Best 4x4 Dual Cab Ute 2018

Australia's Best Cars 4x4 Dual Cab Ute Winner was the Ford Ranger XLT 3.2.

Currently Ford’s most popular model and one of the best sellers in this class, the Ranger has dominated Australia’s Best Cars 4×4 dual cab ute category since its inclusion in the program in 2013. It has only lost its crown once when it fell to the eighth-generation Toyota HiLux in 2015.

With some updates since then, the Ranger has once again asserted itself, and was looking promising for a win in 2018 even before the Blue Oval offered a new five years/unlimited kilometre warranty for new vehicles delivered from May 1st. This was announced just as our test week for all the class finalists kicked off, making the Ranger almost untouchable.

The Ranger XLT and HiLux SR5 are the two dearest utes in our scoresheets. But the Ford’s depreciation, running and repair costs, and insurance premiums, hover around the class averages. Standard equipment levels are good, and only the Holden Colorado LTZ offers more kit for slightly less money.

The XLT’s standard fit-out has a full suite of airbags and includes full-length side curtain airbags, a rear-view camera, park sensors front and rear, a rear diff-lock, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, side steps, sports bar, DAB+ radio, navigation, and tyre pressure monitoring. Also fitted is Ford’s latest-gen SYNC 3 entertainment and communications system with voice recognition and an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with ‘pinch and swipe’ capability.

Towing ability and practical design are important in a ute, and the Ranger isn’t found wanting. The XLT comes with a towbar and trailer sway control as standard, and it’s rated to a best-in-class 3500kg maximum towing mass. A generously proportioned tray with standard tub-liner, six load restraint eyes, a power outlet, load area illumination, and a payload to deal with work or play, all rated well with our judges. Like the HiLux, the Ford has a 230-volt inverter power outlet in the cabin.

Comfortable seating in all positions and cabin space that’s equal best in class help the Ranger’s cause too. Inside and out, the Ranger rates highly for its build and finish quality, with a premium look that shows how far utes have progressed in recent years from their relatively spartan workhorse predecessors.

Performance from the Ranger’s 147kW, 3.2-litre, five-cylinder turbo-diesel again impressed the judges, whether on-road or lugging its way through the bush. With a gutsy 470Nm delivered between 1750 and 2500rpm, it easily shrugged off the challenges of our off-road test loop, including hauling a 500kg payload and four burly ABC judges up a steep, muddy and badly rutted track. Off-road, the Ranger proved as accomplished and capable as the best the class can offer.

The big Ford’s road manners are far more car-like and sophisticated than might be expected in a vehicle built primarily to work for a living and tackle tough off-road terrain. Steering, handling and ride are as good as it gets in the class.

The popularity of dual cab utes goes from strength to strength with Australian buyers. The Ford Ranger XLT exemplifies the versatility, driveability and relative civility that the modern dual cab ute can deliver. That’s why it has again stamped its authority over a class it has virtually made its own. And you can expect the Ranger to be a force to be reckoned with in the future, too, with Ford announcing powerful new engines providing up to 500Nm, a 10-speed auto, advanced driver assistance features, and other improvements for 2019.

  • Ford Ranger XLT 3.2
  • Indicative drive-away: $ 60,488
  • Body type: dual cab ute
  • Fuel economy/fuel type: 8.7L/100km, diesel
  • Engine/transmission: 3.2-litre five-cylinder, six-speed automatic
  • ANCAP: 5 stars