/ 28 October 2023

Does X mark the spot for Ford?

Tough looks: The Wildtrak X has been given a steel bash plate, integrated auxiliary lights and Matrix headlights, as well as a sliding load rack.

Bakkies are a staple of the South African vehicle market. Over the past year or two, new generations of bakkies have upped the game and provided us with some impressive options. 

Traditionally, the Toyota Hilux is the go-to bakkie but the Ford Ranger Wildtrak provides a brilliant alternative and one which we preferred after our Bakkie Wars testing earlier in the year. Now there is a new Wildtrak, which adds an X to the name, and some cool features to the list.

The Wildtrak X takes the Ranger Wildtrak to the next level. Which is quite a hard objective to achieve. 

Initially, I didn’t think the X would add that much to the already impressive Wildtrak but, after spending some time with this updated model, I think it might just be the preferred option for those looking for a family-orientated leisure bakkie and for off-roaders.

The exterior immediately reveals a few changes to the standard Wildtrak, with the most obvious being its size. 

The Wildtrak X is slightly wider and lifted for tackling off-road obstacles with greater ease. This improvement adds 24mm for 261mm of ground clearance and a 30mm wider track to give 1 650mm.

The added height is also due to the specially developed Bilstein dampers. 

On the road, they gave a rather bumpy ride but, once we hit the dirt, the shocks did an incredible job of absorbing the bumps and jolts, which made for an impressive off-road ride quality.

Another touch that improves the Wildtrak X’s off-road capabilities is the standard General Grabber All Terrain 3 tyres fitted to 17-inch black alloy wheels.

 Other exterior changes include cyber orange accents on the front grille, a steel bash plate, integrated auxiliary lights, Matrix headlights, lots of black accents and the aluminium side steps from the Raptor model.

A unique feature of the Wildtrak X is the sliding load rack which, in its standard position, looks like any other bakkie’s rollbar but is adjustable to five positions along the vehicle’s bed to support long loads on the roof. This is brilliant for items such as surfboards, construction materials and small inflatable boats. 

It’s surprisingly easy to operate and one person can manage it on their own with ease.

Another feature I haven’t seen before is the folding roof rack, which is stored inside the roof rails, and can support up to 250kg static load.

The big new feature which Ford is very fond of punting is the 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 for your bakkie, forcing you to reverse and try it again, which can be rather precarious.

Bakkies do have notoriously bad turning circles and the Trail Turn Assist feature greatly improves your ability to negotiate the car around tight corners. This is achieved by locking the inside rear wheel and allowing the front wheels to pull the car around the turn, reducing its turning circle.

Due to the rear wheels’ dragging motion, and the front wheels’ clawing action, this feature should only be used on dirt and loose surfaces — unless you enjoy damaging your tyres, making a noise and burning rubber.

Ford has recognised how tedious it can be to maintain low speeds over rocky terrain and created a driver mode called Rock Crawl, which allows you to set a low, continuous speed for the hairier off-road moments.

On the inside of the X, there is a rather pleasant use of suede and leather on the seats, doors and dash to add the adventurous attitude that this car demands.

 And, of course, there is lots of Wildtrak X branding around the cabin.

Ford describes the Wildtrak X as the middle ground between the Wildtrak and the flagship Raptor, producing an off-road-focused and trail-capable car with similar obstacle-destroying potential to the performance-focused Raptor with less of a beast under the hood.

The Wildtrak X comes with Ford’s 2.0-litre, bi-turbo-charged, four-cylinder engine. It produces a punchy 154kW and 500Nm of torque, which is more than enough for tackling obstacles, while also providing better fuel economy.

The bi-turbo diesel is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, which provides easy gear changes and is one of the better low-range gearboxes I have tested.

With the Wildtrak X finding its place between the Wildtrak and Raptor, the price is rather impressive, considering the number of features you get. The magic number is R1 013 000, which is R13k less than the V6 and R83k more than the standard Bi-Turbo Wildtrak 4×4 — and there are a lot of additions to this vehicle.

The Wildtrak X is an impressive bakkie, 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.