Off The Track: 2022 Ford Ranger Launch & First Drive

The Ford Ranger, no matter where you live in New Zealand, you probably know someone who owns one or possibly own one yourself. It has been the nation’s best-selling car for a number of years, becoming an instantly recognizable silhouette in the process. Filling boots like these is not an easy task to say the least.

So, Ford New Zealand invited us down to Havelock North in the Hawke’s Bay to see and drive the new 2022 Ford Ranger and deduce if it could fill the boots of the outgoing model.

Two new Ford Rangers, a blue XLT Bi-Turbo and a gold Wildtrak flanking a white Transit van that brought us to the venue.
Our mode of transport flanked by the new Ranger

You join me on a Thursday morning where an 8AM flight would take me down to Napier where I would be greeted by the Ford team and the other journalists who travelled there. A quick bus ride to pick up some more journos and then we were off to Outfoxed. After asking around, I deduced that it was an outdoor events venue which hosts weddings, functions etc but this time it would play host to something a little muddier!

A 2022 Blue Ford Ranger XLT BiTurbo in a muddy field
A 2022 Ford Ranger XLT in all its muddy glory!

After stocking up on caffeine, we made the short stroll down to the Clifton County Cricket Club to be subject to “death by powerpoint” as Simon Rutherford, MD of Ford NZ put it. Actually, Simon promised he wouldn’t put us through that and neither did he or any of the Ford team who had travelled from Australia. We were briefed by managers from the design and engineering departments of Ford Australia who talked to us about the thought processes behind the finished Ranger we were about to drive.

A new 2022 Ford Everest in blue
We were able to get a sneak peek of the 2022 Ford Everest!

The summary from NZ is that Ford have taken more than 5,000 orders for the new Ranger (5,055 precisely), over 50% of which are for the V6 powered cars! However, delivery of the V6 engined cars is scheduled for next year which should make the Bi-Turbo a more popular option going forward. 691 Ranger Raptors have been ordered as well as 370 orders for the new Everest which hasn’t even been launched yet!

We were then briefed by Leigh Cosentino who is the ‘Design Manager’ for Ford Australia. He talked us through the reasoning behind the stylistic touches to the new Ranger. A highlight of which is the fascia which has seen a massive update to align it with the Ford design seen on the F-150 and F-series trucks. Various grooves and curves have been accentuated to prove it isn’t just a boxy ute while the E-shifter and larger infotainment screen serve as a testament to the technological leap the interior has seen. Ian Foston who is the T6 Chief Platform Engineer would go on to explain to us the benefits of the new SYNC 4A system which offers wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, there’s a 360 degree camera as well and Ford Pass has been upgraded to include features like Zone Lighting which allows you to activate lights on the exterior of the car when setting up camp at night!

Photo of the tailgate on the new Ford Ranger XLT
The new Ford Ranger has undergone thorough testing to say the least

Ian would also go on to tell us about the new definition of ‘Ford Tough’. In testing, the 2022 Ranger was subject to the equivalent of 1,250,000km worth of customer driving! In addition to this, there was more than 10,000km worth of desert driving and 625,000km of off-road durability driving. The Ranger was tested in temperatures varying from -50 degrees Celsius and up to 50 degrees Celsius. All this was proof of the new ‘truck durability standard’ that Ford have employed in their testing. Wow!

A new Ford Ranger Wiltrak in silver parked in front of an old Ford Ranger FX4 in grey
The 2022 Ranger satisfies a much higher standard of ‘Ford Tough’ than the outgoing model

There’s also 6 new drive modes which is a first for the Ranger, a new automatic 4WD system also varies the power bias based on the mode of the car (2WD, 4WD high range & 4WD low range).

The list of improvements is a mile long and you’d be here for a whole weekend if I had to tell you everything but I have a statement that should give you the gist. When I was speaking to Ian later on and I said the new Ranger “was like a completely different car” to which he responded by correcting me and saying “No, it IS a completely different car”!

Following our briefing session, it was time for us to fuel up before we went out for a drive. By fuel up, I mean eat of course! The chef had cooked up an amazing variety which included a beautiful butter chicken curry, ham & cheese sandwich and a sausage roll that was quite simply out of this world. It was just as well that we had a driving workout coming up, even though the cars would be doing the heavy lifting!

A line of 2022 Ford Ranger models including Wiltrak, Bi-Turbo and painted in grey, black, silver and blue.
The line-up of Rangers beckoning to be driven

For our off-road drive, we would be guided by our old friends, Downforce! The team gave us an initial safety briefing which meant we basically had to follow the voice on the intercom. Fair enough, so off we went. My first stint was in the base spec Ranger 4×4 which even had steel wheels! There were no drive modes in this one, just a low-range gearbox and rear differential lock to help me get unstuck if needed. Safe to say, it worked out brilliantly. I enjoyed the rugged feeling that the base model offered and the fact that it could keep up with the more advanced models when the going got tricky.

