Ranger to roam the US prairies


GROW­ING AMER­I­CAN DE­MAND FOR Mid­sized utes has spurred Ford to launch the Aus­tralian-de­vel­oped Ranger on to the US mar­ket.

Ford will start build­ing the Ranger late this year at its Michi­gan As­sem­bly Plant.

Ford says US sales of mid-sized pick­ups (what we call utes) are up 83 per­cent since 2014 as a new gen­er­a­tion of buy­ers seeks more ma­noeu­vrable, fuel-ef­fi­cient trucks.

Chevro­let al­ready sells the Colorado in the USA, and Toy­ota has the Ta­coma, a Hilux equiv­a­lent.

The Amer­i­can mar­ket Ranger uses the Mus­tang pony car’s tur­bocharged 2.3-litre Eco­boost petrol en­gine mated to a 10-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, a com­bi­na­tion that has led to spec­u­la­tion that an equiv­a­lent model will come here.

Cur­rently the only en­gine choice in the NZ mar­ket Ranger is a 3.2-litre Du­ra­torq five-cylin­der tur­bod­iesel.

If the Eco­boost-pow­ered Ranger comes here it might be in the high-per­for­mance limited edi­tion Rap­tor that’s due to ar­rive later this year.

The Ranger Rap­tor fol­lows the guide­lines set by the Ford F-150 Rap­tor that’s ca­pa­ble of run­ning on off-road tracks at speeds higher than 160km/h.

But in New Zealand, a mar­ket where the fuel of choice for utes is diesel we can’t see the logic of a turbo petrol-en­gined main­stream Ranger. Toy­ota has just dropped petrol en­gines from its Hilux range, cit­ing buy­ers’ lack of in­ter­est.

For the Ranger Rap­tor, we’d sug­gest that a tweaked ver­sion of the 3.2-litre Du­ra­torq diesel is more likely and that a petrol-pow­ered main­stream Ranger is an al­most cer­tain no-no.

The US Ranger’s 2.3-liter Eco­boost en­gine is a tempt­ing propo­si­tion with di­rect fuel in­jec­tion, a twin-scroll tur­bocharger and 16 valves.

It has a forged-steel crank­shaft and con­nect­ing rods, and twin chain-driven over­head camshafts.

“Ranger’s proven 2.3-litre Eco­boost pro­vides a torque tar­get on par with com­pet­ing V6 en­gines, but with the ef­fi­ciency of a four-cylin­der,” says Ford USA ex­ec­u­tive, Hau Thai-tang.

“When you pair that with its 10-speed trans­mis­sion, you’ve got one of the most ver­sa­tile, pow­er­ful and ef­fi­cient pow­er­trains in the seg­ment.”

In a land where petrol is cheap, maybe that’s so: but here?

Hau says the Amer­i­can ver­sion of the Ranger is de­signed for a new gen­er­a­tion of mid­size truck cus­tomers who “head off-road to recharge.”

It has high ground clear­ance to help it climb over off-road ob­sta­cles. Its FX4 Of­froad Pack­age pro­vides ad­di­tional rough road ca­pa­bil­ity with off-road-tuned shock ab­sorbers, and all-ter­rain tyres.

It has a Ter­rain Man­age­ment Sys­tem sim­i­lar to the F-150 Rap­tor’s. It in­cludes four dis­tinct drive modes – nor­mal; grass, gravel and snow; mud and ruts; and sand.

The sys­tem can shift on-the­fly to au­to­mat­i­cally change throt­tle re­spon­sive­ness, trans­mis­sion gear­ing and ve­hi­cle con­trols to tai­lor trac­tion, drive­abil­ity and per­for­mance to any given ter­rain or weather con­di­tion.

“The all-new Ranger is de­signed for to­day’s mid­size truck buyer, de­liv­er­ing even more util­ity, ca­pa­bil­ity and tech­nol­ogy for those who blend city liv­ing with more off-the­grid ad­ven­tures on week­ends,” Tau adds.

It’s a de­scrip­tion not that dif­fer­ent from our dual pur­pose work­horse/fam­ily trans­port con­cept of the mod­ern ute.

What it demon­strates is that world­wide, the ute as we used to know it is no more; sure, there will al­ways be those in­tended mainly as work­horses, but most will have to be able to do the school run too – or run at high speed off-road.

US mar­ket Ford Ranger is en­gi­neered to do dou­ble-duty as on-road trans­port and off-road ad­ven­ture ute.

There are sub­tle dif­fer­ences in styling of the US Ranger (pic­tured) and NZ mar­ket model. Some sources sug­gest some of the US styling might be in­cluded when lo­cal Ranger gets a refresh.

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