The new Ford Ranger might be expensive, but it feels a cut above the competition thanks to its impressive tech, tradie-friendly features, and meaty V6 diesel engine.

While it used to be the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon duelling atop the Australian new vehicle sales charts, the closure of local production facilities has seen the battle shift to two new opponents in more recent years – the Toyota HiLux and this, the 2023 Ford Ranger, a pair of dual-cab utes that have outsold the rest of their competition and the rest of the entire market by tens of thousands each year.

Although the HiLux has been the year-end victor for the past seven years, through this first part of 2023 its the Ranger that’s in the lead, and that’s thanks in big part to this new version Ford introduced last year. It might not be a complete rework of the old T6 Ranger platform, hence its T6.2 designation, but everything on the surface level is brand new and it thoroughly feels it.

A total of seven variants are available in the new Ranger lineup from the tradie-focused XL all the way to the hardcore Raptor. Here, we’re looking at the XLT V6 – the third-tier model in the lineup, and the cheapest way to get your hands on the V6 diesel engine that’s new to the Ranger at $65,190 before on-road costs. A cab chassis version for those who’d rather fit their own custom tray is also available for $1900 less, although the standard tub can accomodate a full-sized Euro pallet and has some handy steps for climbing up into it.

Visually, the new Ranger wears a distinctly more American look, with a squared-off nose and distinctive grille and lighting design bringing it in line with Ford’s F-Series models. That’s important for Ford in Australia as the F-150 is due to arrive on our shores later this year with a factory-backed right-hand drive conversion, and for Ford in America where the Ranger is also due to be sold for the 2024 model year.

Don’t think that the more American look in any way indicates that this new Ranger isn’t built for our roads, as it’s quite the opposite in fact. Although built in Thailand like most utes now, Ford’s Australian engineers were behind the development of the updated platform and thus ensured it was built for the harshest Australian conditions – even if we’re just one relatively small country among the 180 markets it will be sold in.

XLT models come with 17-inch alloy wheels and highway-terrain tyres as standard, with all-terrain tyres a $500 option. LED headlights with auto high beam and LED taillights are also standard, as are lights in the tray to illuminate it at night, a 12-volt socket alongside it for powering accessories (although a three-pin outlet would be even better), and a sports bar. The brilliant Lightning Blue paint of my tester is a $700 option, as are all colours aside from white.

Our tester featured a host of other optional extras as well, including the $1700 Towing Pack; the $1200 Touring Pack which includes a 360-degree camera, exterior zone lighting, puddle lights, a row of six roof-mounted auxiliary switches, and a cargo management system (not pictured as it’s a mid-year addition); and a $400 spray-in bed liner with a handy ruler and clamp mounting points on the tailgate in lieu of the standard plastic drop-in bed liner. All of those are options boxes I’d be checking as well.

Inside, the Ranger XLT comes standard with an impressive array of technology, including an 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.1-inch portrait-oriented SYNC4 infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a decent six-speaker audio system, four selectable drive modes, keyless entry and push-button start, automatic wipers to accompany the automatic headlights, and one-touch power windows all around.

Although larger screens are available higher in the range, I actually think the ones used here are ideally suited to the Ranger, with the simple but configurable digital instrument cluster focusing on the information you need to know most, and the infotainment system being perfectly laid-out with nice large icons and nicely-integrated smartphone mirroring.

Although manually-adjustable seats with cloth upholstery are all the XLT is available with, I actually think they suite this cabin well. The seats offer a great amount of comfort and support, and the cloth won’t get as hot in summer as leather would. It’s worth noting, however, that the Ranger Sport does add leather-accented and eight-way power adjustable seats, and at only $2500 more I’m sure a few would be tempted into it, although I’d personally stick with the XLT; if you’re really after luxuries, you’d be better served stepping up another rung to a Wildtrak.

Build quality is throughly impressive throughout the Ranger’s cabin, with every material, switch, and button feeling durable and tactile, all of which is indicative of thoughtful and purpose-led design. The cabin design feels very resolved as well, with it not only looking attractive and feeling more like the cabin of an SUV than a work truck, but being logically laid-out as well. It’s a shame, though, that the XLT misses out on the secondary glovebox and dashboard-mounted cupholders found in some higher trim levels.

What’s also remarkably impressive is the array of safety tech on offer, as well as the quality of it. For instance, rather than add normal adaptive cruise control, the Ranger features intelligent cruise control which automatically changes the set speed to correspond with speed limit signs. It has Level 2 semi-autonomous lane centring as well, and it’s even smoother and better behaved in this than in some cars. Even its traction and stability control programs feel to have been calibrated perfectly for driving on gravel roads, with them never feeling too intrusive.

Other standard safety equipment includes nine airbags, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert with trailer coverage, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping aid with driver monitoring, evasive steer assist, traffic sign recognition, tyre pressure monitoring, and front and rear parking sensors. The 2023 Ford Ranger has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

READ MORE: The Toyota HiLux may be unbreakable, but is it unbeatable?

