Up to about 2000, the Ford Courier range was not a particularly popular 4×4 when compared to its closest rivals from Isuzu, Toyota and Nissan, but today things are quite different. Today its called the Ranger.
Suspension is typical in this class; independent torsion bars at front, leaf springs and solid axle at the back. There are three engine options: 2,5-litre, 4-cyl, turbo-diesels and a 4-litre, V6 petrol. The turbo-diesel is the better choice for everything, even towing! It is economical and pleasant to drive on road and off. After testing the V6, my conclusion is that the 2,5 is the better buy, and if you want a big-engined petrol pickup, don’t buy this one. For a 4-litre V6, its performance towing was mediocre, being underpowered, thirsty and the auto gearbox was troublesome and awkward. Climbing a steep hill where the limit was 80 kph left us with too little power in 4th, an auto change down to 3rd, a screaming engine for a while, an auto change back to 4th, down on power and back to third, and so on, all the way up. We were not even loaded and it was not a particularly steep hill. The auto box also proved troublesome off-road and needed skill to control because of the huge amount of slip and surge that could only be arrested with left-foot braking.
Rangers released in 2008 with an Americanised look are a big improvement. The cabin is better in every way, as is the ride. The auto box still surges a lot but the V6 is much, much better, but thirsty. Still, If you want the power of the V6, I recommend the manual as the auto remains well behind its competitors in terms of performance. The turbo-diesel is still sweet, smooth and frugal.
The 2012 release showed how keenly other manufacturers look with envy at the Hilux. It wasn’t overly obvious until now, but the new Ranger, especially the basic models, are styling copies of the Hilux!. They should be ashamed. And this when the Hilux is about to be replaced!
But consider this: The Nissan is very old, the Isuzu is awful (and old), the Amarok is soft, the Mazda is boring, the Hilux is great (always has been) and then there is the Ranger! I think it’s even better looking and is the only pickup on the market today as good, and in some ways better, than the Hilux.
Built in single and double-cab layouts the F250 is big by any standards, and is not drivable on an ordinary drivers’ license. This is because it measures a whopping 6,2 metres in length (D/cab). It is also a lot higher and wider than average 4×4 pickups: Over two meters wide and over two meters high. In town, it’s far too big and unwieldy for comfort. The F250 drives well; a pleasant drive and comfortable due partly to its enormous wheelbase, but driving Africa’s sand tracks in it can be a little awkward because the very wide track means that tyres tend to run along and over the sand ridges that line the tracks, rather than run in them. The result is vague steering and huge amounts of dust kicked up behind the vehicle. Suspension comprises rudimentary leaf springs: this is one of few vehicles still being equipped with leaf springs front and back. The South African spec vehicle comes with a 4,2-litre, 6-cyl, inter-cooled, turbo-diesel engine producing 132 kW @ 3800 rpm, attached to a 5-speed manual, part-time four-wheel drive gearbox. Power can be described as adequate for most jobs. Its first major disappointment is that it has no low range gearing. Its second comes when loading: while the load area is vast, payload is a disappointing 1100 kgs for the single cab, and a puny 900 kgs for the double cab. In my view, for such a mammoth vehicle, this makes it an under-achiever.
The F250 has been in SA a while now, and vehicles with high mileages are about, revealing its build strength, which by my reckoning, is not close to that of a Land Cruiser or Defender. So if you are considering an F250 as a heavy-duty workhorse expected to do hundreds of thousands of kilometers on Africa’s gravel roads, don’t! Personally, I feel that the F250 is a bit of a show-off’s vehicle and apart from this, doesn’t really have much else going for it.