I recently took a pickup out on a 48 hour test drive with a view to using it for photographic purposes i.e. taking people out on photographic workshops, trips and tours.
I believe there are nine manufacturers making these vehicle types. The sales people in the Mercedes, Nissan and VW dealerships were rude to me whilst Fiat, Isuzu, SangYong and Mitsubishi dealerships were a considerable distance from my home. This left two: Toyota (Hilux) & Ford (Ranger), both looking good though the Toyota had a large screen (looking like a iPad) that was attached to the dashboard. It looked like an afterthought.
So the model on test was a Ford Ranger Wildtrak, 3.2 litre, auto in burnt orange. My initial thoughts were: It’s big but not too big that you needed an HGV licence to drive it! It’s as comfortable as driving an ordinary saloon car. After a couple of miles, I soon got to feel the width and length of the pickup whilst driving it. It has good all round vision with minimal blind spots helped by the large exterior mirrors. Inside the 4-door cab, you can comfortably seat 5 people in relative luxury as there are front heated seats, twin individual air-con, sat-nav, good hi-fi, 230v 3pin socket (for charging equipment, etc), and 4×4 controls. If no one is using the back seats, you can fold them up to utilise more in-cab space. Fully lowering the rear windows allows you to use a 500mm/f4 lens resting on a large beanbag – important for drive-by photography.
Whether the burnt orange is your favourite colour or not, they offer a number of over colours too including black, white, red, grey, silver and blue. My ideal choice would be a matt camo but realistically it’ll be black.
As you imagine with such a large pickup area, it’ll be able to carry tons of photographic equipment – more than I’d ever own. The tow-bar allows you to tow a 3.5 tonne trailer whilst you can store over a tonne in the back. That’s a lot of lenses! I’ve been thinking about how I’d keep the gear safe, secure and waterproof. I don’t really like the raised back-cabs so would choose a weatherproof, lockable roller shutter door. To keep equipment 100% free from rainwater, I’d keep electronic gear in individual crates (or similar) secured to the sides of the pickup.
So how did it drive? I took it out on the motorway and through the local towns for road handling and I liked it. You sit high up so have really good all-round visibility. With the 3.2 litre engine, it was easily capable enough to drive in both conditions. I wasn’t able to drive it through a 800mm deep stream or go off-roading but in 2WD mode, it handled very well even with no load in the back. It features a Hill Descent mode keeping you in full control whilst climbing or descending 1:2 muddy, snowy, or rocky hills. The auto box took a while to get used to when you’ve driven manual boxes all your life. Keep your left foot on the floor and no left foot braking! There’s only one word to describe the fuel consumption and that’s thirsty though you don’t use these to be economical. The best mpg over a tank of fuel I’ve achieved in my current Ford Focus is 74mpg whereas over the 2 days/200 miles I had the Ranger, I averaged around 25mpg though there was a lot of stop/starts and city driving. The images here are from the test drive around central Lancashire.
There have been instances whilst out in previous vehicles and shooting from the car, that we needed more elevation. The load area in the back can accommodate a couple of tripods and photographers giving you an additional 1.5m in height. Not always a requirement, but it’s still another additional feature.
So would I buy a pickup? There are tax advantages to owning one and the ability to travel in comfort definitely says yes. For future photographic workshops, trips and tours that you come on, there’ll be space for all your equipment, we’ll be able to get to more remote locations and you’ll be driven in style.
Thanks to the Ford Dealership Rufus-Carr in Clitheroe for the test drive.
© Jeremy Malley-Smith LRPS DPAGB BPE2* | firstname.lastname@example.org | +44 (0) 7540 163136