WHAT is it with husbands and their penchant to recreate the successes of their youth?
In their heads there still lives the little boy who could charm and entertain, who could contort his body into gravity-defying positions, who was light and nimble and funny.
Somehow, for a reason only known to them, that little boy still often goes in search of fun, with antics - need I say it - that are only ever going to end badly. And so it was at our house a couple of weeks ago, when said husband first regaled our girls with stories of his unparalleled trampoline prowess and then followed it up with, heaven help us, a demonstration. It started innocuously enough, as he fell easily into a comfortable rhythm.
The jumps rose higher to match the girls' laughter, dangerously close to overhanging branches and the back fence, but on it went and soon somersaults and forward rolls made their way into the repertoire. Faster and faster… and then … nothing, except a hushed silence finally broken by high-pitched laughter when the girls realised their superhero had in fact stuck his leg through the mat leaving a gaping hole behind.
Of course, husbands rarely do things in halves so the trampoline was a spectacular write-off, a much-loved Christmas present now destined for the dump. The Ranger sitting the driveway certainly came in handy, its huge tub easily swallowing up the gangly leftovers, its powerful engine making a speedy exit.
I doubt this was what Ford had in mind when it updated this already much-loved ute with new equipment and technology and a revised throttle mapping, but it certainly worked for us.
A new 8.0-inch colour touchscreen that fronts Ford's SYNC 2 infotainment system is the most noticeable difference in the cabin of the updated Ranger. Supremely easy to navigate thanks to its quadrant display, it also adds a touch of dazzle to a dashboard that is practical yet understandably quite utilitarian in make-up.
A nice to touch steering wheel with added controls assists in decluttering the console but that it does not have a reach adjustment is an annoying omission.
The seats, good quality fabric in this Super Cab, are surprisingly comfortable and supportive and large enough to accommodate the broadest of shoulders.
The second row, with its bench seats, is definitely an occasional undertaking although our littlies, including one in a car seat, were not too disparaging about the space available.
On the road
Excellent driving dynamics and refinement that belies its ute status has long been a Ranger advantage and this edition continues to impress with an engine and gearbox combination that provides both power and verve in an effortless manner.
It is quiet, too, thanks to a whole lot of sound-deadening material below the floor and on the firewall, making conversation easy whether you are around town or zooming along on the highway.
Yes, this Ranger can hustle along when needed, offering up a ride that happily soaks up the bumps on less than perfect roads.
The new electrically adjusted steering is a boon for drivers looking for car-like handling and while you may lose feeling a bit at speed, it allows for the flexibility and agility needed in confined spaces and when making tight manoeuvres.
A criticism of these big utes, which double as family vehicles, is the often rougher ride with an empty tray. None of that from the Ranger though and while you still know you are driving a ute, there is very little of that organ jiggle you get with some competitors.
Off-road, the Ranger is no shrinking violet, dealing well with a lazy river mouth crossing and root littered tracks during our national park foray. Ground clearance (230mm) is good, traction excellent and the benefits of the improved torque curve are there to see in particularly soft sand.
What do you get?
With only the range-topping Wildtrack to better its gifts, the XLT is pretty much the bees knees with such un ute-like comforts as dual-zone climate control, sat-nav with traffic channel, projector headlights, daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, digital radio and mobile Wi-Fi spot and 17-inch alloys as well as a 230V inverter and bed liner with 12V socket.
Reverse camera is an option on all variants bar the Wildtrack, which is just plain mean and dangerous too.
If you do opt for the Tech Pack ($1100) apart from the reverse camera, you will also get Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist and Driver Impairment Monitor.
Despite its bulk and more short trips than long we stayed at around 10l/100km, which was not far off the official figures and pretty good for a vehicle of this size.
Warranty is three years or 100,000km.
There is little room to move in this end of the ute market with buyers also likely to test the Mitsubishi Triton (from $39,490), Nissan Navara (from $48,990), Mazda BT-50 (from $49,675), Toyota HiLux (from $51,990) and the Isuzu D-Max (from $46,200).
The lack of a reverse camera as standard across the range is troubling.
This is a big vehicle to move around and surely we have had too many driveway accidents involving small children for this not to be a necessity.
The Ranger retains its 3.5-tonne towing capacity which is useful for a work trailer, caravan or boat and the engine has the grunt to ensure the process is smooth and comfortable.
The tray itself is long and deep with really useful tie-down points which helps when you are transporting irregular objects as we found when taking that giant trampoline to the dump.
With a stronger wider stance, narrower headlights and a muscular bonnet, the Ranger is hard to miss. But it's the chunky grille that bares the biggest change as Ford looks to mirror the look of those eye-catching US offerings. There is very little overall finesse or stylish hints but my guess is that won't worry ute buyers a jot.
With back doors that can only be opened with the front doors ajar and limited space in the second row, the Super Cab incarnation of the Ranger is clearly more geared for multi-use than as a largely family vehicle. For the latter, the impressive dual-cab is the go.
The engine and underpinnings are shared though and it does showcase the Ranger's great power and superior driving dynamics.
Competition in this segment may be as fierce as a rabid dog with a bone but this update has certainly kept the Ranger at the head of the pack.
What matters most
What we liked: Driving dynamics, improved torque curve, style.
What we'd like to see: Reverse camera and high-end safety features as standard.
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km.
Model: Ford Ranger 4x4 Super Cab Pick-up.
Details: Two-door dual range four-wheel-drive ute.
Engine: 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 147kW @ 3000rpm and peak torque of 470Nm @ 1750 - 2500rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed auto.
Consumption: 9.6 litres/100km combined.
Bottom line plus on roads: From $54,590.
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