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A choice of tough bakkies for the connoisseur

The Ranger Raptor looks much bigger than its Wildtrak sibling, mainly because of a bigger tyre width of 150 mm wider than the standard Ranger), and higher ground clearance of 283 mm.

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Last month the Ultimate Drive team made some comments on the Toyota Hilux Legend, the new Ford Ranger Wildtrak, and the Ford Ranger Raptor. However, we have a little more to say about the Raptor before we take the Isuzu and Mitsubishi for cross-country test drives.

Baja-modus for rough terrain enjoyment

The Ranger Raptor is equipped with what Ford terms a “terrain management system (TMS)”, which provides for various driving modes to suit different driving conditions – “Normal” and “Sport” – when the driving will be on tarred roads, while options for cross-country include settings such “Grass/Gravel/Snow”, as well as “Mud/Sand/Stone” and “Baja”.

“Baja”-modus is named after the demanding Baja Desert Race, which takes place in Mexico. This modus is regarded by the test team as the most important feature which puts the Ranger Raptor a notch above its competitors.

The modus was specially designed and specifically calibrated for high-speed aggressive off-road driving featuring faster reactions for the accelerator, gearbox and steering wheel, while the system also slackens the stability and traction control to allow improved driver control. The system allows the Raptor to drift under control at relatively high speeds! The Ford Ranger Raptor is manufactured in South Africa in Ford’s Silverton plant in Pretoria and sells locally at R786 400, with the Ranger Wildtrak selling at R678 200.

Apparently South African buyers get a decent price reduction compared with what the Brits and Aussies have to fork out for these bakkies. The buyer himself has to decide if he is willing to pay the price premium for the Rambo Raptor compared with the Wildtrak in its tuxedo garb. Anyone of the two will make you feel like a winner – both simply are brilliant bakkies!

Isuzu builds a special D-Max AT35


Isuzu South Africa acquired the rights from Arctic Trucks in 2019 to build a special D-Max in its Port Elizabeth factory. The AT35, as it is generally known, is a special version of the standard D-Max but with an ace or three up its sleeve that places it in the choice category. What strikes one immediately, is that the bakkie stands higher on its wheels compared with the standard D-Max – ground clearance has been stretched by 48 mm to 268 mm; it is shod with bigger tyres under the wheel arches, and it boasts a suspension system borrowed from Fox – all this contributes to give the D-Max AT35 an immediate robust and intimidating profile.

The changes made to the D-Max mainly concerns the suspension system. The interior and drivetrain has not been touched, which may cause some enthusiasts to frown. One must understand that the AT35 is a competitor for the highly competent Ford Ranger Raptor. But . . . where the Raptor boasts an eager and lively bi-turbo 2,0 litre diesel engine, (157 kW/500 Nm) the AT35 still ambles along with the aged 3,0 litre turbo diesel engine delivering 130 kW and 380 Nm. This delivers much less power and one feels it!

On the open road, with those outsized tyres, the AT35 hardly gives an acceptable ride. Steering perception is vague and the tyres make a lot of noise. All this is not too pleasurable; however, one could perhaps forgive this when one thinks that the present D-Max has already been on the market for almost a decade.

However, as could be expected, the AT35 has characteristics that could allow it to be viewed positively. When it comes to mud, sand and rocks, this Isuzu definitely does not take a back seat. It is capable of and always willing to tackle the most difficult obstacles. The mud can be deep, the incline steep, and the sand like a desert – the Isuzu AT35 will always be able to dislodge itself from a sticky situation. The bakkie is fitted with Isuzu’s proven 4×4 system, which is controlled by simply turning a knob.

Those of us who may be in the market to buy a new bakkie, may well consider something like the AT35, but will have to consider a few factors: The price of the AT35 is R785 000. This is lower than the Ranger Raptor (R819 400), but then it has to be kept in mind that the Isuzu is, in fact, a much older concept compared with its competitors. The completely new D-Max is due to appear in 2020. Another very important point is that Isuzu South will only manufacture 50 units per year. In comparison with the standard D-Max – which requires a few hours to be assembled – the AT35 stretches it to almost five days!

But, irrespective of how you want to look at this bakkie, there is undoubtedly something special to view. Scan the QRcode below to view a video comparing the Isuzu AT35, Ford Ranger Raptor, and the Toyota Hilux GR Sport.

