The 2023 Ford Ranger is one of this year’s most highly-anticipated new car launches in the Philippines. After all, we’re a market that’s very much hungry for pickups and its pickup-base SUV siblings such as the Everest. We’ve driven the Everest in Thailand prior to its local launch last July, and now we’ve finally got our hands on its pickup brother. Spoiler alert: It’s making every other pickup seem crude and rudimentary.
Just like the Everest, the 2023 Ford Ranger rides on the same T6 platform as the previous generation model. That’s a good foundation, to begin with since even after 10 years down the line, its competitors have just started to catch up to the platform’s refinement and ride comfort levels. But of course, its transition into this new model wasn’t a carryover. Instead, the platform has been significantly re-engineered (as evidenced by its revised dimensions) that it makes the Ranger the class benchmark among pickups in every single aspect.
For starters, it drives and rides even better than before. What used to be a numb and disconcertingly-light electric power steering has now been tuned to offer better road feel and a degree of precision when going through corners. More importantly, it’s now easier to place the Ranger when going through trails. Not only that, but its benchmark ride among pickups with a leaf spring has been improved further. The gap between the Ranger and Navara in terms of ride quality is now extremely narrow. Combined with its higher max payload, the Ranger offers the best blend between high payload and ride comfort.
What we drove for this media drive is the Ranger Wildtrak 4×4, which means it gets the 2.0-liter twin-turbo diesel engine and a 10-speed automatic. Just like the Everest, the engine’s refinement has also been tweaked for better refinement and power delivery. With 210 horses and 500 Nm on tap, the engine now feels more linear compared to the previous model whose torque is mostly just at the low RPM range. As a result, there’s more mid-range torque (which is what matters during overtakes) compared to the outgoing model. In addition, te 10-speed auto now has better calibration. It can still feel laggy since it has so many gears to choose from, but for the most part, it’s now better tuned to be more responsive and smooth.
The improved on-road manners is complemented by a wealth of electronic driver-assistance aids that make long-distance drives and off-road treks easier. On top of the usual 2H, 4H, and 4L settings, the new Ranger comes with various drive modes that automatically tie in to the car’s 4WD modes, the locking diff, and the hill descent control. There’s no need to individually turn every off-roading feature on or off, but you still have the option to do so. These features make off-roading even for novice drivers way easier than other pickups.
On top of that, the 2023 Ford Ranger also comes with the most comprehensive suite of on-road assistance tech such as full-speed adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking with post-collision brake, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane centering, and even a first-in-class adaptive matrix LED headlights. Combined with its sublime refinement levels, the Ranger is the most car-like among pickups–even if it’s also one of the most capable off-road.
Of course, a lifestyle pickup needs to look the part, and at least in Wildtrak guise, the Ranger passes with flying colors. The Luxe Yellow paint that I’m driving looks picture perfect in every backdrop, while the bold front end with its C-clamp LED daytime running lights give it an identity that’s uniquely Ranger (or Everest). There are a host of clever touches, too, such as the significantly brighter LED puddle lamps that illuminate your path, as well as the side step boards that make accessing the bed easier.
Speaking of the bed, this is one are where the Ranger absolutely blows the competition away–and it’s why the Ranger is going to be the best for camping adventures. Unique to Wildtrak variants is a feature called Pro Power Onboard, which is basically a built-in power source that lets you plug in appliances from the tailgate. Oh, and did you know that the tailgate itself has provisions for wood clamps? Working at a construction site with a pickup has never felt this easy.
The interior of the 2023 Ford Ranger is equally class-leading in terms of design, tech, and utility. This Wildtrak variant comes with a portrait 12-inch touch screen that runs SYNC4, and it’s easily the best infotainment system in the class by a huge mile. Even better is the fact that Ford resisted the urge to remove the physical climate controls in favor of moving it all into the infotainment. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is also feasible in the Ranger since it also comes with a wireless charging pad. Oh, and its various storage nooks have icons that indicate what items are meant to be there–one of which includes a french fries holder. How amusing.
However, I do have one concern for the Ranger, and it has to do with some of Ford’s decisions with regard to its electronics. Specifically, I’m pertaining to the buttons for its locking diff and hill descent control being buried into the SYNC4 infotainment system. What if the screen suddenly freezes or worse, becomes unusable?
Apart from that concern, the 2023 Ford Ranger–just like the Everest–sets the benchmark in the segment. It’s simply class-leading in every single aspect, from the way it drives, all the way to its plethora of cabin and driver-assistance tech. As of this writing, we actually have a Ford Ranger Wildtrak in our possession, and we can’t wait to let you know our thoughts when we release our full review. But if you can’t wait for our review and are itching to buy a new pickup, do yourself a favor and head on to your nearest Ford dealer to get yourself what we think is the pickup that is a must-buy at this point.