The Magazine for LCV Fleet Operators
Ford is compounding its position in the UK pick-up sector with the addition of Ranger Thunder, says Dan Gilkes. Lightning strikes

Ford’s marketing department is no stranger to the power of an alloy wheel, a colourful stripe or a spoiler, there are plenty of Transit SportVans that prove that. The same can be said for its Ranger pick-up line, with Wildtrack and Raptor capturing the imagination of buyers.

Now Ford has brought back the Thunder name to the range, with a host of styling tweaks to make its Ranger truck look even better. The fact that this is the first pick-up I have had on the drive where I have caught people grabbing a pic with their smartphones, proves that they have once again hit the target.

Powertrain

Unlike some sporty special editions, the Ranger Thunder is not all show and no go. Under the bonnet is the 213hp bi-turbo version of Ford’s 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine, which pumps out a healthy 500Nm of torque. This drives through an automatic transmission with no less than 10 gears, which aims to keep the engine in its most economical rpm band.

It seems to be successful too, as the Thunder pick-up boasts a fuel economy figure of 31mpg and CO2 emissions of 242g/km (WLTP). More importantly, the auto transmission works on the road. It is incredibly smooth and unless you have it in manual mode, you won’t know what gear it is in at any given time. But that doesn’t matter, suffice to say that it always seems to be in the right gear, to meet any given driving situation.

Load carrying capacity

Unlike Ranger Raptor, the Thunder model loses nothing to its stablemates in terms of carrying capacity. That means a payload in excess of 1.0-tonne, allowing VAT to be reclaimed and a towing capacity of 3.5-tonnes.

There is a black Mountain Top roller shutter option for the load bed, that can be ordered with a bedliner divider (£1,620). You can also get cross bars that sit above the roller shutter, offering additional carrying capacity outside the pick-up bed.

In the cab

The Thunder truck builds on the already high specification Wildtrak model. Sea Gray is the only colour option, with red highlights on the grille and sports hoop. You also get black wheels and Ebony Black front grille, rear bumper, skid plates, fog light surrounds, load bay sports hoop and door handles.

Inside there are black leather seats with Thunder embroidered in red and matching stitching on the steering wheel, seats and instrument panel. There are also red-illuminated sill plates, so this is not a truck for the shy and retiring.

Of more use are Bi-Xenon headlights, LED front fogs, a heated windscreen, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.

On the road

The real reason for this test was not to get to grips with the latest special edition in Ford’s truck line-up, but to spend some time with that 10-speed automatic transmission. It really is very good, smoothly sliding between ratios and just leaving you free to get on with the driving.

You can pick your gears individually for off-road driving, but on the road its easiest just to let the truck get on with things. Of course, it helps to have plenty of power and an engine with a flexible torque delivery to make the most of this box. The 2.0-litre bi-turbo engine doesn’t disappoint delivering strong performance and relaxed cruising in equal measure.

Conclusion

From a limited run of 4,500 Thunder pick-ups, only 1,400 were destined for the UK and, as you can see elsewhere in this issue, Ford is already looking at a follow-up act or two. That won’t stop the Thunder being much in demand in Ford dealers and buyers will have little to be unhappy about.

VanUser rating : 4.5