Rock climbing champion: Revamped Triton is a bieliebakkie

by Dirk Gallowitz

The new Mitsubishi Triton has, in reality, merely been taken for a rejuvenating spa weekend (the completely new Triton is expected in 2021). However, the diverse improvements and refinements in the cab and below that on the body resulted in respect and admiration being expressed by friend and foe since the Triton was launched locally.

Design: The “Dynamic Shield” front design philosophy, accentuated by the newly designed headlights and daylight driving lights, vigorous lines, sharp angles and newly-sculpted body curves of the enlarged wheel bays, give the Triton a modern and, albeit aggressive, imposing appearance. The sum total of all this makes the Triton, to my mind, the most attractive bakkie on South African roads.

The cabin: Inside the cabin the robust and tough image of a real bakkie catches the eye but, in spite of this, the trim and soft, smooth surfaces provide an all-over feeling of luxury and modern comfort.

A long list of standard equipment includes leather upholstery, a leather-clad steering wheel (with sound and speed controls), telescopic higher/lower control, electric window up/down control (as well as for the driver’s seat and side mirrors), double-zone automatic climate control as standard feature, as well as keyless access and a rear-view camera to assist with parking.

The improved 4WDsystem – now equipped with electronic rough-terrain assistance – is adjusted with a rotating knob on the middle console between the front seats. The driver can activate Hill Descent Control, as well as the driving mode for 2H (normal roads), 4H (gravel and sandy roads), 4HLc (Mud, slippery snow-covered surfaces, and thick sand), as well as 4LLc (demanding FW-Drive routes, and rock climbing) depending on the terrain and road surface.

Safety: The slogan of the 2019 Mitsubishi Triton – “Engineered Beyond Tough” – is not only a marketing gimmick. The newcomer sticks to the existing model’s extremely robust and highly dependable ladder-type frame which ensures a high impact-safety cabin structure in case of an accident.

Engine and performance: The 2019 Triton is still fitted with the proven Mitsubishi 2.4ℓ MIVEC Turbo Diesel engine with direct fuel injection, connected to a completely new 6-speed automatic box. The engine delivers 133 kW @ 3 500 rpm peak power and 430 Nm torque, which kicks in at 2 500 rpm. Fuel consumption for the automatic Triton is officially given as 7,6ℓ/100 km in a combined cycle of city and open road driving. However, a 6-speed manual gearbox is an option with the official consumption given as 7,5ℓ/100km.

A feature of the new gearbox is “Intelligent Shift Control”, which enables a balance in engine power, fuel consumption and smooth acceleration to provide the best in driving comfort and lowest cabin noise. The 2019 Triton is able to tow 3 100 kg.

When the latest generation Super Select II 4WD system is set to the “Off-road” mode, the system controls the required engine power, selects the correct gear for the terrain, and simultaneously regulates braking power to ensure minimum wheel-slip. This is obviously aimed at giving the Triton the best possible performance when it has to tackle demanding conditions.

With a turning circle of 5,9 m, 220 mm ground clearance, 28º approach angle, 23º departure angle and break-over angle of 25º, we were able to negotiate the difficult 4X4 route without problems.

We were favourably impressed by the 2019 Triton’s electronic downhill system which allows the driver to accelerate or brake depending on conditions without kicking out, as happens with other vehicles with a similar function. Furthermore the additional “Rock”-option in 4LLc ensures that the Triton can manage just about any terrain.


Given the history of Mitsubishi in South Africa of tough, robust and dependable Triton (initially launched as ‘Colt’) bakkies, it is difficult to believe the disappointing local sales figures. In my view the Triton is presently the best bakkie available in South Africa. With its almost perfect noise-free cab, much better road dynamics (than most higher priced and better known bakkies available in the RSA), the Triton kicks dust in the headlights of many competitors and make their drivers choke in its exhaust fumes, the Triton is not only a feast for the eye but also a miser when it comes to fuel consumption (and consequently also miserly on the pocket).

Price: 2019 Triton 2.4L DI-DC 4×4 Automatic – R589 995.

Included in the price of the 2019 Mitsubishi Triton is the Mitsubishi 3-year/100 000 km manufacturer’s warranty, a 5-year/90 000 km service plan and a 5-year/unlimited kilometre road assistance service. Maintenance services are required after every 10 000 km.

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Renowned, reliable, John Deere