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Ford Ranger Sport 2.0-litre four-cylinder 2023 review

Available V6 engines have claimed much of the attention surrounding the new Ford Ranger – but the improved two-litre unit is more than adequate for most

Good points

  • Significantly improved auto
  • Premium interior materials
  • Best steering of any ute
  • Reasonably settled ride
  • Harder-edged styling
  • Inexpensive servicing

Needs work

  • Lives in the V6’s shadow…
  • …and lacks its always-on 4WD
  • Pricier than key rivals
  • Long braking distance
  • Sport lacks heated seats

All the rage with the new Ford Ranger surrounds its newly-available V6 diesel engine, at last bringing Ford’s well-regarded dual-cab ute in line with the outgoing Volkswagen Amarok for grunt.

However, with the impressive 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel from the previous PX Mk III Ranger carrying over, with minor adjustments, to the new T6.2 generation, do you really need to spend $3000 more on the six-cylinder?

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The simple answer is that you’ll probably want to – but that you needn’t feel short-changed if you can’t bear the long wait times for the V6 drivetrain, or if you’re given a biturbo four-cylinder Ranger through work. The two-litre is still a better engine than you get on virtually any rival.

Month of test: August 2022
Location of test: Sydney, Australia
Base price (MRLP): $63,690
As-tested price: $65,665
Options fitted: Meteor Grey paint ($675) Touring pack: 360º camera, zone lighting ($900)
Spray-in bed liner ($400)

In our first taste of a two-litre T6.2 Ranger, we borrowed a Sport trim ($63,690 before on-road costs). A recurring special edition in previous-ten form, the Sport is now an ongoing series-production vehicle and a permanent part of the new Ranger line-up.

Our car was painted in the handsome hue of Meteor Grey ($675). It was fitted with a spray-in bed liner in lieu of the standard drop-in job ($400), and the ute was further optioned with a touring pack ($900) that adds a very useful 360-degree parking camera and bright ‘zone lighting’ around the ute that really does illuminate the immediate vicinity in the dark.

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While the core bones of the previous Ranger are still present under the new car, myriad adjustments and refinements have been made – to the point where the ute could be passed off as all-new.

It’s not just the thoroughly modern new cabin or the fitment of many new safety features – it’s also the stance of the vehicle, which has a wider track and also sees the front wheels relocated 50mm closer to the front of the body.

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Perhaps the biggest elephant in the room, temporarily, for the $63K–and–change Ranger Sport two-litre is that the outgoing Volkswagen Amarok V6 can be had in premium Highline guise for about the same money – but that car doesn’t have rear airbags, AEB, adaptive cruise control, a large touchscreen … the list goes on.

With the old Amarok in effective run-out, the Ranger Sport 2.0’s ongoing rivals will be the Toyota Hilux SR5 automatic ($61,930 before on-road costs), the Nissan Navara ST-X ($58,270), the Isuzu D-Max LS-U ($61,000), and the Mazda BT-50 GT ($60,390), among many others.

How does the Ranger drive?

Refined gradually over its long 11-year life, the outgoing Ranger ended up a relatively hushed, relatively engaging drive – as far as utes go. The last-of-the-line PX Mk III Ranger Wildtrak 2.0 was crowned Chasing Cars’ inaugural dual-cab ute megatest winner in June – not bad for an old truck.

The new model significantly advances this benchmark by further settling the unladen ride quality, quickening the steering to a more car-like quality, and increasing the level of NVH dampening throughout the chassis to quieten the car on the move.

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It would be a lie to suggest that between the two available engines on 4×4 dual-cab Ranger grades the V6 was not the superior one. It is: with 184kW of power and 600Nm of torque, it affords effortless progress, sumptuous in-gear acceleration and the six-pot exclusively nabs Ford’s trick new automatic four-wheel-drive system that lets you drive in 4WD on tarmac.

With one major exception, though, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder is more than good enough – at least in biturbo form (lower grades of Ranger are available with a weaker single-turbo four-pot).

