Towing with the 2023 Ford Ranger Sport V6 and XLT I4

Instantaneous

  • Standard setters for towing in the mid-size ute segment
  • Advanced towing technology is smart and simple
  • Ranger’s larger footprint helps with stability on uneven terrain

The 2023 Ford Ranger V6 4×4 will be a hot property for those towing heavy trailers; so as soon as the opportunity arose, we hitched a Ranger Sport V6 to a trailer for a quick lap around Melbourne.

For comparison, we repeated the exercise with a 2023 Ranger XLT 4×4 with the carryover I4 twin-turbo diesel engine.

Mid-size utility 4x4s are very popular choices with those who tow as most of them offer a towing capacity of 3500 kg, their relatively long wheelbases are good for stability when towing and they are more affordable than the large 4×4 wagons which also offer this capacity of 3500 kg. like LandCruiser, Patrol and Land Rover.

The Ford Ranger is the newest mid-size 4×4 vehicle to hit the Australian market and it’s the first vehicle of its kind to take towing really seriously. Not only does it offer the choice of the V6 diesel engine and a 4WD system that gives users the versatility and safety of full-time 4WD, it’s packed with smart technology features to make towing easier and more safe for all users, whether they are beginners or seasoned towing experts.

By the numbers

The all-new Ford Rangers (excluding the Raptor) have a towing capacity of 3,500 kg when towing a trailer with brakes. Gross Combined Mass (GCM), which is the maximum permissible weight of the Ranger, fuel, cargo and accessories and the weight of the trailer behind the car, varies by model specification, but for the Ranger Sport V6 tested here it is 6400kg and for the Ranger XLT I4 it is 6350kg.

These significant numbers are at or near the top of the mid-size utility vehicle category and are sure to appeal to buyers looking to haul a boat, horse cart, trailer or race car.

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The engine outputs also create an impressive set of numbers. The 3.0L V6 diesel engine produces 184kW of power and 600Nm of torque, giving the Ranger the most powerful V6 in its class. Even the twin-turbo I4 engine does not lack in this respect with 154 kW and 500 Nm, which makes it one of the grumpiest four-cylinder 4x4s.

Both engines are backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission and only the V6 gets the 4×4 system which offers full-time 4×4 as well as 2WD, locked 4×4 high range and locked 4×4 low range.

Towing technology

The new Ford Ranger brings a level of technology specifically designed for towing that you won’t find on any other vehicle in this segment.

From the start of hitching the trailer, the Ranger thinks about towing. When backing up to the trailer, the backup camera not only has directional lines showing you the steering angle, but also a centerline that you can follow back, to align the tow ball directly under the hitch towing. This makes it easier to connect if you are alone and have no one to guide you.

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Our two Rangers were equipped with the optional Touring package which includes the 360° camera and an integrated electronic brake controller. You need a brake controller to operate electric brakes on heavy trailers and in the past you had to purchase an aftermarket unit. Ford has its own controller and it fits nicely on the lower dash. Tow bar and associated wiring are standard on Rangers.

Once you hook up the trailer’s electricity, SYNC 4’s center display will show you that it has detected a trailer and ask if you want to set it up. You can configure your Ranger for several different trailers if you have a caravan, box trailer, boat or any other trailer, all of different sizes.

By entering the length of your trailer when setting it up, the software then calibrates systems such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert to ensure they still work as they should with the extra length of the platform. There is also a default trailer setting that we used for this test.

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Once you are all connected and set up, the display can then guide you through a step-by-step towing checklist to ensure you have connected all necessary hardware and electricity. There’s even a trailer light check mode that, when activated, cycles through the taillights so you can check that all of your trailer lights are working as they should without the help of a spotter.

These are really smart but simple things that will make it safer and easier for any driver to tow any type of trailer.

A final technology available on most new Ranger models is the various drive modes which include a ‘tow’ which sets the respective chassis and throttle calibrations to the optimum settings for towing.

On the road

So how do these numbers and tech features add up in the real world? Before we get into that, let’s take a look at what we were towing and its relevant numbers. The good folks at Page Brothers Jayco RVs and Caravans in Moorabbin kindly lent us a Jayco travels to the backcountry caravan for the test.

