Beach party: our six-month long-term test of the Ford Ranger Thunder starts in earnest this month

Beach party: our six-month long-term test of the Ford Ranger Thunder starts in earnest this month

Neil Nixon

After a 200-mile run in the Ranger Thunder, you have to remind yourself that what you’re driving is a commercial vehicle, designed for use by builders and farmers and anyone else who carries cargo offroad. The plush leather interior, five seats, air conditioning and silky smooth ride could easily have you believing that you were behind the wheel of a vehicle at the top end of Ford’s vast range.

But unlike other 4×4 vans, this high spec is not a problem–all the tools, equipment, animals and muck are left outside and, if you take the precaution of scraping off your wellies, the interior can remain as Ford designed it … luxurious. I’ve touted the Ranger around the local area, letting builders, farmers, a surveyor and a vet try it for a day or two to get their reactions. To a man (and one woman!) their response has been the same–a great vehicle, more than capable of doing the job they require, but they’d probably just use it at the weekend for taking the family to the beach, carrying surf boards, towing motocross bikes or stocking up for the next few weeks at the supermarket. No one was too keen to go to work in it.

That said, another local farmer has bought one, exactly the same as ours, and he can’t find fault with it, even after a busy period of lambing in muddy fields in the middle of the night.

From an operational standpoint, the Thunder has been trouble-free in its first two months. I’ve driven it approximately 3000 miles without incident–it is every bit as good today as it was when it arrived. Despite its stylish finish, the exterior of the vehicle is highly practical, with tough paintwork and well-positioned chrome bumpers and side steps that come into their own in protecting the vehicle offroad. Despite being black normally a ‘soft’ colour–the Ranger doesn’t scratch and the heavy duty liner in the pick-up is still pristine despite carrying a variety of loads including a quad bike and building materials.

Fuel consumption is impressive, and compares well with similar vehicles I have tested. The Duratorq WLT 2.5-litre 12V turbo diesel engine is a real beauty, providing plenty of power to propel the vehicle up 35 slopes or cruise it along the motorway at speeds you’ll never need to use.

Now I’ve grown accustomed to the vagaries of pick-up driving I am starting to get the most out of this vehicle, although there is no doubt more to come as the test continues. My gut feeling is that most of the 750 Thunders currently available in the UK will be used for leisure purposes rather than for work but, as many drivers will testify, it’s more than capable of working and playing hard.

DRIVER’S LOG

LIST PRICE: 17,150 [pounds sterling] (+VAT)

WARRANTY: Three-year/60,000 miles

ENGINE: 2500cc 109PS turbo diesel

TRANSMISSION: Five-speed manual

GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT: 2845kg

PAYLOAD: 1180kg

VOLUME: N/A

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