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Review: Ranger Platinum 3.0 V6 4×4 auto

Platinum is an essential metal in automotive design, not just as a brand badge.

A crucial part of most exhaust after-treatment systems, platinum helps modern engines achieve emissions compliance. But for many car buyers, the technical issues around what platinum does are less tangible and important than what the figurative platinum branding epithet represents.

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Ford is one of the brands which use ‘Platinum’ to denote its luxury trim derivatives. It’s telling that Ford markets a ‘Platinum’ version of the Ranger. Why? Because it proves how the market for double-cabs has evolved. There is real demand for a luxury trim double-cab bakkie, used primarily in the on-road role as a commuter and touring vehicle. Not a workhorse bakkie.

And Ford is smart enough to know how the Ranger should be configured to best conform to that role, as a double-cab leisure bakkie. Hence, the existence of a Ranger double-cab in Platinum trim.

The luxury bakkie idea

What’s different? Mostly, it’s just cosmetic styling. Some silk chrome surface finishes, matrix LED headlights (which you’ll be grateful for when driving at night, on off-highway routes), and 20-inch wheels.

Inside, the Ranger Platinum is distinguished by its quality leather trim. And it’s not an afterthought. The seats feature proper quilted leather patterning, which looks good and greatly enhances long-distance driving comfort. How? It supports passenger weight much better than conventionally tensioned, panelled, and stitched seat finishes.

Seats are crucially underrated as a comfort feature on any vehicle. Poorly padded and shaped seats can become horrible when you’re driving long distances, as South African double-cab bakkie owners often do.

These seats make a difference

What makes comfy seats even better? Thermal functionality – the ability to heat in winter and cool in summer. This Ford bakkie can do both, and it’s premium seats are exceptionally comfortable. For historic fans of the Ford brand, these are the calibre of seats you’d find in something like a Lincoln.

Old-school double-cabs were awful long-distance driving vehicles with outrageously uncomfortable seats. Whether you’re journeying in the depth or winter or peak summer, the Platinum’s thermally adjustable seats are ridiculously comfortable – the measure of any luxury SUV.

Ford’s most luxurious Ranger rolls on large 20-inch alloy wheels, which look great, but don’t deliver the best ride quality. Tyre specification is lower volume than it should be for a heavy double-cab bakkie in South Africa, where corrugated dirt roads and potholes on many B-roads are real-world driving experiences.

Platinum tyres are for highways – not Karoo roads

It’s a pity that luxury double-cab bakkies continue to be specced with aesthetic wheel options instead of something more functional, with larger-sized tyres, that deliver much better pothole strike survivability and real-world ride quality.

That said, the Platinum’s tyres have a very high speed rating for a bakkie, making high-speed cruising more safer – and that’s important considering the performance of its powerful 3-litre V6 turbodiesel engine.

But these tyres are not adequately robust for off-roading, regarding casing protection, deflation, or tread pattern. The Ranger Platinum has an entirely capable low-range transfer case, lockable rear differential and some clever throttle and gearbox mapping, that you can select for different terrain tyres. Still, it’s 4×4 ability is constrained by those road-biased tyres.

What isn’t constrained is its load capacity.

You must have the roller shutter

The powered roller shutter is great, especially with the confirmation locking function in the Ranger Platinum key fob. In South Africa, opportunistic vehicle crime is a real concern, and having a double-cab bakkie with such an adaptable and secure loadbox storage space, brings a lot of utility and peace of mind to the ownership experience.

It’s one of those features that is everything but a gimmick. For owners who will use the Ranger Platinum double-cab as a true touring vehicle on weekends, when the loadbox is filled with luggage and outdoor gear, the security feature of a remotely lockable loadbox is excellent.

The powered and automated functionality also prevents the annoyance of fiddling with loadbox roller shutter keys and slots. This can be annoying, especially in the depths of winter, during evenings and early mornings, when your fingers are frozen and uncoordinated. But, the powered roller shutter with remote locking is a R25 200 option, on a bakkie that already prices beyond R1m.

Platinum V6 or a bi-turbo Everest?

As one of the R1m+ bakkies, much is expected from this Platinum specification Ranger. And with its generous allocation of luxury features, especially the front seating comfort and cabin bits, it does deliver most of the comfort you’d experience in a luxury SUV – provided you’re a front passenger.

Second-row passenger comfort is still lacking compared to an SUV, like the Ford Everest, a platform twin of the Ranger. But that huge loadbox, with its powered roller shutter, does create a safe storage with which no SUV can compete. In that sense, the Ranger Platinum offers an interesting blend of hybridized ownership, between the utility of a traditional double-cab and a luxury SUV.

Priced at R1 120 100, the Ranger Platinum 3.0 V6 4X4 auto is a luxury bakkie alternative to the idea of a similarly sized ladder frame SUV. Especially when you tick the powered roller shutter, which hikes the price to R1 145 300, but certainly makes it a more complete leisure and lifestyle bakkie.

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