Festive season coast lashing a painless experience in our Ford Ranger Thunder
Special edition version of the Wildtrak has become an instant hit over a short period given how many are already on our roads.
Down by the sea and on familiar ‘roads’
Down by the sea and on familiar ‘roads’
Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism
If ever there was a car or in this case bakkie that lived-up to its name too literally, our soon-to-depart long-term Ford Ranger Thunder would’ve ranked among the top five.
Bizarrely, the sight of our Sea Grey bi-turbo double cab 4×4 in the care of yours truly at almost any stage during the latter stages of last year would result in the bright blue above select its most threatening shade of grey before clearing its throat with a distinct rumble and then opening the taps while putting on an incredible light show for our guardian of the Blue Oval.
In-line with the saying, “you cannot make this up”, or something to that extent, the past festive season started out in much the same way as our Thunder’s trek to the Struandale Engine Plant in Port Elizabeth where its twin-blown heart is made; a grey sky literally highlighted by all types of lighting shapes and rain, plus the fact that the person behind the wheel was the same who took it down to the coast the first time.
In this instance though, the Thunder was to face not only a second trip, but also one that took it in the heart of what was classified as a pandemic hotspot, not once, but twice as it also decedent upon the Garden Route over the Christmas. In total, the 4 701 km it covered with a best recorded consumption of 7.4 L/100 km not only went by with no drama, but also highlighted another aspect; the rate at how what is essentially an aesthetically enhanced Wildtrak had exploded in popularity over a short period.
Right from departing the Big Smoke to pottering around my hometown of Despatch, going to Port Elizabeth and then heading out on the N2 to Hartenbos and Mossel Bay before returning to Johannesburg, it was almost a guarantee that two handfuls of Thunders would pass on the opposite side or overtake, a clear example of South Africans’ love for special edition models that look different, but are otherwise identical to their ‘less gifted’ siblings.
The extended period of having the Thunder didn’t only involve being tar bound as it spend quite a lot time, followed by numerous trips to the car wash, off-road. While mostly left in high range four-wheel-drive, the slim rotary dial found itself in low range on a few occasions, most notably the discovery of a large pan outside Uitenhage that seemingly resembled the Makgadikgadi in Botswana.
Aside from its driver being too cautions when tasked with going-up a steep incline in order to avoid the skidplates or side steps hitting the ground, which resulted in a loss of momentum and all four wheels spinning uselessly, the Ranger made light work of the terrain otherwise as the 500 Nm offered by its 2.0-litre engine proved more than enough.
Out on the open road, it was business as usual with the ride being comfortable, the seats supportive and the 157 kW not resulting in any groans for a lack of grunt. As before though, the ten-speed automatic gearbox, while slick, tended to take its ratio skipping fondness too far and cause the Thunder to be left without poke for a few seconds. It highlighted what is perhaps the most annoying part of the ‘box, the lack of a proper manual override like the gate on the 2.2 and 3.2-litre or the paddles found on the Raptor as the buttons on the gear lever are more frustrating and pointless than anything else.
Towards the end of its stay, the Thunder also made landfall i Jeffreys Bay as part of an impromptu road trip for something this writer views as an absolute necessity no matter the weather or temperature; a pair of surfer approved plakkies. In the boiling Eastern Cape heat, which become more Highveld-like not long after, a rendezvous up a gravel road on the way back elicited a more sombre sight; the remains of the narrow-gauge railway line that ran from Port Elizabeth to Avontuur in the Western Cape and over the notorious Van Stadens River gorge across the highest bridge of its kind in the world.
Left to rust after floods in 2006, along with a line of forgotten hopper cars, the line once used by the Apple Express steam train nonetheless made for an ideal replication of a television advertisement famously used by one of its biggest rivals. Sneaky, but an opportunity I simply couldn’t resist.
The trek back to Johannesburg was completed without fuss and despite the monotony of the N1, the Adaptive Cruise Control made for painless going with little engine or road noise intruding into the cabin. Since the odometer had ticked over, the Thunder was due for its scheduled 15 000 km service. Paul Maher Ford in Randburg was selected and after a painless book-in set for two days later, the Thunder was returned looking like new after tabs on its progress was relayed via SMS throughout.
As much as it lived-up to its name in more ways than one, the ease at which the Ford Ranger Thunder took each task thrown at it during the festive season in its stride only proved why double cabs have become the new family sedan and a vehicle many cannot live without.
In the case of the Thunder, with its red stitched black leather upholstery, easy-as-chips eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, bi-LED headlights, menacing black 17-inch alloy wheels, rain sense wipers, plethora of safety and driver assistance systems and heated front chairs, it turned-out to be ideal companion, again, and proof that the premium it commands over the Wildtrak had not been a deterrence for Blue Oval or bakkie loving South Africans.
Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits