, the truck was perfect for our unfavourable flood-prone city road conditions; very often resembling their off-road counterparts
Though slightly deterred by its unhurried acceleration, I did however found the truck to very responsive when it hit the higher gears. When on the wide and long expressway, I can barely tell the difference between driving a compact SUV and this pickup.
Having conducted this test drive during the recent monsoon season, the Ranger’s 233mm ground clearance and 800mm water wading depth offered plenty of assurance, notably when this vehicle was used by the writer as part of a small aid convoy that assisted in transporting food and other essential items to several communities affected by the floods in Pahang.
For its primary intended purpose of being a workhorse and with a maximum torque of 375Nm at 2,500rpm, it can comfortably handle up to 1,341kg of goods on its back and is capable of towing up to 3,350kg behind it. Alongside handy features like load sensing proportionate valve, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist and hill descent control, the Ranger is clearly designed for serious work
Seated on an 80-litre capacity fuel tank, the truck comes equipped with several features for a more lifestyle touch including auto rain sensing wiper system, electrochromatic inner rear view mirror, cruise control, remote keyless entry and a 4.2” colour display media/entertainment system incorporated with Bluetooth, USB port and voice control. It would have been a tad more impressive if the display console was larger and had more content to display on it.
Putting on the city dweller’s hat, there are a couple of trivial aspects to the car that I found wanting. First off is the comparatively smaller interior cabin space to fit in the whole family and their individual luggage, when equated to the horde of SUVs presently available.
Settled on a child-seat at the back, the hyperactive 2-yeard-old was not able to fully stretch out his legs despite mummy pushing her front seat as far front as possible. As most parents would agree, on an extended journey, an uncomfortable and disgruntled kid is the last thing you need at the back of car.
Possibly just a personal aversion or most likely unfamiliarity with such vehicles, another grouse I had was the distinctive smell and slight clattering emitted from its diesel engine. Adding these mundane whimpers together with the lack of a rear-view reverse camera – vital for such as lofty vehicle – are what prevented me from instantaneously trading in my timeworn jalopy for this RM99,465 ride.