At our first stopping point, I transferred over to a Ranger Wildtrak which offers a huge leap in both creature comforts and off-road tech. There’s even a soft pad on the top of the door because Ranger drivers tend to rest their arm there! The other noticeable difference is in the cabin insulation, you can barely hear a whisper from the 3L turbo diesel V6 in the Wildtrak and even on gravel roads, it is begrudgingly quiet. The larger, more feature laden infotainment screen is another added bonus here.

Picture of a Ford Ranger side view mirror showing a fleet of 2022 Ford Rangers going-off road in Havelock North, New Zealand
“Roads? Where we’re going, we won’t need roads”

We really did explore every type of surface on the drive including gravel, mud, pebbles and water of course! And no matter what Ranger I was in, be it the Wildtrak, Sport, Bi-Turbo or the base spec variant, they all handled the course with no trouble at all. Over the course of that one hour drive, we were really able to put the Ranger through its paces uphill, downhill and using only three wheels on occasion!

A white 2022 Ford Ranger Wildtrak going off-road with one wheel suspended off the ground. Photo taken in Havelock North, New Zealand
A Ranger Wildtrak briefly turning into a three-wheeler

The only direction left to travel in was sideways and so we did! After returning back to base at Outfoxed, we broke off into groups for some more driving and I keenly raised my hand to plough some fields (cough) paddock bashing (cough). We entered the field and awaited our safety briefing as the team of instructors tried to list what we might learn from going sideways in a muddy field. In the end, they settled on it being a good way to teach us how protected we really are by this new age off-road tech.

Paddock bashing in a 2022 Ford Ranger Bi-Turbo in grey. Photo taken in Havelock North, New Zealand
Said field was well and truly ploughed during the process

And they were absolutely right! We had the cars in 2WD mode with stability control and traction control turned off, there was a lot of sliding as you can imagine. Moving laterally, I was marveling at how much grip and control the 4WD system & differential lock had offered us during our off-road run earlier. The difference was night and day! Speaking of the darkness, the sun was setting quickly and I needed photos.

A 2022 Ford Ranger 4x4 going sideways in a muddy field under rainbow. Photo taken at Outfoxed, Havelock North, New Zealand
The pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow

So, I hopped in a blue Ranger Bi-Turbo with Fred & Greg (fellow journos) and we headed back to a relatively deep stream where we did some wading. Traversing through the water, I got a great feel of the Ranger’s ability to navigate the really slippery stuff. I am not an experienced off-roader but wow, the technology in the Ranger certainly turned this novice into an at least passable driver. Using a mixture of diff-lock and the four wheel drive system, we were able to get ourselves in an out of an increasingly slippery steam. A useful adventure all around because we also got some photos from it!

A 2022 Ford Ranger Bi-Turbo wading through a stream in Havelock North, New Zealand
Giving new meaning to the phrase ‘going for a dip’

After giving the blue Ranger a “natural” car wash, we traversed onto what was a true representation of pebble beach to take some photos. The blue is certainly my pick of the bunch as it really accentuates all those “muscular, powerful and robust” lines that Leigh highlighted to us before. The embossed Ranger badging on the rear as well as the side step are other new headline improvements to the exterior of the new car. The face is also worth talking about as “c-clamp” LEDs have made the Ranger more identifiable as a part of the Ford truck family and a sibling of the F-series range.

The c-clamp is also a design element that inspired the rear LED taillights as well as the AC vents!

Front three quarters view of a 2022 Ford Ranger bi-turbo in blue. Photographed on a beach in Havelock North, New Zealand
Ranger now looks more like a Ford truck family member

After spending the entire afternoon behind the wheel, it was time to head off this track and onto the next for dinner back at Outfoxed. Wolfing down some excellent roast pork gave me a good chance to reflect on the day and marvel at the 2022 Ford Ranger. It is seriously excellent not just at off-roading but also at being a usable daily driver. Especially in the Wildtrak model, there’s no engine or road noise and it has all the creature comforts you might need or want.

A group of 2022 Ford Rangers in various colours and specifications parked at Outfoxed, Havelock North, New Zealand
The troop of 2022 Rangers back at Outfoxed

Back at Outfoxed, we enjoyed a warm dinner by a beautiful crackling fire which kept us removed from the cold. Chatting to the Ford New Zealand team, it was clear to see that a lot of work had gone into mapping out this event for us and it clearly showed! I was deflated by the end of the day but in a good way, it felt like one of those days where I had accomplished something. In fact, it felt like I had climbed Everest (only joking)! After some great chatter with dinner and a stunning sunset, we hopped back in the van to be driven to our accommodation in Havelock North. Porters Boutique Hotel would serve as our recharge station for the night.

Sunset over the hills at Outfoxed, Havelock North, New Zealand
What a way to end the day!

An early breakfast at Maina Cafe the next morning brought out some tired faces decorated with beaming smiles. The launch event was an excellent intro to the fantastic new 2022 Ford Ranger and I absolutely cannot wait to review it!

A special thanks to the team at Ford New Zealand for hosting a very memorable launch event.

Thanks for reading! For more Ford news and reviews, visit Tarmac Life.

Words and pictures by Matthew D’Souza.

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