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Review: the greener, techier Ford Ranger pick-up

What s this?

The new Ford Ranger. It is of course Ford s newest pick-up truck, but oddly, the bits Ford are shouting about have nothing at all to do with off-roading load capacity or towing ability. Hmm.

You call that a pick-up truck?

I m aware a fair few of you who tune into TG.com are peering across from North America, where trucks are a cult, a tribal way of life. And by comparison, what we Brits think of as a hulking parade float of chrome and brawn is pretty much a Happy Meal toy to you guys. We don t get the forbidden fruit of F150s and Supercabs and Duramaxes over here. What we get is the Ranger, now more efficient and teched-out than any commerical Ford truck ever.

Time for some numbers.

No V8s here, but you do have a choice between two four-cylinder diesels or a 197bhp 3.2-litre job. Most Brits will want the four-pots, which, now Ford s included stop-start, electric power steering and new gear ratios, kick out CO2 in 171g/km-sized lumps. In the case of the 158bhp version (there s also a 128bhp four-cylinder entry-level Ranger), that s all the way down for 206g/km in the old truck. Claimed fuel economy has shot up from 36.2mpg to a much more palatable 43.5mpg. All very worthy, cost-effective stuff for a vehicle that s designed to be the cornerstone of its owner s entire business. We re driving the 3.2-litre Double Cab Limited, which costs 31,834 when you include VAT, which most buyers will dodge.

Still, most of those four-cylinder pick-ups are little more than farm hacks gussied up with chrome and alloys, right?

The tide is turning. Okay, all the manufacturer chatter about these trucks becoming indistinguishable from crossovers is claptrap the Ranger s 3.2-litre engine clatters loudly and even with 347lb ft from 1500rpm, doesn t move the truck forward at a rate above leisurely . It does weigh 2167kg when empty, in fairness. Nissan made a big deal about the latest Navara1 having best-in-class ride quality by ditching leaf springs for independent rear suspension, and at the time, it felt pretty impressive. But the Ranger, still leaf-sprung at the rear, pulls off the same trick of not feeling like its feet are tied together, maintaining some comfort and dexterity even when you re using precisely none of the 1260kg payload capacity, which tends to settle down jumpy, fidgeting trucks. It s no Edge crossover, but for a workhorse, Ford s done a nice job. The six-speed automatic gearbox (a 1250 option) deserves a nod for smoothing out progress too.

How much crossover stuff has leaked into the cabin?

A lot, (in this Limited spec test car, which is the other thing Ford s quite keen to push for the latest Ranger). For a kickoff, you get the Sync 2 touchscreen interface which you ll recognise from the Focus, Edge, Mondeo and so on. Not that you ll remember it fondly. It s not a good system, suffering from laggy operation and too many sub menus accessed via fiddly buttons . Nissan s infotainment from the Navara, and Toyota s gubbins in the new Hilux are miles less frustrating. Instead, Ford s heaped in (for a fee), the building blocks of self-driving tech: lane-keep assist, road sign reading, and adaptive cruise control. Not ground-breaking stuff these days, but significant that trucks are no longer being denied toys once the preserve of cars. Ford wraps this lot up with automatic headlights and pre-crash braking, for 1350. The Japanese trucks don t offer this tech

Any good off-road?

Don t know, sorry. The Limited has all-wheel drive (or selectable rear-drive to save fuel), plus hill launch and descent control, low-range gearing and 800mm of wading potential. All highly competitive, but we didn t have chance to try it out. Likely, the Ranger would ve enjoyed being taken into the rough. Excelled, even. But it s more impressive back on the road, thoroughly habitable and easy to drive. For a teeny European pick-up, anyway.

