Long term update: Ford Ranger Wildtrak X tames The Lions Mane

Maanhaarrand Pass is not in Gauteng but close enough to head out for a day. Picture: Andre Kruse.

Maanhaarrand Pass is not in Gauteng but close enough to head out for a day. Picture: Andre Kruse.

Published Apr 19, 2024


By: André Kruse

The last time I drove and reviewed a Ford 4x4 was in June 2022 – it was the Ford Ranger Raptor SE.

Since then, I have wanted to get behind the wheel of another Ford. Last month, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X was made available to me.

But unlike other times when I drove a 4x4 or off-road vehicle, this time I didn't have anything planned, such as tackling Sani Pass or the dirt road mountain passes of KwaZulu-Natal or exploring the hills and back roads of Mpumalanga. I was going to be in Gauteng.

I also felt I needed to do more to put the Wildtrak through its paces – not like the people at my gym, who insist on climbing and parking on the pavement with their 4x4s…

Then I remembered reading a post on one of the social media platforms where someone asked where and what road they can drive to do some 4x4 driving in or close to Gauteng. The comments were unanimous: “Maanhaarrand Pass”. This is not in Gauteng but close enough to head out for a day.

We headed out early in the morning, before first light on the R512 past Lanseria towards Hartbeespoort dam. What struck us immediately was the exceptionally strong and bright LED headlights – it really lights the place up.

There were five adults in the vehicle. In the back, we had minimal 'luggage'—an airtight box filled with picnic goodies, a change of clothing, our backpacks, and a cooler box with water and cold drinks. These items were secured using the handy hooks in the load bay. The roller shutter, controlled by the key fob, sealed and locked it all in.

The vehicle responded and accelerated quickly and easily when we needed to overtake, even on hills. The power is delivered by the Ford 2.0-liter bi-turbo diesel engine, which produces 154kW. Similarly, as we got onto the N4, I was accelerating rapidly (almost without noticing) while setting the Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (IACC) with Lane Centering, and very quickly found myself way above the national speed limit. Power a-plenty!

Here I felt the lane centring tech come into play. It felt a bit strange and my first thought was: “Great – I have lost power steering.”

It took a while to get used to it but then you find it a really great tool to have. It was at this point with only one hand on the steering wheel (not quite the legal thing – I know) that I saw a warning advising I should have both hands on the steering wheel (Big Brother is watching).

All four passengers were happy with the space they had in the cabin.

After our 8km hike at Milorho lodge we headed towards our reason for being out here – Maanhaarrand pass (aka Breedt’s Nek). My research reflected that the road condition ranges from poor to terrible and the website Mountainpassessouthafrica notes to “not drive the road if you are in a hurry”.

There was a warning sign as we entered road no.D568 that read: “Road in bad condition.” It seemed that the social media comments could be true and that we were in the right place with the right vehicle.

The road was in a shocking condition. We used the Wildtrak X in 2WD and 4WD Auto (on-demand) only. Soon we reached and slowly transcended the very deeply rutted sections, this is where the 265/70 R17 General Grabber AT3 All-Terrain tyres gave us peace of mind.

And then there are the rocky sections, it is not so much of a gravel pass; it is rather a very rocky mountain pass - given that there has been no maintenance.

“Poor and terrible” only begins to describe the condition. It is in these long stretched out sections, bends and climbs where the all terrain suspension complimented by the Bilstein Position-Sensitive Dampers were really put to the test. It was a blistering hot day and the climate control system kept us all cool in the cabin.

We stopped at one of the peaks and took in the vistas and had some coffee, tea and rusks from the flask – there are no coffee shops out here. We noted that the roller shutter is a good defence against the dust – none was evident on any of the bags or boxes.

The person sitting in the middle, at the back, mentioned the work out her legs got as we traversed the bends, ruts and extreme rocky sections. It was decided that we would rather head back – not that the vehicle could not handle it, but more due to time and the slow progress given the extreme rocky conditions.

This gave us the opportunity to do the same rutted areas, but in the opposite direction and the same applied to the middle passenger. She advised that this was more of a workout than the mountainous hike we had completed an hour or 2 before. In summation – this road is bad and you need a lot of time. We were all in agreement – we were glad we were in the Wildtrak X that could easily handle it all.

We used the on-board GPS which was good and later connected the mobile phone with Apple CarPlay (allowance is also made for Android Auto). We listened to music on the 10 speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system as we headed back to Johannesburg.

We put the handheld unit on the (10 watt) inductive charger, so no cables cluttering up the front of the cabin. Other plug in points include the USB ports and ‘cigarette lighter” points. There are also 2x 400W/240v inverter plug points; one in the cabin and another in the loadbay. There is also a switch in the loadbay to open and close the roller shutter here.

There are numerous other unique points about the Wildtrak X – which fits in nicely between the Wildtrak and the Raptor that we did not even use given the time available to us.

The Wildtrak X is all brawn and holds true to "Built Ford Tough” evidenced by the steel bash plate but the aesthetics are well taken care of. This you can see and feel immediately as you enter the ebony cabin, with black roof, the neat layout of the dashboard and not to mention the info system in the centre of the vehicle.

The cyber orange that you see at points on the outside are carried into the cabin as well, in the stitching, on the steering wheel and branding of the “X” in the cabin. The air vents inside match the front grille of the vehicle

All told we were happy with the on and off road experiences. The cabin is well insulated making for a nice drive. The extra ground clearance comes in handy and it certainly ‘tamed’ Maanhaarrand pass for us.

The Ford Wildtrak X offers plenty. At night as you approach the lights go on in the cabin, the front lights and welcome lights at the mirrors light up your approach. It shows you if the doors are open, if everyone is buckled in, the dash shows you where you are reversing and there are three other cameras, for the front and one in each side of the mirror.

You can see which of the 10 gears you are in and whether you are in the ‘manual’ mode or which drive mode you are in. And then as you power the vehicle down the dashboard informs you to first check the rear seats for occupants.