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By Mark Jones

Road Test Editor

Ford Ranger Wildtrak X as nifty in the dirt as it is on the tarmac

This rugged bakkie is geared to handle anything Mother Earth has to throw at it.

Last month The Citizen Motoring told you about the on-road driving safety tech in our long-term Ford Ranger Wildtrak X. And how this helped us survive 3 000 km of open-road driving in what is a war zone out there.

This month’s update is all about kicking back, having a beer, checking out some game and getting our Pavement Princess dirty.

A quick birthday celebration trip to Marloth Park gave us the perfect opportunity. Marloth Park, for those who don’t get out of the city much, is a wildlife sanctuary on the southern boundary of the Kruger National Park. It is filled with your basic “McDonalds” of the wild, like kudu, zebra, giraffe, nyala, and impala, plus four of the Big Five, except for elephant.

ALSO READ: Ford Ranger Wildtrak X is a bakkie that thinks for you

Hitting the dirt

Maybe more importantly for this update, it is also home to a lot of dirt roads that our Ford Ranger Wildtrak X was chomping at the bit to play on. Full disclaimer up front: I did not do any extreme off-roading this Ranger Wildtrak X was made for.

Ford ranger Wildtrak X badge
The Wildtrak X likes getting down and dirty. Picture: Mark Jones

The main reason being that a wildlife sanctuary/game park will never provide the type of test required for this. And it hurts my soul to go scratching body panels and banging running boards on a vehicle which costs more than R1 million.

Should you feel differently and want to go where I didn’t want to and mix it up with the professionals who remember to play Buffalo even when they are at the breakfast table with their family, then you will be happy to know this bakkie offers the serious off-roader everything they could want.

If you look at the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X, you can see how beefy it looks. Even more so when you park next to the likes of an Isuzu (my neighbour has one).

And this is not an optical illusion. This bakkie has a 30 mm wider stance that provides an even more stable footprint off-road over a normal Wildtrak. Ground clearance has also risen by 26 mm, which will help you clear most obstacles you would expect to find out in the bush or on a 4×4 trail.

ALSO READ: Ford Ranger Wildtrak X geared to take on any adventure

Rugged footwear

Making sure you can stay out in the bush and not have to worry about punctures being too much of an issue, the Ford engineers fitted new-design 17-inch alloys wrapped in 265/70 R17 General Grabber AT3 all-terrain tyres featuring bold white lettering to the Ranger Wildtrak X. They look the part as much as they are functional.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak X tyres
The rubberware doesn’t only look good, it gets the job done. Picture: Mark Jones

Taking this surefooted feeling even further, this bakkie comes standard with specially tuned Bilstein Position-Sensitive Dampers. These not only make the tar road racers happy. I am sure it will also please those farmers who measure a bakkie’s value by how fast they can get from farm to farm on rutted dirt roads.

Since I am not a farmer, nor a professional off-roader, I do appreciate that the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X offers seven driving modes from Normal, Eco, Tow/Haul, Slippery, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl to do the hard work of figuring out what one should be doing when faced with whatever the bush or a 4×4 trail can throw at you.

Talking of which, this bakkie offers a thing called trail turn assist. What this feature allows you to do is negotiate tight bends on narrow tracks. Those normally found on the side of that mountain I was avoiding. By applying the brake on the inside rear wheel, the turning radius is reduced by up to 25%.

ALSO READ: LISTEN: What Ford Ranger Wildtrak X brings to bakkie war

One clever Ford Ranger

It’s designed to be used on loose surfaces at speeds under 19km/h. It can activated when the bakkie is engaged in 4H or 4L and the rear differential is unlocked. In non-technical terms, what trail control allows is the bakkie to pivot slightly around the rear wheel that is being braked.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak X screen
The drive mode system does the thinking for you. Picture: Mark Jones

Trail control, carried over from the Ford Ranger Raptor to the Wildtrak X also helps to maintain constant low speed. You simply select a speed below 32km/h and the bakkie will manage its acceleration and braking. This enables the driver concentrates on steering through difficult terrain.

Perhaps I should go tackle a serious 4×4 track and see what happens? Watch this space…

For next month’s update, colleague Jaco van der Merwe is planning to sort out his garden. He has been promising his wife he would do so since last year, and this involves moving rocks and rubble. That means our Ford Ranger Wildtrak X will do duty as a workhorse.

The Ranger Wildtrak X 2.0-litre biturbo 4×4 10AT retails for a suggested R1 million and includes Ford Protect. This includes a four-year/120 000km warranty, four-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited distance corrosion warranty.

Customers have the option of purchasing service or maintenance plans up to eight years or 135 000km.

ALSO READ: WATCH: X marks the spot for new Ford Ranger Wildtrak

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