References

  1. ^ the latest Navara (www.topgear.com)

Toy Review: Disney•Pixar’s FINDING DORY Robo Fish

With Disney Pixar’s FINDING DORY making its way into theaters, the folks at Zuru Toys1 have a full assortment of fun items from the long-awaited FINDING NEMO sequel swimming into toy stores and toy departments. Among the ones that will be at the top of many kids’ wish lists this summer are the FINDING DORY Robo Fish – robotic fish with lifelike action, just as the name implies. Having already been familiar with some of Zuru’s aquatic offerings over the years, we were excited when a trio of Robo Fish – Swimming Nemo, Swimming Marlin, and of course, Swimming Dory – arrived at Rock Father HQ for review in our State-of-the-Art Toy Testing Facility (in this case, our bathtub) by yours truly, and The Rock Daughters . With something this unique, words only go so far, so we made a little video… taking the camera underwater to show you these things up-close and in-action! Take a look… embedded content

The Disney spin on the classic Robo Fish is very cool, and the video really shows you just how these play. Carbon switches on the side are water-activated or can be touched to start the action. When the fish stops swimming, a gentle tap should be all you need to “wake them up.”

Toy Review: Disney•Pixar's FINDING DORY Robo Fish

Bonus: Each Robo Fish comes with an extra set of the tiny batteries, and that’s a plus. Of all the toys we have here, those “button cell” LR44 batteries are usually something I just don’t have in my battery drawer. Kudos to Zuru for including extra!

What to watch out for: The one thing I need to recommend (and this goes for any Robo Fish, or the Swimming Mermaids) is that you makes sure the kids don’t pull the tail off. The tail is the key to the swimming action, and so far so good here – but our youngest specifically has a bad habit of ripping off the tails and losing them, rendering the toy useless. From one parent to some others, just letting you know. The FINDING DORY Robo Fish are Rock Father-approved, and available now at retailers such as Target, Walmart and Toys “R” Us, with a suggested retail price of just ?11.99 each.

Additional toys in the Zuru FINDING DORY Robo Fish collection include Bailey the Whale, and the Dory Coffee Pot Tank Playset2.

Toy Review: Disney•Pixar's FINDING DORY Robo Fish

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About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) – James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER .

Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality, Commentator, Adventurer and Raconteur. He writes for Fandango Family4 and the Netflix #StreamTeam5, serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized brands, and consults for a number of toy manufacturers. Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as co-manager and video director10 for Napalm Records’ PRODUCT OF HATE11.6789

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities’ Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He’s appeared as a music expert on CNN’s AC360, has been quoted in BusinessWire, CNN and Babble, in addition to making appearances on ABC News, WGN and more. In the past he served as a PBS KIDS12 VIP (Very Involved Parent), penned articles for Sprout, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent13.

Learn more here14.

Connect with James on Facebook15 or Twitter16.

Website: www.facebook.com/therockfather17

References

  1. ^ Zuru Toys (zuru.com)
  2. ^ Dory Coffee Pot Tank Playset (amzn.to)
  3. ^ (www.therockfather.com)
  4. ^ Fandango Family (www.anrdoezrs.net)
  5. ^ Netflix #StreamTeam (www.netflix.com)
  6. ^ FEAR FACTORY (www.therockfather.com)
  7. ^ feature films (www.imdb.com)
  8. ^ commercials (www.youtube.com)
  9. ^ comic books (www.deathwalksthestreets.com)
  10. ^ video director (www.youtube.com)
  11. ^ PRODUCT OF HATE (www.facebook.com)
  12. ^ PBS KIDS (www.pbskids.org)
  13. ^ Chicago Parent (www.chicagoparent.com)
  14. ^ here (www.therockfather.com)
  15. ^ Facebook (www.facebook.com)
  16. ^ Twitter (twitter.com)
  17. ^ www.facebook.com/therockfather (www.facebook.com)

