We landed in Gqeberha and immediately embarked on an odyssey to the Storms River in this, its namesake, the Stormtrak. Three days of chasing horizons would ensue, most of it on dirt and I was here for all of it.
This marks the 10th Anniversary of this particular Ford Ranger. And it’s worth celebrating since amongst other accolades, Ford SA has managed to export half a million of them. To celebrate, we’ve been invited to drive the new Stormtrak through the Baviaanskloof Pass, a much sought-after item on many a wandering adventurer’s bucket list.
A SPECIAL-ISH RANGER
The Stormtrak is based on the wildly popular Wildtrak, but receives a host of customizations to make it unique. South Africans love special editions, and Ford know this – I mean, they managed to sell 2,033 Thunder models despite originally only producing 1,000 units. Originally. Like that car, the Stormtrak features FordPass Connect, gets Black Mesh red inserts from the Thunder, 18 inch black alloys and 3D Stormtrak logos. It also features racing stripes, black accents and roof rails. But it’s the powered roller shutter that is the big addition here, complemented by a bed divider similar to the one in the Thunder.
Hop aboard and you’ll encounter heated premium leather seats featuring stylish stitching and Stormtrak logos. The thread work continues on the helm, gear lever and hand brake lever. Another large Stormtrak logo can be found left-aligned on the dashboard, and more on the skid plates. Comms are taken care of by SYNC 3 with FordPass Connnect now including Android Auto and Apple Carplay.
WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE
Despite being high-tech, the cabin feels super familiar – especially to someone that attended that original Ranger launch ten years ago, like I have. Familiarity, indeed, it’s the latter side of the coin marked ‘old’. But still the Ranger remains one of the most aspirational vehicles in South Africa. Tough, wide, purposeful. This one is available in four colours, that is Lucid Red (exclusive to the Stormtrak), Frozen White, Blue Lightning and Sea Grey. I grabbed the keys to a red model and begun making my way to that esteemed spaghetti strand of gravel, that is the Baviaanskloof.
Immediately it became apparent that the 2.0-litre bi-turbocharged diesel powertrain (same as what’s in the R40k less Wildtrak) is still very special, its 157kW and 500Nm easily rolling over anything. Ditto, the ten-speed auto was smoothly swapping cogs, allowing me to soak in the views, whilst the independent suspension soaked up the bumps. Anywhere between 60kph and 120kph, the Stormtrak tracked true. And with adaptive cruise control I barely needed to operate the pedals. I was overjoyed, my ears filled with the baritone rumble of a diesel motor and a Tom Petty playlist. As we stormed into the great wide open, churning plumes of dust behind our rear wheels, we penetrated a landscape so vivid you’d swear it was the 4k wallpaper on your laptop. From fields of canola markedly absent of Instagram influencers posing in them, to ten storey tall canyons, over rivers and scrabbling over rocks and gravel.
A MOMENT TO REFLECT
The many vistas and landscapes, the farm stall-style food, the soothing African massage provided by the rutted dirt network we drove on, it’s all very seductive. This is the travel life we think upon romantically, but even so, the Stormtrak’s standout feature was a ride quality so plush, you never thought about the suspension. Highway speeds on farm roads, and undulating passes were gobbled up just so.
The Ranger deserves its stalwart position and the Stormtrak would be the jewel of the range if it wasn’t for the Fox-equipped Raptor. But here, crossing Addo, many miles in the bag, you couldn’t ask for more. I’ve seen Ossewa and lions on this trip, fallen into thorn bushes and had lamb stew in a wonderfully decadent cabaret venue. And if you’re afraid to pull the trigger on one because you’ve heard that there’s a new one on its way, well. Maybe. But I’d guesstimate that we’re at least 18 months away from an all new Ford Ranger, and with it a non-identical twin in the form of the next Volkswagen Amarok sure to share its underpinnings. Making the Stormtrak more than a swansong, but also the end of an era.
Ford Ranger Stormtrak 2.0Bi-Turbo 4×2 R790,300
Ford Ranger Stormtrak 2.0Bi-Turbo 4×4 R846,500
*With 4 year/120,000km warranty and 6 year/90,000km service plan