Jaco Van Der Merwe
There is something very calming about the gentle hum when taking a diesel bakkie cross country. It’s almost a case of just pointing the nose in the right direction and sitting back to enjoy the journey.
Not so relaxed that your mind starts wandering, just enough for you to be calm and happy enough not to get worked up about any of the cowboys we share the road with. This was the case when I recently took the family for a long weekend across the Mozambican border to the sleepy beach town that is Ponto de Ouro in our long-term Ranger Wildtrak.
Opting to take the N17 passing Swaziland on the south instead of going through Maputo, the distance of 652 km might not be far further than going to Durban, but it takes eight hours nonetheless. The countless stop streets passing through Ermelo and Piet Retief, as well as the wandering goats of the never-ending rural settlements during the latter part of the journey and the unpredictability of the Kosi Bay border post make it almost impossible to try and shave any real time from what Google Maps tells you.
A gigantic load doesn’t seem all that necessary when camping for only four nights, but never underestimate the size of the luggage after your wife and two daughters have packed their additional swimwear and toiletries.
That, along with an 82-litre freezer – for which there is a power socket in the load box because no proper South African can camp without taking meat from his own butcher – made it quite a tight squeeze under the tonneau cover, but one we managed, nonetheless. And the weight of the load was not going to test the suspension too much, but rather make the Wildtrak feel more planted on the road.
Double cabs usually take some flak for their rear seats being uncomfortable, but for children armed with tablets and some bedding, the eight-hour journey was smooth sailing all the way. And cruising along at the national speed limit with adaptive cruise control engaged, it’s interesting to watch the interaction between the 2.0-litre bi-turbo engine and the 10-speed automatic gearbox.
Real-time adaptive shift-scheduling enables the Ranger to skip gears in order to maintain a healthy combination of engine performance and fuel economy. This comes in handy during overtaking, when the box doesn’t merely gear down one by one until it finds the required amount of revs for the intended operation, which usually creates an unnecessary lag when time is of the essence.
When approaching a slower vehicle while you are cruising in 10th gear, the gearbox will shift directly to say, seventh, as you hit the accelerator to extract just the right ratio for the required acceleration to safely overtake. And to make your long journeys even more enjoyable, Ford’s advanced SYNC 3 system enables you to stay entertained.
Those not familiar with music’s modern formats shouldn’t despair as the Wildtrak’s front loader CD player will cater for the dinosaurs. Ponto do Ouro, hardly a 15 km drive from the border post, consists of only sand roads, some harder and some softer.
Taking a very capable 4×4 such as the Wildtrak is overkill in many ways, as front-wheel drives with the right tyre pressure manage on the harder sand and a 4×2 with a diff lock should cope with most of the softer sand. It’s still reassuring to know you are not going to get stuck anywhere.
By deflating the tyres to 1.5 bar and with the drive mode kept in 4 High, the Ranger aced the daily trip of around three kilometres on rather soft sand from our camp site to the beachfront and reaching for 4 Low never even crossed our minds. Our friends over at Ford were nice to provide us with a proper 4×4 training course in the Wildtrak before our trip and taking into consideration the rough terrain the vehicle is put through on that course in Broederstroom, not needing to utilise the bakkie to its full potential on our trip was a shot in the arm for the 4×4-loving love of my life.
The fact that my girls didn’t have to worry about getting the interior all sandy while enjoying the ride back to the camp site on the back of the bakkie, with their hair in the wind after a long day on the beach, did make up for that, though. Just one of the things that will always give a double cab the edge over a SUV.
Fuel economy was decent. The journey there saw the Wildtrak average 9.1l/100km, with the total distance of 1,355km yielding exactly 10l/100km. The Wildtrak was perfect car for our short holiday in Mozambique and if I ever have the privilege to buy one, I won’t go to Ponto do Ouro. There are longer – and rougher – roads to explore first.
This was the last of our updates as we had to part ways with the Wildtrak after an accident.
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