As luck would have it, after a beautiful and hot week, today that we planned to put the Ranger to the test the weather is grey and cool, with intermittent rain in the forecast. Since we have planned to drive to the mountains and up to Vallecitos, an abandoned ski resort, we can even expect snow, since the altitude at the top is 3000m (16,000′). After breakfast the weather seems to improve a little with the sun poking through the clouds. We take it as a good sign and hit the road. We stop at lake Potrerillos. It is an artificial lake created to provide a water reserve for the city of Mendoza. We get a few drops but nothing too serious, so we follow the signs pointing us towards Vallecitos. The pavement turns to dirt (yes!!!) and we slowly climb towards the clouds. Half-way up we stop at the ranger station since there is a sign asking visitors to register. We get some information and the ok to drive up the other 5 km. When we reach the end of the road we park, and the light rain slowly turns to steady rain, the fog comes down, and then snow grains start hitting the windshield. There goes our idea of an outdoor picnic! Undeterred, we eat our lunch inside the truck. On the drive up I had (looked for?) the opportunity to engage the 4WD, the low gears, and make sure everything works as expected. The suspension is firm when necessary but quite comfortable. Overall the Ranger feels like a reliable work truck that drives almost like a car and is just as comfortable. The modern features are not indispensable but nice to have. The assisted uphill start holds the breaks while the driver works the clutch, so there is no need to use the hand-break. The downhill assistance gives you more engine breaking when you engage it, so you do not need to use the breaks as much. On the highway the Ranger handles well and feels safe. It doesn’t feel like it has a ton of power but yet had no problem passing uphill in 5th gear. I just have to get used to driving a diesel again. It has been many years since I drove one.
My biggest challenge was before we left home, getting it out of the parkade. Argentina is not North America, most vehicles are the small Peugeot and Fiat type, so parking spaces are smaller and so is the entrance/exit of our parkade … Driving in is not too bad. I have to maneuver once at the bottom of the ramp, where it turns 90 degrees into the parkade. Driving up is another story. First I need to wait until the sensors have triggered the gate up near the sidewalk, which I cannot see from the parkade. Now the 90-degree turn must be negotiated uphill between the concrete walls and before the gate closes automatically. That is when I realized that the Ranger is NOT a small vehicle. After a few tries and stalls, shame on me, and the security guard forcing the gate open for me I finally got it out without any scratches. All day I was thinking of the next time I will have to drive out of that parkade, not looking forward to it. An idea came to my mind though. I think next time I will do it in 4WD Low … and slow 🙂