Of the four different engines available across the Ranger lineup, the two most broadly available are those on offer in the XLT tested here. While opting for the smaller 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel will save you $3200, the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel tested here has to be the one to go for in my eyes.

Offering 184kW at 3250rpm and a beefy 600Nm from 1750-2250rpm, it’s a wonderfully torque-rich engine that gives the Ranger a real feeling of effortlessness from behind the wheel. This version of the Ranger might have a considerable 2233kg minimum kerb weight, but with this engine under the bonnet you simply wouldn’t know it was such a porker. I’m sure that even with its 1047kg maximum payload in the tray or its 3500kg towing capacity maxed out it would still feel just as potent as well. There’s even a hint of a nice V6 engine note from inside the cabin towards the upper reaches of the rev range, too. Seriously – this engine is a peach.

Another good reason for choosing the V6 is that it comes with a full-time four-wheel drive system offering 2H, 4A, 4H, and 4L settings, whereas the four-pot has part-time four-wheel drive only – even though in the closely-related Everest SUV, both use this full-time system. While you’ll likely leave it in 2H for most daily driving duties, in wet conditions or on a winding road the benefit of all-wheel drive in its 4A setting adds some real peace of mind and gives it some real sure-footedness. A locking rear differential is also fitted as standard.

Both engines are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, which was perhaps my only gripe with the driveline. Firstly, the V6 model uses a rather odd electronic shifter which has some small, awkward buttons on the side of it for manually shifting gears. Secondly, 10 ratios is simply too many – when accelerating up to speed on something like a highway on-ramp, it’s constantly shuffling the ratios around, while manually selecting gears forces you to sift through too many of them to find the right one. Eight would be the ideal number of gears to have here instead as far as I’m concerned.

On the road, the XLT’s smaller 17-inch wheels allow for fat tyre sidewalls that help give it a comfortable ride, although there’s still a hint of firmness over some larger bumps. That rigidity pays dividends through the corners, though, where the Ranger feels nicely poised even if there’s some tyre squeal to contend with. Its beautifully-weighted steering which is neither too heavy nor too light helps here, too.

Take the Ranger on a gravel road though and the Australian engineering that has gone into it is seen clear as day. If anything, it rides a little bit better on gravel tracks than it does on sealed roads, with bumps and corrugations all soaked up by its chassis, and its four-wheel drive system distributing the power confidently between the axles. Its traction control calibration combine with four-wheel disc brakes to help it feel confident when braking on gravel roads, too. Clearly, all the local development was well worth it.

One factor that for me gives all the more reason to opt for the V6 is its impressive fuel economy. Over the course of my 681km of testing in a mix of city, highway, country, and off-road driving, I saw a fairly impressive return of 9.8L/100km. On a few select drives I was even able to match the 8.4L/100km claim, although driving in the city will see fuel consumption skyrocket. All Ranger variants come with an 80-litre fuel tank to allow for good long-distance range as well.

As with all Ford models, the 2023 Ranger is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. If you’re looking to upgrade your Ranger which many owners likely will, Ford has partnered with ARB and will cover any accessories fitted prior to delivery under the same warranty. Up to seven years of complimentary roadside assistance is also included so long as you service your Ranger at a Ford dealership. The average cost of servicing over the warranty period is $504 per visit for V6 models.

It’s at this point I feel I should mention how pricey the Ranger is compared to its rivals, which it no doubt is given many top-spec models from other manufacturers could be had for the same price as this mid-spec XLT, but ultimately, nothing from any other manufacturer feels to come close to the new Ranger – not least as this mid-spec model is as well equipped as many range-toppers.

Whether it’s the quality of the technology or the amount of it, how durable it feels inside and on a harsh dirt road, the thoughtful tradie-friendly design features like the tailgate workbench and side steps, or the torque and refinement on offer from its V6 diesel engine, the 2023 Ford Ranger is simply strides ahead of the competition.

Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s absolutely worth it. Even without an entirely new platform, Ford has managed to revolutionise the Ranger and put it a cut above in what is the most hotly-contested segment in this country. Not only does it look more like a baby F-Series model than ever, it also feels like it, and that’s a very good thing.

For me, an XLT V6 specified just like this one is my pick of the range, featuring all the tech you need and none you don’t, although I don’t doubt modern dual-cab ute buyers who like more luxuries will be tempted by the Wildtrak and Platinum grades. Whichever version you get, though, you’re getting one fabulous and capable vehicle.

2023 Ford Ranger XLT V6 4WD Pickup List Price: $65,190 | As Tested: $69,190
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 8.5/10
  • 9/10
    Tech & Features - 9/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Torquey and refined V6 diesel engine, impressive array of cabin tech and safety tech, tradie-friendly tailgate workbench and side steps, feels right at home on dirt roads
Cons: Busy 10-speed transmission, ride can occasionally feel firm over some bumps on sealed roads, thirsty in town

In a nutshell: The 2023 Ford Ranger might be expensive, but thanks to its brilliant technology, rugged and refined engineering, and smart specification choices, it feels a cut above the competition and well worth every penny.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Ford Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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