ByEldon De CroosOctober 13, 2014

This new Ford Ranger has been toughened up specifically for the resources sector, but will put a smile on the face of weekend warriors as well

There’s no denying that the Ford Ranger has already developed a strong following. Its sales figures have powered past Nissan and Mitsubishi pick-ups and are threatening to bump the benchmark HiLux off its “King of the Mountain” perch, further closing the gap by 1000 units so far in 2014.

Not prepared to just rest on its laurels, the Ford Ranger is set to further broaden its appeal with the arrival of the 4×4 XL Plus – a vehicle purpose-built to attract attention from cashed-up mining companies.

Making its debut at the 2014 Mining and Engineering Expo in Western Australia, the XL Plus meets five-star ANCAP safety rating requirements – an important aspect for selling into the mining sector (and kind of nice for Average Joe and his family, too).

Based upon the popular XL, the Plus is geared toward the specific needs of large fleet purchasers in the commercial and mining fields. Standard features include the potent 3.2-litre TDCi I5 diesel engine coupled to a six-speed auto with locking rear differential when things get slippery. Add in a hefty 3500kg towing capacity and this is a no-nonsense workhorse.

A key design feature with the XL Plus is an expanded wiring harness complete with additional pre-wired electrical circuits and auxiliary switch bezel to accommodate easier installation of electrical equipment such as light bars, driving lights and radios. This greatly simplifies life for aftermarket accessory installers by standardising fitment and reduces the servicing complexity for ongoing maintenance or repairs.

There’s also a list of practical features on offer such as no-fuss molded black bumper bars and proper 17-inch steel wheels with realistic all-terrain tyres. Canvas seat covers help keep grubby overalls, mud and dirt at bay without affecting the seat-mounted airbags. There’s even an additional 80 amp hour deep-cycle battery with isolator to power those must-have extra items, and keep the main battery ready for starting duties. For added safety and greater visibility on site there’s day-time running lights, with running boards (double cab only) to make constantly getting in and out easier.

The optional steel bull bar genuinely provides solid protection against animal strike but, importantly, it still retains compliance with the five-star ANCAP safety rating. The bar has been specifically designed with commercial applications in mind, providing mounting points for driving lights, antennas and high-visibility safety flags.

All of the 4×4 XL Plus models are compatible with the existing range of genuine Ford accessories.

The new features in the Ranger 4×4 XL Plus came about from Ford’s aspiration to broaden sales in the lucrative commercial sector. But weekend warriors are sure to be pleased by those same functionality upgrades.

Ford vice-president of marketing, sales and service, Graeme Whickman, said: “The fact that Ranger was designed and engineered in Australia means it has proven capability in our harsh conditions; something that our customers recognise.”

The Manufacturer’s List Price ranges from $46,280 for the XL Plus Single Cab Chassis to $52,760 for Double Cab Pick-Up with the optional steel bull bar $1800 including GST.

Words: Ray Cully