It was 5:50am when we arrived at the foot of the Breedtsnek pass with two intentions.


The first was to catch a glimpse of the beautiful sunrise, and the second was to see if a stock standard Ford Ranger XLT double cab could keep up with a modified purpose-built Jeep Wrangler up this rocky mountain pass.


Believe it or not, Breedtsnek pass is actually a national road. It lies somewhere between Buffelspoort and Maanhaarand in the North West province. The quiet road is pretty gnarly, with some steep climbs, lots of rocky bits, deeply rutted sections and some axle twisters – but the views are completely worth it!


Expect to see a couple of 4×4’s and adventure riders on the pass. It’s always a great idea to travel in a convoy of two or more vehicles when adventuring off road though.


We met up with Sher, our Jeep fundi at a filling station before attempting the pass. Sher proudly showed us around his vehicle – A 2013, bright orange-wrapped, Jeep Wrangler Sahara. The vehicle has a great deal of tasteful aftermarket off road bits added to it. The suspension was upgraded and lifted, it had a snorkel, a frontrunner roof rack, off road bumpers and massive 35 inch tires fitted to it.


But even with the monstrous proportion of the Jeep, the Ranger did not look out of place. This was the XLT model which slots in somewhere in the middle of the range. The Base being the entry level and the mighty Raptor topping off the Ranger line up.


Its large imposing grille and headlights, muscular lines, large wheel archers and signature C-Clamp lighting design looked fitting. Now even though the Ranger was bone stock and running on highway tyres, the vehicle is still a 4×4 and has a couple of nifty off roading features like hill decent control, low range gearing and a rear diff lock. Stuff that we were definitely going to need if we wanted to make it up and over the pass.


After tinkering around the two vehicles and a cup of coffee, we hit the road. The first glimpse of light hit my rear-view mirror as we approached the pass. Excitedly we aired down and set off. Sher led the way, which meant that my passenger and I had front row seats to the Jeep Suspension Show. Something that had me in awe. Watching the Jeeps mechanics at work and suspension flex was just mesmerising.


The Jeep crawled over rocks and ruts like a spider, at some point every one of its four wheels at different heights. Its suspension travel was remarkable. There was no doubt that the Jeep was on home territory and enjoying every second of it.


It was not too bad in the Ranger either. We were in an absolute comfort. Setting the vehicle to 4-wheel drive high or low was as complicated as turning the volume up. While the Jeep mostly just bolstered up and over anything in its path, driving the Ranger had me looking for more strategic lines, but still, we moved along up the pass with no issues.


The Rangers 2.0L BiTurbo really stood out for me. It makes 154kWs of power and 500Nm of torque, with non-existent turbo lag. Mated to a 10-speed automatic gearbox, the vehicle is rather frugal too, especially on open roads where I managed to bring the fuel consumption down to 7.8L per 100km without much effort, on the pass in low range with 4-wheel drive engaged, readings jumped to around 9.5l per 100km. Still, great consumption for a vehicle of its size, engaged in rigorous 4×4 activity ascending a mountain pass with gradients of 1:10


A good 50 minutes or so later we both reached the top of the pass unscathed and being greeted by beautiful views of the dam.


The Ranger performed great, and what amazed me was how versatile the vehicle was.  I used it for a week to and from work, took my family to the mall and would definitely not have any difficulty getting me, my family, mountain bikes and gear to a camping spot. For me, it was the perfect vehicle, a vehicle worthy of the “Car of the Year” title it rightfully earned.


Comfortable in town, on the highway, on gravel back roads and here, on a tricky, obstacle ridden mountain pass, and as much as I’d like to take all the credit for my excellent driving skills. It was all in the Ford’s good ground clearance and 4×4 capability.


As for the tech features, the vehicle has a large 10-inch touch screen that is mounted vertically in the middle of the dash board, a proximity key, wireless smartphone integration, wireless charging pad plus two charging ports.


Something that did not work for me was the E-shifter, two buttons positioned on the side of the gear lever, which just didn’t come naturally to me.


Safety wise, the Ranger has adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist with road edge detection, pre-collision warning, reverse brake assist, 7 airbags, and a very easy to access speed limit. A feature that is going to keep a lot of people out of trouble.


The Ranger works hard too, able to tow 3500kg and load almost a ton.


But obviously driving a double cab does come with its set list of challenges. The Ford Ranger is a hijack risk, parking sometimes requires more than one attempt – the model I was driving did not have a 360-degree camera, and of course owning a bakkie means that most of your weekends will be taken up by helping friends and family move large objects.


After my week loving with the Ranger, conquering Johannesburg traffic, Breedtstnek pass, and driving almost 40km of gravel, I want one. Not many cars I drive leave me saying that.


The XLT, 2.0L BiTurbo double cab 4×4 pricing starts at R833 800 and comes with a 4 year/120 000km warranty and 6 year/90 000km service plan.


All in all, it’s always a great day out off-roading! No matter the vehicle you’re in! However, if given the choice, I’d opt for the Ford Ranger, especially in this stunning Carbonized Gray. The exceptional driving experience and unmatched comfort it offers on both gravel and tarred roads make it a top pick.


Article and Images by:

Jameel Ismail