2023 Drive Car of the Year – Ford Ranger

Ford Ranger wins 2023 Drive Car of the Year – home grown expertise and impressive refinement delivers the first dual-cab ute winner in the history of the awards.

The Ford Ranger 4x4 dual-cab ute is the overall winner of the 2023 Drive Car of the Year awards, a first for any light-commercial vehicle. Ranger topped the voting among 13 DCOTY category winners that were eligible for the outright award.

Drive judges look for the car that has moved the game forward the most for more Australian new car buyers, and Ranger’s cohesive product approach from tip to tail, paired with its technology advancements and SUV-like driving behaviour earned it strong praise from the whole team. Furthermore, one look to the road outside will highlight just how much mass appeal these big double-cabs have, so it is no surprise to see that Australia’s favourite car has become its best.

It was only going to be a matter of time, as last year 4x4 utes (or pick-ups) made up 18 per cent of total new vehicle sales (195,208 from a total of 1,081,429), and nearly 13 per cent of all private sales (73,266 from a total of 582,593). Popularity has boomed in the past decade, with the volume and market share of these go-anywhere machines doubling.

No longer just a tool of trade, the 4x4 double-cab has become synonymous with Australian family adventure, and you’ll see them working just as hard on the school run during the week and as you will towing a boat on weekends.

These are vehicles that have become progressively smarter and more capable over time, and the new Ranger is the best of them.

Designed and developed extensively by Ford Australia, the new Ford Ranger has redefined the 4x4 ute market by evolving into a cohesive lifestyle machine.

As while we no longer build cars in Australia, the Ranger is proof we are capable at handling near everything else.

Ford Australia designed and engineered the global Ranger (and its SUV partner, Everest), which is now offered in upward of 180 markets. The car, developed with our local roads, climate, and driving conditions in mind, was the result of work conducted by Ford’s design and engineering teams in Melbourne and Geelong. It was significantly tested at the Ford Proving Grounds just outside of Melbourne and in the Victorian High Country and South Australian desert.

It's not just the Ranger and Everest either, as Australia remains a global development hub for Ford. The local team sees more than 2300 personnel working on cars predominantly for China, India, and South American markets.

So while Australian market Rangers may be built in Thailand, in nearly every other way, this is an Australian car.

The Ranger’s win isn’t the first Drive Car of the Year overall winner award on the Ford mantlepiece either, with the previous generation Ford Everest SUV securing top honours in 2015.

That car was also extensively developed by Ford Australia, further evidence of the world-class automotive skillset that exists on our shores.

Why the Ranger and not the Everest this time around though? The Drive Car of the Year result speaks as much to buyer behaviour as it does usage.

Our goal in deciding upon an overall DCOTY winner is to choose the car that has moved the game forward the most for more Australian new car buyers, and while the Everest is an impressive vehicle, the new Ranger has created a step-change moment for the 4x4 dual-cab segment, that as we noted above, shows no sign of slowing down.

Simply put, there has been considerable thought placed on the Ranger’s development for how it will be used not only as an off-roading work truck, but as the de facto Australian family car.

What’s more, this considered approach has taken what was once a basic, bouncy, tool of trade and created a refined and modern vehicle that is in tune with today’s Australian family needs.

And with plans already underway for a plug-in hybrid version to join the Ranger line-up next year, the ongoing evolution and success of the category looks very bright.

Congratulations to the Ford Ranger, 2023 Drive Car of the Year.