A Ford Ranger pick-up parked up beside the sea
The existing Ford Ranger is due to be replaced next year

The Thunder badge last appeared on the tailgate of Ford’s massively popular Ranger pick-up 12 years ago. It was so well-received, and helped to broaden the commercial vehicle’s reach so much, that the Blue Oval has decided to reintroduce it in strictly limited numbers to the current model.

RANGER: THE LOWDOWN

The Ranger is to Ford what Lionel Messi was to Barcelona and Lewis Hamilton is to Mercedes-AMG. Not a year goes by but this award-winning pick-up seems to break new ground when it comes to records. In a heavily congested segment where Toyota, Nissan, Isuzu and VW are represented, and in a year ravaged by coronavirus and lockdowns, 13,097 were still driven off UK forecourts in 2020 – a total that pushes overall sales of the vehicle since it first arrived here in 1998 to nearly 150,000. So, with that in mind, spicing up the range with a more luxurious alternative that is based on the top-spec Wilktrak version can only help to broaden its appeal. 4,500 examples of the Thunder are being built for the European market, 1,400 of which are destined for the UK.

ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?

Some special edition efforts are best forgotten – but we feel Ford’s design team have done a pretty commendable job. Using the high-end Ranger Wildtrak as its starting point, the Thunder is set apart by its ‘Sea Grey’ paint job. If you aren’t taken by the colour then this isn’t the pick-up for you because no other colours are available. This brooding theme is heightened by multi-spoke 18-inch wheels, door handles, fog light surrounds and protective skid plates all finished in ‘Ebony Black’. This ensures the Thunder badging on both the driver and front passenger door and tailgate, and red flashes on the radiator grille and rear aero bar, really stand-out. Apart from that, it is standard Ranger fare, so LED headlights, aluminium roof rails and useful side-steps are included.

HAS THE CABIN CHANGED MUCH?

The black-and-red colour combination is repeated in the Double Cab interior. The seats are nice and supportive, with these lifted by contrast stitching on the headrests, down the shoulders and along the bases. As for the two in the front, the Thunder logo is tastefully embroidered into the backrests. Red stitchwork is also present on the steering wheel, gearlever gaiter, dash and door arm rests but an injection of some lighter shades would do no harm as the overall ambience is pretty gloomy – a reality that is not helped by a high window line. The over-sized buttons and workmanlike architecture of the centre console is in keeping with the Thunder’s blocky, utilitarian exterior styling. Another strong selling point is standard equipment: an 8-inch display, reversing camera, parking sensors and electronic climate control are some of the many creature comforts.

WHAT’S HIDING UNDER THE BONNET?

The Thunder gets Ford’s top spec 2-litre EcoBlue twin-turbo diesel engine, complete with a sweet-shifting 10-speed automatic as standard. The same motor that is employed by the competition-inspired Ford Ranger Raptor, it is more powerful – and much more civilised – than the old 3.2-litre unit it replaces. It also churns out a shedload more torque than it, with drivers able to send this to the two back tyres – or all four corners – via a small penny-sized dial on the lower console. All Thunder models measure 1,139mm between the arches, so loading a Euro-pallet is possible, and can carry up to a tonne over their back axle. Equally impressive is towing capability; with a braked trailer behind, this comes in at 3.5 tonne. And if owners venture off the beaten track in their pride and joy then 230mm of ground clearance and an 800mm wading depth should do the trick.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?

Perhaps the biggest compliment we can pay the Thunder is just how car-like it feels from behind the wheel. True, this is a big vehicle when put against a tape but it never feels cumbersome – quite the opposite, in fact, as the steering is light and responsive with very little noise from either the engine or tyres or indeed the large wing mirrors that provide good visibility down either side. What surprises – and pleases – the most, though, is how comfortable the Thunder is as a daily driver. In almost all situations it remains composed and well-planted, even when the load bed isn’t carrying anything. Therefore, you don’t have to contend with a bouncy or unruly ride – two traits that tended to afflict previous Rangers as the suspension configuration was so rudimentary. The car-like impression is further heightened by traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation system and lane assist – a snapshot of just some of the Thunder’s safety aids.

PROS & CONS

+ No-nonsense styling  
+ Generous equipment            
+ Exclusivity guaranteed          
List price is steep       
Diesel can be thirsty   
Payload isn’t class leading

PRACTICALITY: Customers can specify a powder coated aluminium roller cover manufactured by Mountain Top for the 2.3 metre long load bed. This £1,620 option includes a useful divider that allows owners to create two sections for items to stop them rolling around during transit. Up to 220kg – the equivalent of three average-size adults – can rest themselves on the drop down tail-gate which has a convenient ‘EasyLift’ function that assists when raising/lowering it into position.

STYLING: Sold in one colour called ‘Sea Grey’, the Ranger Thunder sits on bespoke black 18-inch rims. Skid plates, fog light surrounds, door handles and rear bumper are all black. Contrasting red nostrils grace the front grille with the aero bar also sporting coloured flashes. 3D Thunder badges feature on the doors and tailgate; LED headlights and tail lights are housed in darkened bezels.

STYLING

INTERIOR: The dark theme is carried over to the Ranger Thunder’s Double Cab where the heated leather sports seats in the front are lifted by red stitching and embroidery work, with this repeated on the steering wheel and instrument panel. Black floor mats and illuminated sills are exclusive to this limited-run pick-up. An 8-inch centre touchscreen with satellite navigation is also standard.

INTERIOR

SPECIFICATION

Price: £40,474 (as tested)
Engine: 2-litre, bi-turbo 4cyl diesel
Power/torque: 210bhp/369lb ft
Transmission: 10-speed auto, four-wheel-drive
0-62mph: 9 seconds
Top speed: 106mph
Economy/CO2: 36.7mpg/201g/Km

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