If you want to invest in a trusty ute in Australia there’s currently a WHOLE lot of options. But what about if you don’t want to invest in a ute? Well, that’s another story entirely.
As someone who doesn’t come close to identifying as a tradie (albeit a few successful DIY stints), I’ve always looked at utility vehicles from a distance, admiring their ‘boot’ space and their ability to drive over curbs like small bumps in the road. Sure, I’ve driven a few before and though ‘this is handy’, but in terms of considering a purchase? Never. That was, until a trip up the coast this summer.
Given that the Ford Ranger is one of Australia’s top-selling cars, I didn’t mind taking its new 2023 variant – the 2023 Ford Ranger XLS 4×4 – for a spin over the course of our trip, especially with all the gear we had planned to pack. Three families worth to be specific.
Packed and tied down (ok I see the desire), we were on the road, and I found myself behind the wheel of the Ranger for the first time with a toddler, a husband, and plenty of optimism in tow. You see, while my other half would have preferred the Raptor, I have a genuine love affair with base-model four-wheel-drives, and think it’s a really smart way to use the savings from purchasing a lower-spec model for accessories and diesel.
And while for tradies and users with a work focus, the fact that the 2023 Ford Ranger XLS keeps most of the new Ranger’s headline tech and features intact, but drops some of the bells and whistles, would be a good thing, for me, at no point does it feel like it’s missing anything – and some of the lower-tech elements might even be preferable.
Ford’s 2.0-litre BiTurbo engine is standard, and as with all Rangers the XLS is auto-only, in this case a 10-speed automatic.
XLS models pick up features like 16-inch alloy wheels, side steps, front fog lights, carpet flooring, and a central-locking tailgate over the XL.
Some of the shared elements with the base model include halogen headlights, fabric seat trim, single-zone climate control, a huge 10.1-inch infotainment screen and 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster, and a comprehensive list of safety equipment.
The Ranger XLS offers a fairly down to earth interior, but in saying that it’s still a pleasant place to be. Hard plastics cover the dash and tops of the doors, for instance, and the driver grips a urethane steering wheel and gear lever – but even those elements are finished well enough that they don’t feel cheap. As for the seats, they’re trimmed in a sturdy fabric that looks tidy and should help keep grubby toddler hands at bay.
The 2023 Ford Ranger spans from $35,390 in its cheapest XL single-cab form, up to $85,490 for the Raptor. The dual-cab-only XLS grade sits one up from base model, and is priced from $54,330 plus on-road costs when equipped with four-wheel drive.
When it comes to fuel, the dual-cab Ford Ranger XLS 4×4 sits at a lean-looking 7.3 litres per 100km.
The 2023 Ford Ranger line-up carries a five-star ANCAP rating on all models, except the high-performance Ranger Raptor. In testing, the Ranger received an 84 per cent adult occupant protection score, 93 per cent for child occupant protection, 74 per cent vulnerable road user protection, and 83 per cent for safety assist systems.
What won me over
Prepare to be amazed. If you’ve sat in rival utes, nothing can quite prepare you for the sheer screen real estate in the Ranger XLS. The large portrait display measures 10.1 inches and offers crisp resolution and responsive load times.
Within the screen you’ll find quick access to menus to control car settings and safety systems, which are simple enough to adjust on the fly. The Ranger XLS also comes standard with six-speaker audio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth and AM/FM radio. A $750 XLS Tech Pack adds built-in sat-nav, digital radio, dual-zone climate control, proximity key entry, push-button start, second-row air vents, and body-coloured door handles.
For someone who never really planned on getting a ute, the Ford Ranger might just be the best one can get right now. In fact, there were times I had to remind myself it was a ute and not a more road-focussed SUV. Guess you know what happened next.
Find out more here.