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It is a twin-axle off-road van that is 6.1 meters long and weighs 2100 kg, with around 140 kg on the tow ball. It’s a pretty typical example of the size and type of caravan you see being hauled behind utes all over Australia, so it suited our test just fine.

Ford Ranger Sport V6

With the Jayco hitched behind the Ranger Sport, we set off. The old Ranger already had one of the longest wheelbases in the class, providing a stable platform for towing, but Ford has gone further with the new model, adding 50mm to the wheelbase and also 50mm to the track of the wheels to further improve stability.

This gives the Ranger a big “footprint” on the road and this in turn works with a very well tuned suspension to deliver a smooth ride over rough roads. There is very little to no pitching and porpoising that you might experience in many vehicles when towing on the standard factory fitted suspension. The chassis stays smooth and balanced over rough terrain to give the driver control and a sense of confidence in the Ranger’s abilities.

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The roads were wet that day and driving away from a stop on a hill produced wheel spin with the system in 2WD mode. Selecting 4A full-time 4WD allows you to drive 4x4s on paved roads and eliminates that problem of rear wheel spin in the wet. Very few 4x4s offer this full-time 4×4 setting; only the Mitsubishi Triton and Volkswagen Amarok coming out among the popular models, so it’s great to have it now on the new Ford.

The V6 diesel engine pulls the 2100kg Jayco pickup with ease and has plenty of reserve for overtaking and climbing hills. It’s relatively quiet and refined in the way it does its job, again making things easier for the driver.

The 10-speed automatic transmission shifts well when left to its own devices, and manual shifting is done using buttons on the right side of the shifter. This is especially useful when you want to downshift to give the trailer some braking when slowing down.

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We found the transmission shifted into higher gears sooner than was ideal. It was with drive mode in the normal setting, but after switching it to tow mode, the transmission holds gears longer and makes driving even easier.

Ranger’s chassis electronics include trailer sway control that works with the vehicle’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system to detect if and when a trailer may begin to sway or pull into the tail of the vehicle. fish on the road. This was not the case on this drive with the Jayco, but it could happen with an improperly balanced or configured trailer.

Interestingly, the Jayco Journey has its own ESC system, but when plugged into the Ford it was automatically disabled. This presented no problem on this player.

Ford Ranger XLT I4

The new Ford Ranger Wildtrak, Sport and XLT models are each available with the choice of V6 or I4 diesel engines and the V6 costs $3,000 more, compared to the purchase price of the four-cylinder.

Choosing the I4 twin-turbo engine means you not only miss out on the performance and refinement of the V6 engine, but also some important features. The biggest omission is the full-time 4×4 compatible transfer case that is exclusive to V6-powered models and the benefits this brings especially on wet and varied roads when towing. You also miss some of the ride patterns, but the Tow-Haul setting is still there.

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Electronic towing aids and on-screen guides are also there when you’ve fitted the optional Touring Pack as our blue Ranger did.

Head out of town in the four-cylinder Ranger XLT with the Jayco in the back and you still get all the benefits of the Ranger V6 chassis. It’s stable and controlled and again really gives the driver confidence in the car’s abilities.

You have to push a bit harder to get the most out of the smaller motor, but with 500Nm available the XLT didn’t fail our ride. Only on the longest climb did it hold a lower gear and you could hear and feel the engine working harder, but not like it was being whipped.

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An indicator of how hard the XLT Ranger four-cylinder works compared to the V6 Ranger Sport in terms of fuel consumption. The smaller engine consumed 17.3 L/100 km of diesel on the same highway loop, while the V6 consumed 16.7 L/100 km. We’ve found similar results in the past by having a smaller engine do the same job in the same cars on the same route.

Verdict

The new Rangers not only proved to be competent and relaxed towing vehicles, but with the new technologies and features included in the cars, they made towing easier and safer.

The Ranger is set to become the towing benchmark among the highly competitive mid-size utility vehicle segment and its competitors will have their work cut out for them to catch up.

Thanks to

RV Brothers Page, Moorabbin


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