I was lucky last night to somehow score a ticket to the Global Launch of the #NEXTGENRANGER in Sydney, even being handed special media privileges. I’m still not sure how I managed that, and I must admit I felt very out of place stepping into the same room as ‘real’ media experts.
Putting that aside, I found a familiar face and then we had some others join us at the table. Not long after we were run through exactly the same global launch as some of you would have seen before we got the chance to see a Prototype up close and personal.
My first impression was that this is a clear evolution, despite most things being redesigned. When you see the vehicle up close, you realise the design does still link back to the existing vehicle in a number of ways, despite just about everything being developed from the ground up.
I also got the opportunity to have a number of great chats to Ian Foston, Ford’s Chief Engineer, who also worked on the previous generation Ranger. Talking to him, I realised just how hard Ford has worked to bring this vehicle to life.
There are a number of things 4WDers should be excited about with the release of this vehicle. They are:
- Increase in on and off-road ability, thanks to:
- New off-road modes
- Increased ground clearance
- Rated Recovery/Tow points
- Longer wheel base (front wheels 50mm further forward)
- 50mm wider wheel track
- Dedicated space for a Dual Battery and associated wiring
- New engines and drive-train options
- More Modular than ever design
- Clever practical improvements
Increase in off-road ability
While it looks like a first drive of the new Ranger Off-road is still a little while away, Ford has really continued to push development of capability with the Ranger, and a number of things they’ve changed are a strong indicator of the improvements this vehicle will bring.
The first one (and something I am excited about) is the introduction of off-road modes into the Ranger. This is something that has been taken from the Everest and Raptor and enhanced. What it means is that there will now be terrain modes which will help dial up or dull traction control, throttle response, and even differential locking. From my experience with the Everest, these will be great additions and make the vehicle even more capable.
The other exciting thing is that the next generation will have improved Ground clearance, thanks to a larger diameter tyre.
A longer wheelbase, which moves the front axle forward 50mm will increase the wheelbase and improve the approach angle. A 50mm wider wheel track standard will also allow for improved stability off-road, and also facilitate improvements to suspension travel and ride, both on and off-road.
Finally, recovery and tow points on the vehicle will be rated (rating unknown yet)
Dedicated space for a Dual Battery
The redesign of the front end will create space for a second battery, taking away the pain current Ranger owners have in trying to decide where to hide it. Given a dual battery system is a key enabler for long range touring, it shows that Ford has really listened to the customer. In addition, you can expect wiring to be pre-run to make connecting electrical accessories even easier.
New Engines and drivetrain
Yes, it has been confirmed that a V6 Diesel engine will be an option in the Ranger, supported by a twin and single turbo version of the current 2.0L. There will also be a Petrol option, the 2.3L Ecoboost although this is not expected in Australia.
There will be a number of transmission options, and a choice of full-time 4WD in some models, as well as the traditional part-time 4X4.
While performance numbers are not yet available, it looks like the cooling system on the new Ranger is going to be larger, which could suggest power and torque tweaks to the current bi-turbo engine, but also shows the commitment to the bigger V6. The continuation of the 2.0L shows Fords faith in its suitability and longevity too.
More Modular than ever design
One of the things that stuck out for me from my chat with the chief engineer was his comment on the fact that the vehicle is more modular and customisable than ever. It seems that Ford understand the desire for every customer to really make the vehicle their own, and instead of fighting this, they are embracing it.
The choice of specs, driveline, and engines shows this. But that is just the start. They have engineered this to make it easy to customise and modify, and the fact that there will be 600 accessories for the Ranger available from the day the first one is delivered shows a commitment to this. And Yes, there will be factory backed suspension lifts available too.
Clever Practical Improvements
There are a lot of clever practical improvements to the Ranger with this generation. More cabin space with a redesigned Dash. A huge touch screen with secondary buttons removed to simplify use. An integrated step into the rear of the vehicle to allow you to reach more easily into the tub. Measuring points and clamping points on the tailgate which means you can use it as a workbench. Moveable tiedown points so you can adjust to your load. The ability to fit a full size pallet in the back. It isn’t one game changing thing, but lots of little things that really move the whole vehicle forward.
This is a very exciting vehicle, which shows a real depth of thinking from a manufacturer, not only for right now, but for what will come during the lifespan of the vehicle. I believe from what I’ve seen that this vehicle really will set a new benchmark for comfort, capability and performance. Couple this with they way they have partnered with ARB to support the customization and personalisation of the vehicle, this really is something amazing for the industry.
No matter how you use a 4X4 ute, this vehicle has been designed to appeal, but it looks to also have improved on-road handling, refinement, and off-road capability all at the same time – no mean feat!
Other manufacturers will be forced to follow suit, and that means that as off-roaders we will benefit from better vehicles, with more choice and more capability.
Well done Ford – we can’t wait to drive one!