2023 Best Ute Under $80K: Ford Ranger V6 Sport

All utes are our trusty workhorses, but which is the best when you're looking in the nicer part of the stables?

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The sales battle between the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux has been ongoing for a few years now.

They’re not only the best-selling 4x4s on the market; they’re Australia's best-selling vehicles. Full stop. That the HiLux is essentially more than a decade old in its current generation speaks volumes for the vehicle.

And although Volkswagen doesn’t sell anywhere near as many Amaroks, it’s now based on the Ranger and so it must be part of the conversation.

The best part is: if your pockets are brimming with up to $80K of hard-earned, then you have the option to buy the best models within these respective marques.

A special mention must go to the D-MAX (X-Terrain) and BT-50 (Thunder), which didn’t make the final cut in our assessment, but are both worth consideration at this price point.

Best Utes: Read the full series

Wheels Best Utes 2023 is your ultimate guide to the top picks in this vast and varied segment.


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Ford Ranger V6 Sport

$68,990 plus on-road costs
New-generation Ranger sets a new level of refinement in the dual-cab segment.

What we liked

  • Off-road nous
  • On-road refinement
  • Interior fit-out and equipment

Not so much...

  • Misses out on some off-road drive modes seen in Wildtrak X
  • Fiddly gear selector
  • Wildtrak might suit off-road-focused buyers

Since the new-gen Ranger launched in 2022, it has been been lauded in the industry for the way it has redefined how a dual-cab ute should perform. A dual-cab can be a capable tourer and comfortable daily runabout in equal measure and without compromise.

Practical yet loaded with modern niceties, the all-new Ranger is available with either a 2.0-litre bi-turbo or V6 powertrain, and it comes equipped with a swag of creature comforts including an SUV-like interior and a huge 10-inch centre touchscreen – which grows to 12 inches for top-end models.

While it was an easy decision to include the Ranger in this sub-$80K category, deciding which Ranger variant to put forward was a bit trickier.

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We settled on the V6 Sport, as it hits a sweet spot and includes a few features missing at the lower levels including leather seats and wireless charging.

Its V6 engine delivers power effortlessly for both on- and off-road pursuits, its suspension and steering are both well dialled-in, it has permanent 4x4, and its electronic traction control system is brilliant in operation. It also has a rear diff-lock as standard.

Still, the off-road-focused Wildtrak X starts at $75,990 and also sits below the $80K cut-off.

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It’s only available with the 150kW/500Nm 2.0-litre bi-turbo four-cylinder powertrain, which runs through a 10-speed auto, but it has off-road-focused tyres and suspension and makes an equally impressive argument for your hard-earned if mud-bashing is higher on the agenda.

Also worth considering is the 3.0-litre V6-powered Wildtrak ($71,190) and 2.0-litre bi-turbo Wildtrak ($67,990) if you intend to spend marginally more than the Sport’s asking price.

More again is the Platinum, which asks for $76,990 but gets you 20-inch alloy wheels, a chrome grille and chrome exterior trim, a damped tailgate, and Ford's new flexible rack system (also seen on the Wildtrak X).

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2023 Ford Ranger V6 Sport standard features
18-inch alloy wheelsCarpet floor mats (front)
LED headlights and fog lampsWireless charging
Six drive modesOff-road camera function
Two front tow hooksHill descent control
2023 Ford Ranger V6 Sport safety features
Nine airbags, including driver and passenger knee bagLane keep assist and Lane departure warning
Collision mitigationFront and rear parking sensors
Reverse brake assistBlind-spot information system (BLIS) with rear cross-traffic alert
Post impact brakingABS, EBD, roll stability control, hill start assist
2023 Ford Ranger V6 Sport ownership
WarrantyFive-year/unlimited kilometre
Service interval15,000km/12 months
Servicing costFive years at a cost of $1700 (approx.)
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Volkswagen Amarok Aventura

$79,990 plus on-road costs
'Ranger with Volkswagen class' makes the Amarok a worthy consideration.

What we liked

  • On- and off-road performance
  • VW styling class
  • V6 power delivery

Not so much...

  • A bit pricier than Ranger
  • 21-inch alloys
  • Perhaps consider PanAmericana

That the Amarok is essentially a Ranger twin under the skin makes it an automatic starter in this segment. To this end, it’s treated with the same chassis and powertrains as seen in the Ranger, but VW has finished it off with the style and class the German brand is known for.

