Long-term Update: Easy towing with the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X

The Ranger Wildtrak X has taken us on many adventures this year. Pictures: Willem van de Putte

The Ranger Wildtrak X has taken us on many adventures this year. Pictures: Willem van de Putte

Published Apr 26, 2024


We’ve been having a lot of fun in our long-term Ford Ranger Wildtrak X and our most recent excursion involved hitching up my off-road trailer and heading to the Drakensberg.

We’ve completed almost 10,000 kilometres since its delivery, much of it on gravel roads including three weeks that included the Tankwa Karoo, Cederberg and into Die Hel in the Gamtoos Valley - read more about that here.

To recap, the Ranger Wildtrak X has all the upmarket goodies of the “normal” Wildtrak except the V6 power plant which is replaced by Ford’s 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel engine producing 154kW and 500Nm with Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission.

Add Bilstein Position-Sensitive Dampers, 265/70 R17 General Grabber AT3 all-terrain tyres, 261mm of ground clearance, 2H rear wheel drive, 4A that allows the electronics to decide where traction is needed, 4H, 4L and Eco,Normal, Tow/Haul, Slippery, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl Modes and you have a very capable off-road double cab.

It’s an unbraked trailer with a 750kg GVM which isn’t particularly heavy considering the Wildtrak X is rated to tow 3.5 tons.

We were only going to be away for four nights so it wasn’t loaded to the brim like we would normally do for a three week off-grid into the gramadoelas trek.

The trailer stands high on 15-inch rims and the standard tow hitch and drop plate is too low which sees the trailer lean forward significantly on the ball. I took it to an engineering company who confirmed that the drop plate was strong enough to handle a good few tons so we measured the ideal height and they drilled two holes for me. Problem solved.

When you hitch the trailer the vehicle picks up that there’s something behind you and uses the trailer assist, giving you options to name the trailer or use the default. It then takes you through the steps of checking that everything is done correctly and does a light check for you as well which is handy when you’re on your own.

You can also check the lights standing behind the trailer using the FordPass App.

On pull away, it warns you that Cross Traffic Alert is disabled. Not once, not twice, but a whole host of times just in case you didn’t get it the first three times.

For some reason, every time I braked it warned me that my lights weren’t working when braking and that I should pull over. That’s okay if you’re on a gravel road with no traffic but it’s a bit disconcerting on a busy highway.

When we did get an opportunity, we checked and everything was working fine. I pulled out the trailer plug and socket and sprayed them with contact cleaner and for a while it seemed okay until it wasn’t.

It would then occasionally warn me on the digital instrument screen and ping when I braked. I was in radio contact with my friend behind me who confirmed every time the warning flashed and pinged that everything was fine.

Anyway, such are the joys sometimes with modern vehicles and electronics.

I had the bakkie in 4A Normal Mode and then remembered its Tow/Haul option and decided to give that a spin despite the relatively light trailer behind me.

It allows the engine to upshift at higher engine speeds and also provides engine braking on descents and downshifts based on the amount you press the brake pedal.

It didn’t make a significant difference but you could feel that gear changes took place a little higher on the rev-range, and going down Oliviershoek Pass, it stayed between third and fourth depending on the gradient.

With a light weight though, I don’t think it absolutely necessary as the normal engine braking on the Rangers is more than sufficient but I do think it’s a valuable feature when towing heavy double axle caravans and trailers with the load bay also fully loaded.

As an aside, there are two stop and goes on the pass where heavy KZN rains have washed away the road. They were there in December 2022 and are still there now with zero repairs having been done in almost 18 months.

There are many big concrete pipes stacked next to the road though which lead one person to spray “we pay taxes. Fix it” in bright orange on one of them.

What I can say is that the Ranger Wildtrak X towed like a dream and I know many people say that they don’t feel whatever is behind them when towing, which generally gets said after a few drinks around the camp fire by guys with big capacity engines and even bigger towing rigs or boats.

I’ve towed a myriad of things, including big double axle trailers with ski boats, horses and heavy off-road caravans in a variety of cars, including potent V8s and I don’t care what they say, you know it’s there.

The reality is that towing completely changes the dynamics and handling of the car, and taking that into consideration, the Wildtrak X passes with flying colours.

It effortlessly passes slower traffic when you push the throttle and I thought there would be some hunting from the gearbox but there was none of that, even with the Adaptive Cruise Control set at a safe towing speed of 110km/h.

After 867 kilometres, our fuel consumption stood at 12.2 l/100km which is only an increase of about one litre over the average consumption we’re getting with everyday driving.

Our long-termer hasn’t got the Pro Trailer Backup Assist with trailer reverse Guidance that’s now standard on the Tremor, Wildtrak X, Platinum and Raptor but it’s something that I’m looking forward to trying out in future.