Slightly less powerful than when it appeared in the PX Mk III, the 2.0-litre twin-turbo now makes 154kW/500Nm – not modest numbers, being line-ball with the Hilux (150kW/500Nm), and more generous than the D-Max, BT-50 and Navara (each 140kW/450Nm).

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Power might be down but so’s weight. We measured the Ranger Sport 2.0 at 2088kg – which is actually quite light for a 4×4 dual-cab ute. About seven percent lighter than the old version, the 2.0-litre also scores a fully revised ten-speed torque converter automatic transmission that is far less jerky than when it was used in the old car.

So despite the loss of 3kW somewhere in the transition from PX Mk III to T6.2, the Ranger 2.0 has become noticeably quicker, slashing its Chasing Cars-tested 0-100km/h time unladen from 9.46sec to 8.53sec. In our testing, the V6 does the 0-100km/h run in 7.70 seconds. Other utes (with the exception of the Amarok) need double-digits to get to triple-digits.

While it’s pretty quick for a dual-cab, the four-cylinder does make its presence known in the cabin. It’s a little quieter than before but it still chugs away under load where the V6 purrs. And that exception we were talking about before?

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That would be the four-cylinder’s burdensome, old-school four-wheel-drive system that must be run in 2WD (rear-wheel drive) on bitumen, meaning you get a bit of wheel slip when accelerating around a corner at times. The V6’s new 4×4-auto mode simply eliminates this.

In classic dual-cab style the brakes still aren’t up to much of a challenge, even if the Ranger now picks up disc brakes at all four corners (at last). The 2.0-litre pulled up in a best 100-0km/h stop of 41.59 metres. A five-seat hatchback can stop nearly seven metres sooner – quite a difference in an emergency.

We rated the ride and handling of the outgoing PX Mk III Ranger to be at the high end of the ute segment, despite some underlying firmness from the rear suspension. The latest generation corrects the latter characteristic and further extends the Ranger’s lead in car-like handling – at least without a load in the tray (or box, as Ford calls the tub).

The next iteration of our dual-cab megatest will again include laden handling, but without any significant load in the tray the Ranger’s behaviour on-road is exceptionally good for a ute. You have to be concentrating to pick up the fine jitters from the body-on-frame construction over small bumps – these situations are better-insulated than before.

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A significant improvement has been made to the steering rack. The steering is both quicker and more naturally-weighted than it was on the old Ranger, making this large vehicle feel lighter and more agile than it really is. The highway-terrain tyres feel like they are the shortcoming for high-speed handling rather than the chassis.

It’s a slightly quieter vehicle than before, too, though the four-cylinder diesel creates more of a din than the slicker, smoother V6 unit.

While the safety systems of the Ranger have come in for a thorough update, they’re not quite as slick as we would hope for a new model in 2022. There is lane-departure warning with rudimentary lane-keeping, but it doesn’t centre the ute in the lane like we’ve come to expect from these systems. The adaptive cruise control is smooth, however.

Drivability scorecard

    Power & performance 7.0

    Ride & refinement 7.5

    Handling 8.0

    Safety 7.5

How is the Ranger’s interior?

The new Ranger’s striking, Americana-inspired exterior styling gives the ute plenty of kerb appeal, but it’s the interior that will suck in plenty of punters – and for good reason. This is the best interior ever fitted to a dual-cab ute in Australia, even eclipsing the timelessly handsome cabin of the outgoing Amarok.

Yes, it’s quite tech-forward, but not in an overwhelming way. Our Ranger Sport on test scores a 10-inch vertical touchscreen and an eight-inch digital instrument cluster, and while the screens are big – far larger than any ever deployed in this segment in Australia – they’re actually not in-your-face.

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Ford has designed intuitive, subtle software for these screens that surface relevant information but keep the distractions to a relative minimum – the tech is actually very well executed. Even the stock six-speaker stereo is rich and reasonably high-quality, though audio buffs will want to go up to a Wildtrak and its optional B&O premium stereo.

The inclusion of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is credible. This tech is still a rarity in the ute segment locally, and while the BT-50 and D-Max platform does have this capability, it is presented on a dingy, dim, low-resolution screen. The Ranger couldn’t be more different.