Toy Review: Budsies Custom Stuffed Animals

Custom toys have been growing in popularity and availability over the past few years, particularly as prices for things like 3D printing have come down to more affordable levels. One thing that can’t be “printed” (as far as I know – yet) is plush, and there’s a number of outfits dealing in various levels of custom stuffed animals and the like — and we’ve seen quite a few, but none as magical as Budsies1. If they sound familiar, it’s completely possible that you caught Budsies founder Alex Furmasky pitching Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary and Laurie Greiner on ABC’s SHARK TANK. While he didn’t accept one of the two offers served up by the Sharks, Budsies has been rockin’ since 2013, providing whimsical, custom creations based on the artwork of children. The Budsies crew offered me a chance to try their service, and that I did. Having used a number websites to create custom products myself in the past, I can attest to the fact that the Budsies website and interface is about as simple and streamlined as they get. Adalyn, the oldest of The Rock Daughters , created a colorful teddy bear drawn on paper with crayon and marker. I simply snapped a photo of it, uploaded it and added a detailed description – a step that’s really important to explain exactly what the designers are looking at. Here’s exactly what I wrote when I placed the order…

Addie’s Budsie: Interestingly proportioned bear with brown fur. She has black “claws” on all four paws, and wears a colorful “rainbow” shirt. The shirt is largely greenish in color, with a pink stripe on the the side of her right arm. She also has a geometric pattern outlined in black, filled with various spots of purple, red and blue coloring. Additionally, there is a yellow spot of pattering, accented by black lines within. This bear also has a small, yet jovial smile, inviting black oval eyes, and a small black dot nose.”

Toy Review: Budsies Custom Stuffed Animals

Over the next couple of weeks, the crew at Budsies sent status updates on Addie’s bear as they selected the fabrics, colors, and worked on the patterns – each double-checked and put together by a seamstress. About three weeks later, Addie’s Budsie arrived… but there was a slight issue I hadn’t considered: we were doing an “unboxing” video and little Finley didn’t have one. In the spirit of presenting things as honest and real as possible here on the site, I can’t recreate Addie’s first-time reaction of seeing her Budsie… it just happened that the video came out to have joy and sadness all in one shot… but weeks later, both girls love this Budsie. embedded content

My only point of criticism is that the 16″ ?89 Budsies (you can get a “Super-Sized” 30″ version for an additional ?29) are made in China. While it’s an undeniable, yet unfortunate fact that the majority of toys (including some of the best ones) are made in China, it is entirely possible to have custom plush Made in the USA. I know this because I own some. I’d love to receive news down the line that Budsies are bringing production home.

Toy Review: Budsies Custom Stuffed Animals

All said and done, Budsies are a Rock Father-approved toy that would make a great gift, and easily has the potential to become a cherished keepsake for life. Make yours at Budsies.com2, where they also do Selfies (based on people) and Petsies (based on your pets).

Toy Review: Budsies Custom Stuffed Animals

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About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) – James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER . Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality, Commentator, Adventurer and Raconteur. He writes for Fandango Family4 and the Netflix #StreamTeam5, serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized brands, and consults for a number of toy manufacturers.

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as co-manager and video director10 for Napalm Records’ PRODUCT OF HATE11.6789

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities’ Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He’s appeared as a music expert on CNN’s AC360, has been quoted in BusinessWire, CNN and Babble, in addition to making appearances on ABC News, WGN and more. In the past he served as a PBS KIDS12 VIP (Very Involved Parent), penned articles for Sprout, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent13. Learn more here14. Connect with James on Facebook15 or Twitter16.

Website: www.facebook.com/therockfather17

References

  1. ^ Budsies (www.budsies.com)
  2. ^ Budsies.com (www.budsies.com)
  3. ^ (www.therockfather.com)
  4. ^ Fandango Family (www.anrdoezrs.net)
  5. ^ Netflix #StreamTeam (www.netflix.com)
  6. ^ FEAR FACTORY (www.therockfather.com)
  7. ^ feature films (www.imdb.com)
  8. ^ commercials (www.youtube.com)
  9. ^ comic books (www.deathwalksthestreets.com)
  10. ^ video director (www.youtube.com)
  11. ^ PRODUCT OF HATE (www.facebook.com)
  12. ^ PBS KIDS (www.pbskids.org)
  13. ^ Chicago Parent (www.chicagoparent.com)
  14. ^ here (www.therockfather.com)
  15. ^ Facebook (www.facebook.com)
  16. ^ Twitter (twitter.com)
  17. ^ www.facebook.com/therockfather (www.facebook.com)