Utes are beaut for taking away on a summer camping holiday. Rob Maetzig headed to Raglan in a Ford Ranger and gives Seven Good Reasons why it was ideal for the job.
You know you're in big trouble when you drive for more than three hours in summer heat to your camping destination, only to discover on your arrival that you've left your tent poles at home.
I did exactly that in January. I'd reversed my Ford Ranger XLT Super Cab into the entrance of our car shed, rejoiced in how easily the big ute had swallowed the truckload of camping stuff loaded onto its wellside deck, and accelerated off to the Waikato harbour township of Raglan to enjoy a fortnight in the family tent.
About four hours later I was driving home again, to pick up the tent poles.
The return journey meant several more hours behind the wheel of a very good ute. In fact the Ford Ranger is so good it has just won the International Pick-Up Award 2013 after an extensive testing programme in England.
Let's look at Seven Good Reasons why the Ford Ranger XLT Super Cab proved ideal for the job.
1. A truckload of load space.
Those who do camping - particularly the husbands among us - will know that while in theory it should be a minimalist exercise with little paraphernalia required, the reality is nothing like that and heaps of equipment needs to be taken along. This means the more vehicle load space on offer, the better.
This Ranger has plenty of that. Being a Super Cab model, which is a cab-and-a-half, means the wellside deck is more than 1.8m long which is 300mm more than the deck behind a double-cab model. The deck is also a substantial 51cm deep.
2. Oodles of grunt.
Under the Ranger's big bonnet is a 3.2-litre in- line five cylinder turbodiesel that offers 147 kilowatts of power and, more importantly, 470 newton metres of torque. That torque is from just 1500 rpm too, which means this ute has real grunt and is lovely to drive out on the open road.
Fuel consumption was good too, at about 9.2 litres per 100 kilometres.
3. Ability off the road.
Under normal circumstances the Ranger operates in rear-wheel drive, but this can be changed into four-wheel drive - both high and low ratios - while the ute is still moving. It's all done by dialling in a rotating knob located on the centre console.The 4WD models also have an electronic locking differential for the real down-and-dirty work.
4. Comfortable, too.
Well, the Ranger Super Cab is comfortable for those in the front seats. Even though there are back seats available, they're only there to carry additional people for short periods of time.
But up front it's a different story. Since the Ranger is intended as a "world" ute and therefore on sale in USA where plenty of seriously big men drive pickup trucks, the front seats are big and comfortable.
Specification is also very good with standard items including dual-zone climate control air conditioning, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, leather steering wheel and gearshift, and even a centre console with a compartment that can be used as a cooler.
5. Cabin Security.
Pillarless cabin design means the front doors cannot be closed until the rear doors have been closed first - and obviously the rear doors can't be opened until the front doors have been opened first.
6. Ute Protects Tents.
It's impossible to go on a two-week camping holiday on the west coasts of either of our main islands and not have at least a couple of days of rough weather. No trouble, though. We simply parked the big slab-sided Ranger so that not only did its wheels sit on top of pegs holding important guy ropes in position, but it also offered wind shelter.
7. Play-pen for kids.
The wellside deck of our Ranger was covered in a sturdy plastic liner and it wasn't long before young Beau, the grandson of one of the couples on our camping holiday, discovered he could safely crawl around in there and play peek-a-boo with anyone who was nearby.
- Kapiti Observer