Buying Used: Ford Ranger PJ/PK (2007-12)

words - Cliff Chambers
Australians love commercial vehicles that can play on Sunday then work on Monday and Ford’s turbo-diesel Ranger has the style and grunt to do both.

Buying Used: Ford Ranger PJ/PK (2007-12)

Since 2006, when Ford Ranger replaced the Courier, it has captured a very respectable slice of the Light Commercial market. Even more impressive has been its ability to outsell the mechanically identical Mazda BT-50. Distinctive looks, it seems, do still matter in the automotive world.

HISTORY

Viewed alongside a superseded Courier, or for that matter the Mazda BT-50 on which it is based, changes to the Ranger’s styling were significant. The barred grille was deeper and more prominent with an integrated bumper that offered precious little protection and encouraged buyers to spend extra on a very stylish bull-bar. Big wheel-arch flares, colour-keyed on higher-spec models, added a muscular element to the Ranger profile.

Cheapest of the PJ series introduced for 2007 was the $21,000 XL single-cab with rear-wheel drive and 105kW from a 2.5-litre turbo-diesel engine. These could be specified with a standard aluminium tray or, as the used market reveals, a variety of specialised bodies. A pickup version was available for only $1000 more.

The XL cabin was sparse and early ones listed air-conditioning as an option. However, a scan of the used market didn’t reveal any that were lacking an A/C switch. Other inclusions were power steering and central locking, a CD player, and electric windows. Dual air-bags were standard but anyone sitting in the middle of a three seater didn’t warrant a head restraint, let alone an air-bag.

Those needing a little more storage space could up their spend by around $5000 to fund an XL Super Cab or Dual-Cab. These came with the slightly more powerful 3.0-litre engine (115kW against 105kW from the 2.5) and a limited-slip differential.

From 2009 the Ranger line-up was extended to include a 4x2 model in XLT trim. Despite costing more than $40,000, the rear-wheel drive version missed out on the 4WD XLT’s alloy wheels and side air-bags.

4WD versions of the Ranger began at $30,900 with five-speed manual transmission and the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine. Even the basic, cab-chassis all-wheeler has the 115kW motor.

The utilitarian XLs were big sellers and resale values attest to ongoing demand but they don’t provide the versatility that can be found in a 4x4 Dual-Cab.

XLTs came with their own tail-light design, chrome embellishments, side-steps, ‘sports’ bars and a bed-liner in the tray. The bull-bar blended so seamlessly you had to look hard to see it.

Switching from PJ to a PK designation in April 2009 brought no change to pricing or equipment but some significant alterations in presentation. The restyle added lettering to the grille and two big, vertical ‘nostrils’ plus new headlights and integrated fog-lamps.

The range was extended to include a new Wildtrack 4x4 Dual-Cab with the XLT’s features plus monogrammed seats with Alcantra (fake suede) inserts, a roller-shutter tray cover, roof bars and unmissable door decals.

 
ON THE ROAD
Two and four-wheel drive Rangers are vehicles of different character and aimed at a diverse range of buyers. As a workhorse, the basic two-wheel drive can be found sitting on building sites or meandering city streets on a variety of delivery tasks. Buyers with practicality in mind will like the Ford for its load and towing (up to three tonnes) capacities, punchy performance, excellent auto transmission and a decent ride.

The cabin, seats and controls deliver the levels of quality expected of a Mazda design and the layout is reasonably sensible. Comfort for those up front is very good; plenty of leg and head-room plus seat and steering column tilt adjustment.

The rear doors on dual-cabs are uncomfortably narrow but even the XL’s bench seat is fairly comfortable and with decent back-rest rake so you don’t sit uncomfortably upright.

It may not seem an immediate choice but the Ranger will sit very competitively alongside Navara and Hilux on the ‘next car’ list for families looking to hit some sand or tow a decent load over rough terrain.

The manual gearbox isn’t especially sporty but works well in urban or off-road situations. Towing with a manual can create some problems, especially when getting a heavy van or trailer underway when travelling uphill. The auto reportedly avoids durability problems, even when consistently dragging a load.

As is typical of utes with stiff springs and minimal weight over the rear, an unladen Ranger is likely to jump about and perhaps catch the unwary when an inside wheel breaks traction in a wet conditions.

There’s a lot of clearance between tyres and the ‘Hi-Rider’ wheel-arches but 4x4 Rangers don’t make you feel like a passenger on a mechanical bull. Body roll at reasonable speeds is well controlled and the power steering is excellent for a vehicle of this kind.

Reports from serious off-road users say the Ranger/BT-50 duo in automatic or manual spec are good things when flung at some rough terrain. All that torque and excellent suspension travel combine to make a handy off-roader.

The five-speed auto doesn’t have a sequential shift feature but manual downshifting to maximise engine braking is simple and dropping a couple of ratios slows you nicely.

Using 4WD in the auto is easy, with on-the-move selection against the manual version’s requirement to stop before engaging the front diff. At least there’s a dash switch for hub-locking.

Anyone who thinks that straight-line performance is only available from big-capacity engines needs to drive a 3.0-litre Mazda diesel. This isn’t the most powerful turbo-diesel in its class but has a massive 380Nm of torque arriving at 1800rpm, with peak power at 3200. It means that mid-range acceleration occurs with minimal effort; lessening the risk of being hung out on the wrong side of the road by a motor that has run out of puff.

Tests in urban and rural environments saw fuel economy from the 2.4-litre average around 8.5L/100km, with the 3.0-litre slightly above 9L/100.


CHECK POINTS
<< A total of 30,000 Rangers were recalled in 2010 to replace bonnet locking components that could have failed and allowed the bonnet to fly open. There was a further recall involving 8000 units with accessory cruise control to correct a possible engagement fault.
<< These are competent off-roaders but they can be put into situations beyond their capabilities. Check for damage to the air-dam, under-body protection plates, drive shafts and universal-joint boots.
<< Vehicles of this age really should not be rusting but some do. Check window surrounds and body seams for bubbles and staining.
<< Problems with the dual-mass flywheel -- used to minimise vibration -- were common and the design from 2012 returned to a conventional flywheel. Vibration at constant speed, clutch shudder or difficulty selecting gears all point to a clutch problem. Reversing on an incline can cause damage and Rangers displaying these traits are best avoided.

USED VEHICLE GRADING
Design & Function: 16/20
Safety: 12/20
Practicality: 16/20
Value for Money: 15/20
Wow Factor: 12/20
SCORE: 71/100

ALSO CONSIDER:
Toyota Hi-Lux, Nissan Navara

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Published : Friday, 23 August 2013
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