The pick-up truck market in the UK is big business these days.
Every year more than 50,000 of the one-tonne variety are sold in the UK and while once they would all have been cheap basic workhorses destined for a hard life on a building site or farm, a growing number of sales are now of high-end lifestyle models that aim to be a work vehicle and family SUV in one.
If you want a back-to-basics pick-up Ford will sell you a single-cab Ranger XL with 128bhp for £19,545 before VAT.
And if you want a ridiculous pricey toy that screams midlife crisis and wimps out on the payload front it’ll sell you the pointless but hilarious Ranger Raptor for a hefty £41,145 plus VAT.
Somewhere in between those two sits this Wildtrak edition. Closer to the Raptor in price and spec but with a proper commercial vehicle payload and towing capacity, it’s meant to be a company and family car in one.
On the business front, this 2.0-litre diesel with a 10-speed automatic transmission comes with high and low-range four-wheel drive, can tow a 3,500kg trailer and has a gross train weight of 6,000kg, so it’s perfectly able to complete most utilitarian tasks.
But as one of the higher-spec versions it wraps this rough, tough utility in a prettier (well, more stylish) package.
As standard, the Wildtrak gets side steps with a brushed metal finish, a roll hoop with side rails, 18-inch alloys and Boulder Grey grille mirror caps and handles in place of the shiny chrome finish on other variants. Our test car was a moody Sea Grey which tied nicely with all the grey and black elements and was a more attractive option than the standard metallic orange most Wildtraks seem to be.
Ford Ranger Wildtrak
Price: £40,239 (£42,219 as tested, incl. VAT)Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder dieselPower: 210bhpTorque: 369lb ftTransmission: 10-speed automatic, four-wheel-driveTop speed: 112mph0-62mph: 9 secondsEconomy: 36.2-36.7mpgCO2 emissions: 201g/km
The interior is a largely successful blend of practical design and more high-spec elements. The focus remains on longevity and ease of use, with big chunky controls for most functions and plenty of storage spaces that will accommodate everything from a phone to a one-litre drinks bottle. But there’s leather upholstery with contrast stitching, Wildtrak badges on the dash and floor mats, and plenty of 12V and USB charging points around the cab, plus a 230V socket.
There are also a lot of gadgets and functions you won’t get on your £20k XL. An eight-inch touchscreen houses the Sync3 media and navigation system with smartphone mirroring, there’s a reversing camera alongside front and rear sensors, plus auto lights and wipers, ambient lighting, power seat adjustment, keyless entry and start, and a massive cool box in the centre armrest.
On the road, the Ranger also manages to disguise a lot of its utilitarian roots. Pick-ups aren’t famed for their refinement but the Ranger is surprisingly quiet, with well controlled wind and tyre noise. It’s barely any louder than many SUVs, even on the motorway.
The engine is also remarkably quiet, with more of a turbo roar that a traditional diesel clatter. The old 2.2-litre has been replaced with the same 210bhp 2.0-litre used in the Raptor, albeit without the multiple drive modes The 10-speed transmission shifts easily most of the time but at times it feels like it’s searching through too many ratios trying to find one that it likes.
And despite being tall, wide and nose-heavy when unladen, it behaves far better on road than pick-ups once did, with far less body shudder and lean than even fairly recent alternatives.
At £40,000+ including VAT the Wildtrak isn’t for everyone. If all you need is a basic truck for work, it’s over-endowed with gadgets and is expensive because of that. But if you want an all-in-one vehicle for work and weekends and if the pick-up body suits your lifestyle then the Wildtrak has refinement and technology that was once only a pipe dream in the pick-up market.
This article originally appeared on our sister site The Scotsman