Ford Ranger Thunder review 2021 - stand-out looks and a very smooth drive

  • You’ll stand out from the crowd in this limited-edition Ranger
  • Red highlights, grey paint, black detailing – plus 213hp, 500Nm
  • On sale now priced from £33k, read our review to find out more

With pickup truck special editions it’s best to go bold or go home, and Ford certainly hasn’t been shy with its latest Ranger Thunder - which we've now driven. Keep reading for our Ford Ranger Thunder review.

Based on the popular Wildtrak specification and equipped with the most powerful engine available in the Ranger – plus a host of other goodies – the Thunder is an eye-catching limited-edition double-cab version of the model that won the 2020 and 2021 Parkers Pickup of the Year Award, and struts its stuff with an unusual combination of Sea Grey paint and Race Red highlights.

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What’s the full specification of the 2020 Ranger Thunder?

Starting with the visual stuff, you get no choice of paint colour here – it’s dark grey with red bits or buy a regular Wildtrak.

Ford Ranger Thunder review, 2020, side badges, 18-inch black alloy wheels

The red shows up on the grille, the sides of the rear sports bar over the load area, and on the chunky 3D Thunder badges applied to the Ranger’s flanks and tailgate. That’s right, no mere special edition stickers for this pickup.

The red reappears again on the inside, where it's used for contrast stitching on the steering wheel, Ebony black part-leather upholstery and elsewhere throughout the double cab interior. You also get black floor mats and red illuminated door sills. Fancy.

Ford Ranger Thunder review, 2020, embroidered front part-leather seat with Race Red stitching

Elsewhere you’ll find 18-inch black alloy wheels, an Ebony black finish on the grille, rear bumper, skid plates, fog light surrounds, door handles and sports bar (which includes a light for the load area), and a matte black rear Ranger graphic. Standard equipment, meanwhile, includes LED headlights with darkened bezels and darkened rear lights.

You can also option a black powder-coated roller top with bed divider by Mountain Top to complete the look, as per the test vehicle we've got here (see the gallery at the top of the page for more details of this).

It’s sort of pickup meets stealth. Except for the red bits.

What’s under the bonnet?

The Ranger Thunder gets the top spec 2.0-litre EcoBlue bi-turbo diesel engine, complete with 10-speed automatic transmission as standard.

Ford Ranger Thunder review, 2020, side detail, engine

That’s the same powertrain package as the Ranger Raptor, which means 213hp and 500Nm of torque, plus a capable four-wheel drive system.

According to the latest, tougher WLTP standards the Thunder will return 31.0mpg. Anything above 25mpg is a decent result in real life - and actually not that difficult, especially compared with the Raptor, which has much less road-friendly tyres.

What's the Ranger Thunder like to drive?

Testing the Ranger Thunder in a soggy 2020 November is a timely reminder of just how good the current Ranger has become. Of all the pickups on the market now, the Ford comes closest to feeling like a regular car - which is some triumph given how tough and capable the entire package is when it comes to towing (3,500kg) and payload (1,024kg for the Thunder, up to 1,140kg elsewhere in the Ranger double-cab line-up).

Ford Ranger Thunder review, 2020, rear view, countryside, UK

Everything from motorway refinement to traction is superb, but what really stands out is just how comfortable the Thunder is. The lack of road and engine noise helps - both actively cancelled by a clever digital system - but it's the way it remains unflustered by lumpy British tarmac that means this is one truck that is genuinely suitable for use as an everyday car.

It's not quite as nimble in the corners as a conventional SUV, but it never feels out of its depth on a country road either - something the 2.0-litre engine certainly helps with, as it not only delivers plenty of performance it's also a big reduction in weight over the front wheels compared with the old 3.2-litre motor.

The 10-speed auto is a further triumph. Effortlessly smooth in the Thunder, that there are no paddleshifters on the steering wheel is no problem with the gearbox does such a good job all by itself. The Sport mode is worthy of the name, too, holding onto gears longer and downshifting earlier, when required - all part of a well-engineered package that's happy to step up whenever you want to drive faster.

Ford Ranger Thunder review, 2020, front view, countryside, UK

All those red elements on the Thunder's exterior mean you do draw a few querying glances from other road users - but no-one actually went out of their way to laugh at us. And on the inside, the red stitching comes across as smart and classy, a step above a regular Wildtrak. Which is presumably exactly the point.

How many Ford Ranger Thunders are being made, and how much does it cost?

Ford is building 4,500 examples of the Ranger Thunder – which sounds like a lot until you learn that Ford sold 52,500 Rangers in total in 2019.

Some 1,400 Thunders will be coming to the UK, reflecting the importance of the UK pickup market; another 30 are heading for Ireland.

The Ranger Thunder costs from £32,965 (excluding VAT), and is available to order now.

Also read:

>> Our main Ford Ranger review

>> Best pickups in the UK

>> New pickups coming soon