In Aventura guise, its RRP just sneaks under the $80K cut-off, at $79,990 plus on-road costs. After all is said and done, though, you’ll be parting with more than $80,000 to put the range-topping Aventura in your driveway.

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The flagship model is available with either a V6 diesel or an exclusive 2.3-litre twin-turbo petrol four-cylinder, both at the same price point.

Drop down a level to the PanAmericana and you’re looking at $75,990 – bang-on with the Ranger Wildtrak X, and more realistically in the sub-80K category.

Both the PanAmericana and Aventura get a full-time 4x4 system and are extremely competent on both bitumen and dirt, utilising VW’s Dynamic suspension configuration (adding monotube dampers to the double wishbone IFS and leaf-sprung live-axle rear).

The Aventura in particular, despite riding on 21-inch alloys, conveys supreme body control rarely seen in this segment.

Drop down another peg in the Amarok line-up and you'll get the Amarok Style 3.0 TDI600 for a fraction over $70K at $70,990. It's more on par but it's still tagged with a higher price than the Ranger V6 Sport, but you do get those LED-Matrix headlights (only standard with Ranger Platinum and Raptor), ‘ArtVelour’ seat upholstery and a 12-inch touchscreen.

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The PanAmericana and Aventura do differ in a few areas

Tthe PanAm comes with a conventional tonneau cover, while the Aventura steps it up with an electronic roller cover; 18- versus 21-inch alloys; and the Aventura gets a lot more chrome on the outside and premium leather on the inside.

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2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura standard features
21-inch alloysChrome sailplane and steps
X-Design front bumper (chrome)Electronic roller cover
Chrome side mirrors, door handles and rear bumperRoof rails
2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura safety features
Nine airbags (dual frontal, side chest, side head, curtain, driver and passenger knee, and front-centre)Traffic sign recognition
Autonomous emergency braking (vehicle, pedestrian, cyclist, junction-turning)Adaptive cruise control
Lane-keep assist and lane departure warningMulti-collision braking
Rear parking sensorsBlind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts
2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura ownership
Warranty5 years/unlimited km
Service interval15,000km/12-month
Servicing costFive at a total cost of $1800 (approx.)
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Toyota HiLux GR Sport

$73,990 plus on-road costs
It may not be all-new like the Ranger and Amarok, but key changes make the HiLux GR Sport a competent all-road performer.

What we liked

  • Off-road ability
  • Suspension changes
  • Power increase

Not so much...

  • A V6 would be nice
  • Interior feels dated
  • Needs bigger tyres as standard

The HiLux in its current generation is a bit long-in-the-tooth – clearly, when compared to the new Ranger and Amarok above – but the GR Sport is far more than a mere a sticker pack aimed at keeping the Japanese brand relevant until the new-gen arrives.

For this new flagship variant, Toyota went to work transforming the HiLux into a vehicle worthy of the GR Sport badge. Bred from racing stock, the GR Sport is based on the 2019 Dakar-winning HiLux, which means Toyota has fettled the suspension, adding KYB monotube shock absorbers tuned specifically for this variant and removing the rear stabiliser bar.

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The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine also received a tune, with its outputs increasing by 10 per cent across the board, now producing 165kW and 550Nm – more than Ford’s 2.0-litre bi-turbo, but significantly less than the Blue Oval’s 184kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6.

This increase in output might sound insignificant on paper, but it is noticeable on- and off-road.

Also noticeable is the wider (135mm at the front; 155mm at the rear) and taller (15mm higher) stance when compared to the rest of the HiLux range, excluding the Rogue. Combined with the increase in performance and retuned suspension, the GR Sport remains composed on pot-holed backroads and bitumen – the best of any other HiLux in the line-up.

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The GR Sport comes with 17-inch alloy wheels inside 265/65R17 Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tyres. Looking at it from behind, though, and it’s obvious the HiLux needs bigger tyres to fill those massive wheel arches.

It also shows its age on the inside, lacking the class and comfort of both the Ranger and Amarok. This is where it most feels like a previous-gen model.

Despite this, the GR Sport claims the throne as the best HiLux in the Toyota showroom.

