First Drive: Ford Wildtrak X—the best leisure bakkie yet?
Bakkies rule the roost in South Africa; there is no doubt about it. Over the last year or two, new generations of the indomitable workhorse have upped the game and provided us with some seriously impressive options. Traditionally, the Hilux was the go-to bakkie, but the current Ranger Wildtrak provides a brilliant alternative and one that was generally preferred after our inaugural Bakkie Wars showdown. Now there is a new Wildtrak, which adds an X to the badge and some X-factor to the features list.
The Wildtrak X elevates the Ranger Wildtrak to the next level. A difficult objective in itself. Initially, I didn’t think that the X would add that much to the already impressive Wildtrak to gain any additional attention, but after spending some time with this new model, I think it may well be the go-to option for family-oriented leisure bakkies and off-roaders.
Ford’s Wildtrak X introduces a few changes to the standard Wildtrak, the most obvious being its size. The Wildtrak X is now slightly wider and lifted to handle off-road obstacles with greater ease. These additions add 24mm of ground clearance for a total of 261mm and a 30mm wider track for a total of 1,650mm. The added height also comes due to the specially developed Bilstein dampers. On the road, it initially felt bumpy, which concerned me for gravel travel, but once we hit the dirt, these shocks did an incredible job of absorbing the bumps and jolts and providing impressive off-road ride quality.
A touch that also improved the Wildtrak X's off-road capabilities is the standard General Grabber All Terrain 3 tyres fitted to 17” black alloy rims. Other exterior changes include Cyber Orange accents added to the front grille, a steel bash plate, integrated auxiliary lights, Matrix LED headlights, lots of black accents, and the aluminium side steps also seen on the Raptor.
A unique feature of the Wildtrak X is the sliding 'styling bar,’ which, in its standard position, looks similar to that found on other bakkies. It’s adjustable, though, with five different positions along the bakkie’s bed to support long loads on the roof. This is brilliant for items like surfboards, construction materials, and small inflatable boats. It's surprisingly easy to operate with just one person. Another feature that I haven’t seen before is the folding roof rack, which is stored inside the roof rails and can support up to 250kg of static load.
The big new feature of which Ford is seemingly very proud is the X’s Trail Turn Assist. If you have spent any time off-roading on tight trails and mountain passes, I'm sure you have found a turn that is just a little too tight, forcing the classic reverse and repeat manoeuvre. This feature greatly improves the Ranger Wildtrak X’s ability to rotate the vehicle around tight corners. This is achieved by locking the inside rear wheel and allowing the front wheels to pull the car around the turn, greatly reducing its turning circle. Due to the dragging motion of the rear wheels and the clawing action of the front wheels, this feature should only be used on dirt and loose surfaces.
On the inside of the new X, Ford tastefully applied suede and leather to the seats, doors, and dashboard to add to the adventurous attitude this bakkie demands. Again, this adds to the adventurous and leisure customers.
Ford positions the Wildtrak X as the middle ground between the Wildtrak and the Raptor. Producing an off-road focused and trail-capable car with similar obstacle-destroying potential as the performance-focused Raptor with less of a beast under the hood.
The Wildtrak X comes with Ford's 2.0-litre bi-turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, producing a punchy 154kW and 500Nm of torque, which is more than enough for tackling obstacles while providing decent fuel economy. The bi-turbo diesel is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, which provides easy gear changes. The low-range box is also easy to use and continues to be one of the better low-range gearboxes I have tested to date.
With the Wildtrak X finding its place between the Wildtrak and Raptor, the asking price is impressive considering the long list of standard features. R1,013,000 is the magic number, which is R13k less than the V6 and R83k more than the standard bi-turbo Wildtrak 4x4, and there are a lot of additions to this industry-leading bakkie.
The Wildtrak X is an impressive pick-up with amazing capability and plenty of features, and it looks tough, to say the least. If I had the money, this would be my bakkie of choice, for now.