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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist


Platinum-touched Ford Ranger all about excess without excuse

Blue Oval's most luxurious bakkie will appeal to those for who a Wildtrak simply isn't enough.


With its launch in South Africa this past week, the Ford Ranger Platinum not only introduces the Blue Oval’s most upscale premium dominator to South Africa on a bakkie, but makes it the latest to eclipse the R1-million mark.

Luxury with a ‘bin

Originally billed as a European-only market model at its world launch last year, the Platinum takes-up station above the Wildtrak as the opposite interpretation of the Raptor that remains the locally-made range’s flagship.

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A sub-segment of the local bakkie market that has attracted significant attention – not always for the right reasons based on sticker prices of some models being over seven figures – the Platinum becomes Ford’s take on the ill-fated Mercedes-Benz X-Class from a premium standpoint, though unlikely to suffer the same fate as the now discontinued sibling of the Nissan Navara anytime soon.

Launched alongside the off-road focused Tremor in the Mother City this week, the Platinum, while based on the Wildtrak V6 and not the “gravel enhanced” bi-turbo Wildtrak X, incorporates a number of exterior and interior fixtures form the Everest Platinum, albeit with a loadbin, as opposed to seven seats, and a payload of 944 kg.

Face of upscaling

Showed for the first time on local soil at Ford’s centenary celebration event last year, the Platinum’s external gains over the Wildtrak comprises 20-inch machined alloy wheels, the Matrix LED headlights, a soft-touch closing tailgate, chrome Platinum specific grille, satin chrome mirror caps and silver roof rails.

Unlike its Wildtrak siblings, the Flexible Rack system, comprising the roof rails and adjustable sports bar, has been omitted entirely.

Ford Ranger Platinum first drive
Automatic roller shutter can be had as an option, but no the Flexible Rack adjustable sports bar.

Instead, the latter is a fixed unit and completes the visual transformation, along with chromed side-steps and side vents, a 3D Platinum badge on the bonnet, tailgate and at the base of the front doors, a chrome rear bumper, satin silver front and rear skidplates, and finally, chrome window surrounds.

On the colour front, Ford has carried the same options available in Europe over to the South Africa, namely Frozen White, Carbonised Grey, Agate Black, Iconic Silver and Lucid Red.

Slide inside

Inside, the Platinum’s upscale touches are immediately evident as apart from the 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster and 12-inch SYNC 4A infotainment system from the Wildtrak, the seats are trimmed in perforated quilted leather with Platinum badged seatbacks, with the fronts being electric, heated and ventilated.

Launch of plushest Ford Ranger
Small but easy to make-out touches differentiate the Platinum from the Wildtrak inside.

In addition to black maple wood inserts on the dashboard, Ford has added Platinum logos to the floor mats and dashboard, the latter trimmed in leather with added white stitching carried over to the centre console, seats, steering wheel and stubby e-shifter.

New on the specification front is a 64 colour ambient lighting system, a Ranger first heated steering wheel, nine airbags and the Pro Trailer Back-Up system that not only helps with hooking-up and towing, but boasts a memory function for up to 10 trailers.

Launch of plushest Ford Ranger
Quilted leather seats are heated, electric and ventilated at the front.

Besides the infotainment system and instrument cluster, other features carried over from the Wildtrak are the wireless smartphone charger, the 400-watt inverter and power outlets integrated into the loadbox wall, the drive mode selector with six settings; Eco, Normal, Slippery, Tow/Haul, Mud/Ruts and Sand, and the 10-speaker B&O Play sound system.

With the exception of the two additional airbags, the Platinum’s safety and driver assistance systems are also similar to the Wildtrak and comprise the 360-degree surround-view camera system, Adaptive Cruise Control, Park Assist, tyre pressure monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Evasive Steering Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Keep Assist, Reverse Brake Assist and Pre-Collision Warning Assist.

The drive

Given its intended usage as less of an off-roader and more of a tar-bound commuter or long distance cruiser, the launch route from Cape Town pass Hermanus, Pringle Bay and onto the outskirts of Grabouw mainly involved tarmac with a small section of gravel thrown in.

The exclusive recipient of the 3.0-litre Lion turbodiesel V6 engine, the Platinum’s on-road manners remained in check throughout the tar spell as apart from the suspension tuning, the seats provide ample support to deliver a now customary un-bakkie ride more in-line with that of its T6.2’s underpinned Everest sibling.

Launch of plushest Ford Ranger
Platinum has sole access to the 184kW/600Nm 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 engine.

With 184kW/600Nm up front, the Ranger Platinum doesn’t scarper off the mark as its figures suggest, more than likely as a result of its kerb mass verging on 2.5 tonnes.

Instead, the power response is more linear from low-down, though it does become more responsive at speed with the accelerator buried pressed a little deeper into plush carpeting.

While largely smooth, the recalibrated General Motors co-developed 10-speed automatic gearbox adds a hint of deception to the throaty sounding V6 Platinum’s progress as more than one occasion, it took longer than normal to shift down, or shift up when it came to overtaking.

Ford Ranger Platinum first drive
Platinum’s colour chart span five hues.

However, it still remains a significant improvement over the first incarnation that tended to skip ratios too often in conjunction with the original bi-turbodiesel four-cylinder.

Unsurprisingly, the gravel jaunt outside Grabouw wasn’t as a plain-sailing. While outfitted with the 2H, 4A, 4L and 4H modes as the Wildtrak and Wildtrak X, the on-road biased suspension and tyres made the Platinum felt somewhat out of its depth as care had to be taken on the less than 15 km stretch.

A conventional road that didn’t provide any extreme challenges or hazards, apart from hanging dust, the Platinum tended to feel skittish and bouncy even in 4A, though this will most likely improve with a load present underneath the optional electronic roller shutter.

Conclusion

An addition, along with the Tremor, which takes the Silverton-made Ranger line-up to 26 models – the Raptor excluded as production takes place in Thailand – the Platinum occupies a space frequented by one other rival, the Aventura version of its fraternal sibling, the Volkswagen Amarok, as both the Raptor and Jeep Gladiator are skewed towards off-roading than outright luxury.

Launch of plushest Ford Ranger
Ranger becomes the second Ford model after the Everest to feature the Platinum nomenclature.

Likely to remain a point of content as its R1 119 000 asking price represents a R62 900 premium over the Wildtrak V6, the Platinum’s upmarket emphasis and promise of standing out more than its sibling will arguably be of greater significance to buyers seeking a luxury SUV-with-a-loadbin than a bakkie “everyone else has”.

An inclusion expected to cement the Ranger’s position as the country’s best-selling double cab – 20 662 versus the Toyota Hilux’s 18 204 last year – the Ranger Platinum’s weeklong test drive tenure is awaited with keen interest.

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