Skyping with my Trinidad-based brother, Jared, this weekend I couldn't help but brag to him that I'd just finished testing his dream Caribbean vehicle - not a Ferrari 458 Spider but the all-new Ford Ranger Wildtrak.

While we all assume a luxury convertible would be ideal in the tropical climates of a West Indies isle, having driven around Trinidad's capital, Port of Spain, last Christmas I know an exotic vehicle wouldn't last an hour.

First, you'd have to fight off the bandits trying to carjack you, but the suspension wouldn't cope with the pothole-filled roads that make New Zealand's bitumen paths look like autobahns.

Instead, an off-roader is your best choice of vehicle to not only cope with the rough roads but also the rain-swollen tracks during the rainy season.


As they drive on the left in the southern Caribbean country, Jared had opted for a 2010 Ford Ranger 4WD, double-cab diesel rather than import a left-hand-drive American truck and have it converted. But his Ranger can outrun any bandits, cope with the drive to the many nearby beaches and have enough room in the rear tray to store gear for trips on the ferry to neighbouring Tobago.

But Jared is hoping Santa will bring him a Wildtrak - the top-spec Ranger that's priced here in New Zealand from $64,640 for the manual and $2000 more for my six-speed auto.

It is specced above the XLT with such standard features as leatherette heated front seats, climate control, 12cm infotainment screen, Bluetooth and chilled centre console.

With a 3.2-litre diesel engine (147kW/470Nm), the Wildtrak would be economical in Trinidad and Tobago where fuel is $1 a litre and there are no road-user chargers, but with the heaviest of the Ranger family at 2200kg, it has fuel economy figures of 9.6 litres/100km.

The standard feature Jared would most appreciate on the Wildtrak would be the retractable tonneau over the tray that could lock - that would keep the bandits from trying to nick gear from under a canvas cover.

In Auckland, that hard rear cover was ideal for multiple trips to the tip over the weekend and the reverse sensing system with camera in the rear mirror was essential in this large vehicle - especially at the busy tip.

Despite Ford cutting the waiting time for the standard Ranger from its Thailand factory, there's still a three-month waiting list for the Wildtrak here - which answers any questions about who'd pay more than $60,000 for a 4WD.

But with that wait I daren't tell my brother it'll be more like next Christmas when the Wildtrak arrives in the Caribbean.