The Wildtrak X brings the number of Ford Ranger variants currently available to seven. The X is essentially an off-road centric Ranger Wildtrak.
There are a few exterior mods including a unique grille with integrated auxiliary LED lamps, ‘matrix C-Clamp LED headlamps’ as well as a new steel bash plate up front.
The wheels are X specific too, the 17s with a machined finish and they come wrapped in General Grabber AT3 All-Terrain tyres that look suitably off-road ready.
You also get wheel arch mouldings and cast aluminium side steps.
The X is only available with the 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel but here it gets Ford’s full-time AWD set-up that is otherwise reserved for the V6 model locally.
It comes with the usual 2H, 4H and 4L, along with the 4A for Auto mode, the centre diff shuffling torque front and rear as needs dictate.
There’s revised suspension too with a set of Bilstein dampers, complete with external oil reservoirs, and new springs. Together with the wheels and wider tyres, they give the X an extra 26mm of ground clearance and a 30mm increase in track.
At $80,990, the Wildtrak X is $5K more than the bi-turbo Wildtrak, which seems fairly reasonable as along with the off-road upgrades it also comes with Ford’s ‘flexible rack system’.
On the roof is a folding rack set-up, similar to what the Subaru Outback has had in place for years, with cross bars that can be stowed in the rails.
So when they aren’t required, they can be folded away (a job that takes no more than 30 seconds) where they then can’t generate that annoying wind noise that’s associated with conventional roof racks.
The other novel feature is the sliding load rack on the back. This looks like your usual sports bar when it’s positioned up against the cab, but the whole unit can slide along the top of the wellside, locking into place before a third cross bar pops up from the top of this rack, allowing you to then secure a longer load like a ladder or a canoe for the adventurous.
There are five positions along the wellside that this can lock into, depending on the length of your load.
It’s a fairly robust mechanism, and it’s easily manoeuvred into place (a little jiggling required occasionally) while you can do it all solo as there release levers for both the rack and crossbar on either side of the truck.
It’s a smart system, rated to hold 80kg. The X also features the Wildtrak’s sliding tray cover, which can be opened remotely via the key fob, as well as via a button in both the tray and the cabin.
The interior also gets a boost with a 12.4-inch digital cluster offering more options when it comes to customising the layout, including one with a tacho and speedo for those traditional types.
The 12-inch portrait-style screen dominates the dash, giving both the nav map and surround camera plenty of display space. They’ve also added a handy shortcut button to quickly bring said camera online, which is helpful when trying to park these big things. Previously, this required a few taps on the screen to achieve.
The cabin also gets spruced up with some added ‘Miko suede and leather accented seats’ and ‘soft-touch Terra Suede wrap’. This however doesn’t quite fit with the off-road character of the X. Surely hose-out vinyl floor coverings and washable canvas-like seat trim would be better?
This gives us the impression that the buyer of this truck is keener on the idea of going bush than actually doing so. For the 99 per cent of the time this truck will spend on the road, the X is all okay.
The General Grabber rubber looks rugged but the actual tread blocks aren’t all that chunky. And so there’s none of the dreaded mud-plugger rumble on the road here. Compared with the regular Wildtrak, which runs a Goodyear Wrangler 255/65 R18 AT, the Grabber is a little wider and taller, but not to the detriment of handling.
The X still holds on nicely in the bends with no untoward howling from the rubber and there’s no great sidewall flex corrupting the turn in.
We didn’t venture off road in this, our usual haunts for mucking about still muddy quagmires. And while off roaders relish recovering vehicles stuck in the mud up to their door handles, we’re not so keen.
With its Bilstein dampers in charge, it’s composed on loose surfaces as it smoothes over deep corrugations of your typical gravel road and brushes off gnarly potholes better than the regular Wildtrak.
Trawling through the burbs, the ride is a little better than in the regular truck but there’s still some shake and shimmy from its full chassis, live-axle set-up. It’s not as settled as a coil-sprung Ranger Raptor, which is sublime in ute terms, and the X doesn’t glide over speed bumps as well either.
The steering remains light and easy, while the 2.0-litre provides ample pull for most occasions and the ten-speed auto is quick and effective with its shifting. Figure on fuel use ranging from 8L/100km for motorway/highway cruising, to around 12L/100km for urban use.
So the choice of which top-end Ranger to buy is now more difficult given the step from the Wildtrak to the X is not that great. We however would somehow find the extra for the new $86,490 bi-turbo Raptor as we have nothing substantial to tow.
And that’s the reason for the Wildtrak X; it has a bit more visual presence and off-road ability while still retaining the Ranger’s full 3500kg braked towing capacity.
|Ford Ranger Wildtrak X
|Clean Car Discount
|Fee – $6900
|1996cc IL4 / T / TDI
|10-speed auto, AWD
This article first appeared in the November 2023 issue of NZ Autocar magazine.