Ford Ranger 2021 review: Featuring a Big Red 19ft Slider
The Big Tow
As highlighted last month, the Ford Ranger XLT has all the fundamentals required to be an excellent towing vehicle. The fact that it comes standard with a 3500kg tow-bar and 12-pin plug is a good start, but there are other important attributes.
Its relatively long 3220mm wheelbase and two-tonne-plus kerb weight (2197kg to be exact) provide a rock-solid platform with good directional stability for towing. This is enhanced by a relatively short distance between the rear axle line and the tow-ball; the shorter this distance, the less potential for unnerving ‘yaw’ or horizontal sideways movement in the trailer’s A-frame.
It also has a comprehensive electronic stability program including trailer sway control and a choice of two powerful turbo-diesel engines; the venerable single-turbo 3.2-litre in-line five-cylinder with 147kW/470Nm, or the twin-turbo 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder as fitted to our example with 157kW/500Nm.
However, given that we were planning to tow a trailer with a GTM (Gross Trailer Mass) greater than 750kg, which was also considerably wider than the Ranger, Australian law required installation of an electric trailer brake controller and towing mirrors.
As covered in last month’s report, we selected both of these items from the Ford Licensed Accessories (FLA) range and both were efficiently installed in a day by the service team at Etheridge Ford in Ringwood.
The Ford-customised Redarc controller is fully compatible with the Ranger’s Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and the trailer’s braking force is easily adjusted via a small rotary dial on the centre console. The Clearview towing mirrors, which when fully extended are 300mm wider on each side than the standard mirrors, offer panoramic views down each side of your rig.
So, with the Ranger XLT fully-prepped for towing duties, we contacted the team at New Age Caravans in Melbourne who kindly loaned as a Big Red 19-foot Slider to put to the test. With an overall length from tow-ball to rear bumper of 8100mm, the dual-axle Big Red has a 2650kg tare weight and 3250kg ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass or maximum weight when fully loaded), which is comfortably within the Ranger’s 3500kg maximum braked towing capacity.
For this test we towed at the Big Red’s tare weight, but if you were to tow this caravan at its maximum 3250kg ATM, that would leave 550kg of payload capacity to stay on the legal side of the Ranger’s 6000kg GCM (Gross Combination Mass or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time).
Although more than half a tonne of payload might sound like a lot, most if not all of that could be used up purely by a crew of five without their luggage or anything else. So, it’s always worth carefully doing your sums on towing weights, because an overloaded vehicle or vehicle/trailer combination is both dangerous and illegal
Connecting the Big Red’s tow coupling to the Ranger’s tow-ball was a simple process, given the ability to easily line them up with precision using the XLT’s reversing camera. Under this tow-ball download, the Ranger's rear suspension only compressed 42mm with heaps of bump-stop clearance remaining and the nose only rose 15mm in response.
Setting up the electric trailer brake controller was also straightforward. We started off with the rotary control dial on its middle setting and then, with a few gentle brake applications at low speed on a quiet street, gradually increased the caravan’s braking force until we felt its brakes biting a fraction harder than the Ranger’s. We then slightly decreased the setting to establish a nice balance between them.
On the highway the Ranger’s ample torque got the rig up to our 100km/h cruising speed pretty smartly and then maintained that momentum with minimal effort. Although on paper its maximum 500Nm of torque peaks in a very narrow 250rpm band between 1750-2000rpm, it provided ample pulling power either side of that figure.
For example, with the ten-speed automatic transmission in top gear at 100km/h, the engine was barely ticking over at 1500rpm. On long inclines, it shifted back to ninth which raised engine revs to 2000rpm and sometimes back to eighth where it was pulling 2500rpm. However, it never needed to shift lower than eighth and there was no frantic hunting between ratios like some autos do when pulling heavy loads.
Read the full review here: https://www.carsguide.com.au/family/ford-ranger-xlt-81740