It’s no big news that 4x4 utes are hot property right now, as they represent nearly 50 per cent of the top selling new cars in Australia so far this year. With Ford and Holden soon to scrap their respective Falconand Commodore-based 2WD utes, even more buyers will be looking to the light-truckbased vehicles to discover the versatility that a dual-cab 4x4 ute can offer.
What about factory hot-rod utes? Toyota’s TRD Hilux from 2008 wasn’t a huge success, but maybe it was ahead of its time. New ute buyers are lapping up the top-spec variants, with the Ranger Wildtrak a key seller for Ford and the SR5 spec popular for Toyota.
Other companies now want in on the action, and if you believe the rumours we’ll see more of these fully-loaded load-haulers in showrooms in the coming years.
There’s a car yard in Sydney already turning PX Rangers into Raptor look-a-likes, and Raptor-like grilles are as popular on Rangers as Chevy badges are on Holdens. One report says Ford Australia is looking to produce a Ranger Raptor to sell above the Wildtrak in the range, but we wonder how far Ford would go with such a special vehicle. Will it have the off-road specific suspension, raised ground clearance and allterrain tyres that the F150 Raptor offers in the USA, or will it just be a stickers and trim pack like most of the ‘specials’ we get here?
What would Ford do for a high performance engine to back up any improved offroad ability of a local Raptor? The Ranger is only offered here with a choice of diesel engine options, with no petrol like the twin-turbo Ecoboost V6 the Raptor F150 has.
A hi-po petrol engine such as this or a V8 would revolutionise this style of vehicle in Australia, and it makes sense when you consider how many SS utes Holden sells to blokes who love their V8s.
Also consider how many Land Cruiser 79 series utes you hear with three-inch exhaust systems bellowing out the V8 good vibes and tell me there isn’t a market for performance 4x4 utes in Australia.