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2023 Toyota HiLux GR Sport standard features
GR Sport front bumper and fasciaFive-piece moulded tub-liner with GR branded headboard and anti-slip floor
GR sport mesh grille with TOYOTA badgeSuede and leather-accented sports seats with GR-logo
Gloss black exterior treatmentAluminium sports pedals
17-inch gloss black alloy wheels with 265/65R17 Bridgestone Dueler AT tyresRed seatbelts on all seats
Front underbody skid plateUnique trim on dashboard and doors – “Technical mesh”
Red rear recovery pointsAll-weather floor mats with GR logo for driver and front passenger
Heavy-duty steel rock railsLeather-accented steering wheel with paddle shifters and GR logo
2023 Toyota HiLux GR Sport safety features
Pre-collision system with day and night pedestrian and daytime cyclist detectionRear cross traffic alert
High-speed active cruise controlPanoramic view monitor
Lane departure alert with steering assist (brakes)Two front and four rear parking sensors
Road-sign assist (speed signs only)Seven airbags
Blind spot monitor
2023 Toyota HiLux GR Sport ownership
WarrantyFive year/unlimited kilometre
Service interval6 months/10,000km
Servicing costThree years at a cost of $1560 (approx.)
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Ford Ranger Sport V6

The result is not necessarily a surprise for anyone who has followed our coverage of the next-gen Ranger since it debuted in 2022.

Its SUV sibling, the Ford Everest, even won the Wheels Car of the Year award in 2022, proving how far the large SUV and dual-cab segments have come in recent years.

As a package, it’s hard to find real weaknesses within the Ranger’s arsenal. It’s markedly more modern than every other dual-cab in the segment – though of course it is matched in many ways by Volkswagen's new Amarok.

Considering they’re so closely related, it's naturally a close call between the two, with the Ranger getting the final nod based on some smaller, though not necessarily insignificant, details.

There's the ergonomic advantages of easier-to-use HVAC controls and a clever mould tray-access step, the more compliant suspension spec-for-spec, while we prefer the Ranger's steering that makes it the slightly more satisfying ute to drive (always an important factor in Wheels tests).

The Ranger Sport hits a sweet spot in the line-up, striking a compelling balance between on- and off-road ability. It’s slightly cheaper than the Wildtrak (losing out on a few extras as a result), though, in truth, either variant is deserving of this title.

The Ranger Sport will also save a couple of grand over the equivalent Amarok Style, though this VW variant does counter on the value front.

While its leather-edged microfibre upholstery doesn't match the Sport's leather-accented seats, and the Ford has standard integrated trailer brake controller, and slightly cheaper optional metallic paint, the Style has features found on more expensive Rangers – including Matrix LED headlights, 360-degree camera, ambient interior lighting, heated front seats, and larger versions of the infotainment and driver displays.

As we said, it's fine margins here.

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Visit our Best Utes page to find the right ute for you.

Amarok Aventura TDI 600Ranger Sport V6 specsHiLux GR Sport
Body4-door, 5-seat dual-cab ute4-door ute, 5-seat dual cab on ladder chassis4-door ute, 5-seat dual cab
Drivefour-wheel (automatic)Full-time 4x44x4 dual range
Engine3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel3.0-litre V6 diesel2.8-litre 16-valve DOHC inline 4-cylinder diesel
Transmission10-speed automatic10-speed automatic6-speed automatic
Power184kW @ 3250rpm184kW at 3250rpm165kW @ 3000rpm
Torque600Nm @ 1750-2250rpm600Nm from 1750 to 2250rpm550Nm @ 1600-2800rpm
Fuel consumption8.4L/100km (combined)8.4L/100km8.1L/100km
Suspensionfront: MacPherson strut front, rear: leaf spring rearfront: Independent via wishbones and coils, rear: live axle on leaf springsfront: double wishbone, stabiliser bar, monotube dampers, rear: leaf springs monotube dampers
Fuel tank80 litres80 litres80 litres
Brakes340mm ventilated discs, two-piston calipers (f) 330mm ventilated discs, single-piston caliper (r)Ventilated disc brakes all roundfront: 338mm ventilated discs with 4-pot caliper, rear: 312mm ventilated discs with single-pot caliper
Tyres275/45 R21 Goodyear Wrangler Territory HT255/65R18Bridgestone Dueler AT 265/65R17
Wheels21-inch alloy (full-size spare)18-inch alloys17-inch alloys
Towing Capacity3500kg3500kg3500kg
Departure Angle25.6°25.6°23°
Approach Angle30°30°30°
Wading Depth800mm800mmTBA
Departure Angle25.6°25.6°23°
Prices exclude on-road costs

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