“Are you sure?” I asked the deputy editor, as he chucked a set of keys across the newsroom. “You want me to review a car?”
Then I phoned my wife, and told her we had a week with the 2019 Ford Ranger XLT. “They want you to review a car?” she asked.
Uncertain of how to approach this unusual task, I began as I would any other research project: with a literature review. A trawl through the interwebs brought me to Ford South Africa’s YouTube trailer for its new product, which I thought would give me a fair idea of what to expect.
A deep, gravelly voice intones: “The new Ford Ranger is here. It’s tough, capable and ready to work for you … it’s designed to bring it. Hot or cold. Wind or rain. Road or no road.”
Helpfully, the accompanying video gives a glimpse as to the type of situations in which the Ford Ranger might be useful, although this merely raises more difficulties for my prospective review: I have no mountain bikes to take up a mountain; I am not intending to transport any small cows; and I don’t know where I am going to find 1 011kg of cement at such short notice.
Nonetheless, the advert has given me a clue. If the Ford Ranger really is so tough, let’s see if it can handle the toughest profession of them all: 21st century journalism.
The vehicle itself, an imposing beast, is waiting for me in the cramped basement parking. It dwarfs all the other cars in its vicinity — so wide that it is only barely contained by the white lines, and tall enough that I worry about it scraping the ceiling.
Driving a car this large poses unique challenges in a cramped city, especially when it comes to parking. Getting out of the basement is a struggle, as its turning circle does not enjoy tight corners. Squeezing into that last parking space outside the coffee shop is nerve-wracking, although the camera that switches on when you start reversing really helps. And where, in the absence of a boot, where can I put the shopping, or my laptop bag?
Taking it home was a disaster, because it turns out that the Ford Ranger is bigger than my garage door. “I told you this was a bad idea,” said my wife, as I gathered the splinters of broken timber that had snapped like plywood against the roof of the bakkie. The Ford Ranger itself was not even scratched.
On the open road, however, on the way to see a source, it comes into its own. It is fast, it is powerful and its imposing presence means that other drivers treat you with much more respect.
All the mod-cons — on-board navigation, easy Bluetooth pairing, and a decent sound system — make for a pleasant ride. When it starts raining, the windscreen wipers turn themselves on automatically; when it gets dark, the lights do the same.
“Are you a tough guy now?” my source asks me when I arrive. I nod. The Ford Ranger may not be an ideal fit for my lifestyle, but I did just fix my garage door, and that makes me feel pretty damn tough.
Ford Ranger XLT (double cab): from R549 900