It was just two years ago when Ford Group Philippines (FGP) launched the Ranger amid all the excitement and buzz that usually accompanies each new model in the country. FGP knew they had a good package of power, looks and class-leading features but so did other trucks that have come and simply motored away.
Automakers believe there’s always formula for it; a right mix of everything that a truck-lover may want but it’s never a surefire guarantee.
Well somebody better grab the blueprint of the Ford Ranger because in a relatively short amount of time it has made FGP history by selling 807 units in one month (August) surpassing all expectations and setting a new company record.
This was obviously a huge milestone for FGP prompting them to draw up a 845-kilometer media fun drive from Ford Global City in Taguig to Baler, Central Luzon, Baguio and back in three exciting, adrenaline-fueled days that makes this job (motoring journalist) deserve the #ilovemyjob.
Resorts ‘a hop, skip and a jump away’ for one of the best-selling trucks in the country, five Rangers made up of XLTs and a couple of Wildtraks, ain’t gonna cut it. The Ranger needs a lot of road to roam, explore and cover to give that Variable Geometry Turbo plenty of air to suck and all that power put to good use.
Costa Pacifica in Baler, a 292-kilometer drive seemed like a reasonable enough route for starters. The route from NLEX was SCTEX, Tarlac, Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija and through the tight twists and turns of the mountainous region of Aurora Memorial National Park before coming down to sea level in Baler.
That first leg had all the components of a road test if I was a professor and the Ranger was a student looking to pass a truck test. The stretches were long and expansive enough to showcase the power of the four-cylinder 2.2L turbocharged CRDi (Common Rail Direct Injection) engines of the three 4×2 XLTs with six-speed manual transmission. The real challenge was keeping to the speed limit because the 150 PS under the hood producing 375 Nm of pulling power, seemed to be begging for more fuel to burn at each and every opportunity.
The five-cylinder 3.2L turbocharged CRDi engine of the 4×4 Wildtraks was without question, a huge step up. Because of popular demand, FGP finally brought in the six-speed manual transmission variant and lent one during the drive (the other was a six-speed AT). Its 200 PS giving you 470 Nm of torque feels much more defined and pronounced on the manual transmission but I’d take the AT any day of the week if I’m driving in Metro Manila.
The real test was the 54-kilometer stretch through the Aurora Memorial National Park. Going through the Sierra Madre mountain range, the longest in the country, put the convoy through an infinite amount of sharp twists and turns while climbing and descending what felt like a handful of mountains.
Each sharp corner presented either a relatively short steep incline or descent, which meant sharp hand-eye coordination was needed, combined with the agility and power of the Ranger. Sounds like fun and it was, but it was also a lot of braking, turning and keeping up with the convoy speed to avoid delaying the trip. The keeping up was easy, just a little pedal pressure and you’re off in a huff, around the bend and into the next daunting corner of the mountain.
The Ranger could not have performed any better than it did. It was impressive from the foot of the mountain all the way to the coast. It was power and precision delivered with ease. There much so much torque to go around that even at steep angles, the Ranger simply muscled through high gears that would make lesser trucks stall.
Although the limited amount of drive time on both variants wasn’t sufficient enough to really deliver a tangible verdict in terms of ride comfort, it felt a little more rigid on the 4×2 than the 4×4 owing perhaps to the weight the 4WD system lays on the suspension.
Despite a little delay in the takeoff from Manila, we made it to Luzon’s surfing destination with a lot of sunlight left, giving us time to stop by the very exclusive Dicasalarin Cove owned by former Senator Edgardo Angara for late lunch and picturesque photos of the Ranger by the beach.
We arrived at Costa Pacifica resort with enough time for a dip in the beautiful pool and for some members of the group to schedule surfing lessons early in the morning the next day before our 8am departure time because seriously, how often do you come by Baler anyway.
The next day’s drive was as exciting as the previous day’s with a 5 hours to spare and 291 kilometers to cover to get the group from Baler to Baguio City in time for the inauguration of the marquee’s first ever Baguio dealership, Ford Metro Baguio.
The Rangers, again, made everything look easy and maybe to a certain extent made all the drivers behind the wheel look good in taking on the tricky terrain. There is currently an abundant share of off-road patches and under repair sections along the way that points to major progress in Baler’s effort to become a major tourist destination in the country.
After getting an arm workout driving from Baler, because you do feel the weight of these Rangers through the steering wheel which is a good thing because you don’t want to be deceived into thinking you’re driving a compact car, the way up to Baguio through Kennon Road was similar as we hugged the road going up the mountainside though this second leg was rainy and wet.
We arrived at The Manor with enough time to change and freshen up for the inauguration of the very first Ford dealership in town. Located along Marcos Highway in what will be known as the ‘automotive row’ of the country’s summer capital, Ford Metro Baguio is the 9th Ford dealership of the Ford Laus Group and is a testament to the strength of the Ford brand that has reached the northern part of Luzon.
Ford Metro Baguio is composed of four levels with the first being made up of the display area, admin office, service reception and customer lounge while the rest is dedicated to vehicle servicing and parts storage. The dealership can handle any and all jobs including auto paint and bodywork.
Laus Group of Companies Chairman and CEO Levy Laus explains that they will have the full complement of Ford models but expects the Ranger to lead the way in sales.
The hectic day ended with a nightcap at The Manor’s Piano Bar as executives from FGP including Managing Director Kay Hart mingled with the media and guests of the Ford Laus Group who were buzzing at the possibilities that lay ahead after the official opening of the dealership.
Prepped, prompt and early at 10am were the Ford Rangers for the final 262-kilometer trek from Baguio to Manila. Fair weather greeted the convoy on the way down and all the way back although traffic wasn’t as kind. Apparently it’s not just Metro Manila that is plagued by terrible traffic congestion caused by road works as a major bottleneck in Urdaneta forced the Rangers for perform unconventional driving maneuvers on-road and on the curb just to make it to the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX).
The 845-kilometer trip through rural ground was unofficially a test of the Ranger’s endurance, maneuverability, power and overall capability. Without as much as a hiccup, the whole lot of these Rangers motored on seemingly unfazed by the road conditions that were an assortment of rough, off-camber situations to high-speed, hard-braking twisties up high altitude mountain ranges and down to the coast.
The Ford Ranger packs looks that could kill with performance that is ‘to die for’ and the sales numbers are out to prove it. For FGP, this kind of story has all the makings of a very happy ending.