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.