Vehicles like the Toyota HiLux and Drive’s reigning Best Ute category champion, the Ford Ranger XLT, are among the most popular new cars in the country at the moment.
With consumers demanding more from a car than ever before, it's easy to see why the latest generation of dual-cab pick-ups are going gangbusters on the sales charts as they are no longer one-dimensional workhorses.
They can carry a load, cart the kids to school, head off the beaten track and tow a heavy trailer while offering more car-like driving characteristics and, in some cases, feature the latest in advanced safety and connectivity functions.
While it's been a big year for sales of dual-cab pick-ups, there hasn't been as many new arrivals in 2017 as the year before when most of the major players saw either all-new or heavily revised models.
This year, the Ranger XLT faces off against the most-powerful contender in the class, the Volkswagen Amarok V6 in the recently-revealed Sportline trim.
Winner: Ford Ranger XLT
It’s done it again. For the fourth year in a row, the Ford Ranger XLT is our best pick of the dual-cab utes.
It continued to impress our judges on the strength of its breadth of abilities, both as a rough-and-tumble workhorse and an everyday alternative to modern SUVs for small families.
It has a four-wheel drive transmission with a traditional low-range transfer case – plus the ability to switch from two- to four-wheel drive on the fly using a simple rotary knob in the centre console – ensures it can go further off the beaten track than most will ever push it. It does it easy too, thanks to the strong pulling power offered by its 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel engine and the well-calibrated six-speed automatic gearbox.
Sure, it doesn’t produce as much outright grunt as the Volkswagen and, ultimately, but it is hardly a slouch with plenty of pick-up at low revs away from the lights and, has a relaxed cruising manner on the highway.
The steering isn’t as sharp as the Amarok; the suspension bounces over bumps more prominently, particularly without a load in the tray; and its basic electronic safety systems are more aggressive in arresting its mass through our simulated emergency situations.
The cabin is well presented and equipped with all the latest toys, including Ford’s comprehensive Sync3 infotainment system with sat nav, Bluetooth and smartphone mirroring, while the seats are comfortable.
The Ranger sets the benchmark for safety in the dual-cab class and has clever touches like a 230V powerpoint socket in the back of the centre console to recharge power tools, and six tie-down points in the tray that features a full bed liner.