Saturday, May 19, 2012

Is This the Best Fisherman's 4WD?

FishMax Exclusive: Our motoring journalist, Digger tells it like it is after a tough trial of the Ford Ranger XLT Double Cab 4x4 on Queensland fishing hotspot, Fraser Island

From the time that I picked up the Ford Ranger XLT Double Cab 4x4 it began to impress. The wife and three kids were dropped off in the ‘morning run’. All of the Ranger variants above the base model have scored a five star ANCAP rating, providing peace-of-mind for the trip. There was plenty of space for the kids even with school bags inside the cab. The ride was satisfactory, not soft but I was hoping that it wouldn’t be, in anticipation of putting it to work on Fraser Island over the coming three days.

Back to the shed to load up for the trip, and again the stand-out feature is the space, both in the cab and the tray. Inside, the large centre console, big door pockets, under-seat storage and even more space behind the back seat made it easy to stow anything that wasn’t waterproof. The forecast was for rain and the FishMax crew had already started ringing with concerns for how much space we would have. “Don’t worry”, I said, “we’ve got space...”  The tray is nice and deep (even deeper than the competitor’s), is a good square shape with no inconvenient nooks and crannies, has plenty of tie down points and has a robust tray liner. Four eskies, eight rods, tackle boxes and buckets, cooking gear and clothes hardly made a dent in the tray capacity. The dedicated fisherman is going to need a better way to stow rods though, maybe a rear bar in the tray to hold your rods over the roof-line, secured on the existing sport-bar.

The next part of the trip was the 300km up the highway to River Heads, picking up the rest of the FishMax crew along the way. The trip was comfortable with the 3.2 litre turbo diesel and big wheels making it an easy drive on the highway. Although Southeast Queensland doesn’t offer many opportunities to use sixth gear, I could see how it could offer an economical advantage West of the Great Divide, or on good motorways. The extra torque meant that the small towns along the way are crossed easily with anything from 3rd to 5th gear. The suspension set up gives a pretty good ride, but you know you’re not in a ‘soft-roader’. There was plenty of time to press all of the buttons and get used to the cabin layout. Everything that you would expect from a brand new model was in easy reach, easily found and nothing was overly complicated. All around visibility was good. The engine gives out a pleasant low rumble without being loud.

By the time we arrived at River Heads we had more tackle, eskies and bags in the back and four big guys and an esky in the cab. There wasn’t a single complaint about leg or shoulder room from the back seat, and I think that another couple of hours in the driver’s seat could have been done easily.

Driving across the island was so easy. As I was hoping, the ride was spot-on. The combination of the torque, the big wheels and the suspension meant that the Ranger could lope along at low revs smoothing out the tree roots and pot-holes as well. The very respectable approach and break-over angles meant there was no ‘pussy-footing’ around the occasional wash-out or log.

On the beach, the Ranger continued to impress, making easy work of the soft sand, creeks, rocks and the occasional steep climb off the beach. When the weather turned bad, there was even room for the four of us to get in out of the rain and stretch out and warm up for a while. In fact, when the fishing was rubbish, we just drove around enjoying the ride and the scenery. And, at less than 10litres/100km off the road, we could afford to.

Would I buy one? Absolutely.  The big winners for me were the big, torquey turbo diesel, the suspension set-up and the space, both inside and out. The new Ranger is an excellent truck for my style of fishing.

Words: Digger P Pics: Stevo Perry & Ford Australia


  1. sounds great, looks sharp. I may just buy one!

  2. The more I look at one the more impressed I am. Leaves the Hilux way behind and I've had a few of them.