We appreciate the segmentation of the main touchscreen into zones. The bright display gives a big canvas to CarPlay but maintains key time, temperature and climate displays at all times – plus, there are hard dials and buttons for the air conditioning controls too. Notably, the incoming Amarok ditches physical climate knobs for screen-only interfacing. A mistake, we reckon.

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Behind the lightly-reshaped steering wheel is a perhaps slightly compact instrument cluster which ditches traditional gauges for a retro-cool digital affair – it works well, but the forthcoming, ballistic 292kW Raptor spec is the only Ranger to get a 12-inch cockpit that actually fills the space here.

Unlike the rough-and-ready XLT that sits beneath it in the Ranger line, the Sport steps up the cabin ambience with standard black leather seat facings, and a power-adjustable driver’s seat. While the thigh angle isn’t modifiable, it’s at least been set correctly, and the lumbar is strong enough to support the driver on a long trip. Only the Wildtrak and Raptor have a power passenger seat – and the Sport misses seat heating, too. That was noticeable in the cold-snap week of testing.

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Ford has moved the game on in terms of interior presentation generally, but also in terms of fit and finish. The Ranger is a more pleasant place to spend time, with soft-touch materials lining the dashboard and doors – the vibe is more rugged semi-premium SUV than rough-and-ready ute. We’d wager most buyers will appreciate that, but long-term durability will need to be assessed over time.

Back seat space is more generous than before, and six-foot adults fit just fine in the second row. Headroom and legroom are both good, and the backrest isn’t as upright as what you’ll find in the outgoing Amarok, for instance. However, the Ranger misses the odd convenience, including handy hooks fitted to the backs of the front seats in the D-Max and BT-50.

Interior scorecard

    Layout & materials 7.5

    Cabin technology 8.5

    Driver comfort 8.0

    Passenger space 8.0

What are the Ranger’s running costs?

Like all Ford vehicles sold in Australia, the Ranger is covered under a new car warranty that lasts for five years from the time of registration, with unlimited kilometres. That is now the standard in the dual-cab segment, though Isuzu offers six years/150,000km on a D-Max and Mitsubishi gives you ten years/200,000km, but only if you service a Triton within Mitsubishi’s dealer network.

Most manufacturers now cap the price of at least five services – Ford doesn’t. Instead, you get a somewhat less generous four years/60,000km, with each of the first four 12 month/15,000km services priced at $329 – for a four-year total of $1316.

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By comparison, Toyota requires a Hilux SR5 to be serviced every six months/10,000km. The first three years/60,000km are capped in price, with the total coming to $1560 – meaning the Ford is a little more convenient, and considerably cheaper, to service.

Fuel consumption was an interesting one. The entire Ranger line-up uses diesel fuel (relevantly, one trim of the new Amarok – based on the T6.2 Ranger – will offer a turbo-petrol engine). But the four-cylinder diesel and V6 diesel use about the same amount of fuel. In our test, both recorded close enough to 8.5L/100km on the highway and 11L/100km in town.

With diesel fuel prices currently sitting around $2.20 per litre in Sydney, a driver doing 15,000km per year would spend between $2800–$3700 per year to fuel either engine.

Running costs scorecard

    Consumption Average

    Servicing Great

    Warranty Good

The final verdict

You almost feel sorry for the new two-litre Ranger. Among dual-cab utes, it’s a great engine and a very solid package – albeit one that comes at a premium price. But when compared to the $3000-dearer but superior V6, the four-cylinder is not the obvious choice, unless you can’t bear the lengthening wait-lists for the smoother, slicker six-cylinder.

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As for the now-permanent Ranger Sport grade – it’s a compelling proposition, with stealthy grey-and black-accented looks and a leather interior. It’s a logical midpoint between the workmanlike (but still suave) XLT and the prestige Wildtrak, but we question the lack of some small conveniences like heated seats in this $63K vehicle.

Whatever the grade and engine, though, what is totally clear is that the new Ranger steps the dual-cab game forward on even metric except braking, which remains concerningly lackadaisical, even on this new-generation vehicle.

Overall rating

    Overall rating 8.0

    Drivability 7.5

    Interior 8.0

    Running costs Good

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