Call it a “Raptor Lite” if you will, the new Ford Ranger Wildtrak X aims to hit a sweet spot for those wanting more off-road capability, but without splashing out on Ford’s wild flagship bakkie.
The new edition is available exclusively with Ford’s 2.0-litre BiTurbo engine and at R1,013,000 it commands a premium of R88,000 over the regular Wildtrak model and undercuts the V6 Wildtrak by R13,400.
But this is not just a special edition with a few fancy stickers.
For starters the Wildtrak X gains a significantly revised long-travel suspension system complete with Bilstein dampers. It also boasts a 30mm wider track and the ground clearance has been raised by 26mm.
This gives it the same 32 degree approach angle as the Raptor, while slotting between the latter and the regular Wildtrak with its 24 degree break-over and departure angles.
The Wildtrak X is also the first four-cylinder Ranger to feature Ford’s on-demand four-wheel drive system with “4A” mode, as well as a nifty feature called Trail Turn Assist.
And if that wasn’t enough to convince you that this Ranger edition is serious about off-roading, it also comes with unique 17-inch alloys fitted with General Grabber AT3 all-terrain tyres.
As per the Wildtrak, Ford’s new Flexible Rack System is available as a R19,000 option for the load bin, featuring a sliding sports bar that can be locked into five positions along the load bed, making it easy to load things like canoes or surf boards. When doing that you’ll also want to slot the roof rack in place, which you can do with bars that cleverly fold out of the roof rails and swing perpendicularly.
We put these rack mechanisms to good use on the local launch in the Upington area, where we transported an inflatable dinghy to a gorgeous section of the Orange River, from our overnight accommodation at the Tutwa Lodge.
Getting to the lodge entailed a long stretch of dirt road that didn’t feel very long thanks to the Ranger’s comfortable cruising ability. Even at higher speeds it feels remarkably stable on the dirt, with 4A dialled in for that added safety margin, and the ride quality was comfortable on all surfaces.
We didn’t miss the V6 engine either as the 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel, with 154kW and 500Nm, provides comfortable performance and once again we were impressed by its overall refinement. This vehicle feels more like an SUV than a bakkie.
Although the launch schedule didn’t include any hardcore off-roading - this vehicle’s credentials and our previous experiences with the Ranger leave us in no doubt that it’s hugely capable in the rough stuff.
Ford’s adventure guru, Gideo Basson of Red Moon Adventures, did use the little ‘kuier’ by the riverside to demonstrate the new Trail Turn Assist gizmo. When activated, it brakes the inner rear wheel to significantly improve the turning circle while off-roading, something that’s sorely needed in modern 4x4s given how big most of them have become.
Inherited from the Raptor is Ford’s Trail Control system, which looks after your throttle and braking movements in rough terrain.
As I said earlier, the Wildtrak X is not just some sticker and bullbar edition, but Ford has given it more than just a few styling enhancements in any case.
These include a unique “off-road” grille with Asphalt black surround, Cyber Orange accent and integrated auxiliary lights. A steel bash plate and aluminium side steps are fitted too, while black Ford oval badges and Wildtrak lettering across the bonnet are further tell-tale signs to the eagle-eyed.
Oh, and it has the obligatory Wildtrak X badges on the front doors and bonnet.
The cabin receives some unique decor too, including Miko suede and leather seat trim with Wildtrak X embroidery, and Cyber Orange contrast stitching, which you’ll also find on the steering wheel, doors, gear shifter and upper glovebox. The latter, along with the instrument cowl, also has Terra suede trim to lend a more luxurious feel to the interior.
Electronics come in the form of the familiar 12-inch vertical touchcreen with Sync 4A infotainment system and wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, and sound is provided by a 10-speaker B&O premium sound system.
Those overlanding adventures are made easier by a built-in 400W/240v inverter, with outlets in the cabin and load bay, and an overhead auxiliary switch pack for aftermarket accessories.
So what’s the verdict?
The Wildtrak X is good at both low-speed off-roading and high-speed cruising on a variety of surfaces. It also comes with some very tempting toys and though not cheap at just over R1-million, it does offer a lot for the money when you compare it to the equivalent Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok models.
The optional service plan is a downside, however.