The days when pickups were mainly used as workhorses are long gone, as they are now becoming lifestyle vehicles in many countries. It is still rare that we see people actually raving about the added features of a pickup truck, but no one seems to have told Ford, as they have just come out with one that people will truly rave about.
The new Ranger has been literally built from the ground up with plenty of Ford DNA. As opposed to its predecessors (which were based on the Mazda B-series), Ford decided to take the “T6” fully under its wing, with Ford Australia being charged with design, development and engineering. This time Mazda will be the one sharing with Ford, but with a slightly different direction in terms of styling and market.
A newly developed 3.2-liter DuraTorq TDCi engine heads the lineup of powerplants for the new Ranger. The inline 5-cylinder VGT equipped CRDi engine boasts of 200 PS of power and 470 Nm of torque. The 3.2-liter is a powerhouse for the segment delivering good power and a very flat torque curve; something that's perfectly matched with its six-speed transmission. It is an engine that truly packs a good punch while not overworking the turbo.
Meanwhile, for the lower variants, a new 2.2-liter DuraTorq TDCi inline-4 engine provides 150 PS of power and 375 Nm of torque. The 2.2-liter engine comes as a surprise as it actually performed well through the varied road conditions composed of highway, uphill and downhill mountain roads.
Both engines will be mated to a pair of 6-speed transmissions: an MT82 manual or the newly developed 6R80 automatic. With a stripped down base variant to be offered (primarily for fleet users), it should receive a five-speed manual. A 2.5-liter Duratec gas engine will also be fitted to the Ranger but won't be offered for the Philippine market.
Comfortable and Tough
Engineers had many considerations for the new Ranger, namely to improve comfort, handling and load capability. A new longer and stiffer seven-crossmember ladder frame serves as the foundation of the T6 to add durability and handling. Major driveline components were also placed between the frame rails to prevent damage in off-road driving conditions.
Ford also boasts of refined noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), and the improved sound deadening and sealing made the new Ranger really fell like driving a premium SUV. New hydro mounts between the frame and cabin actively reduce cabin shake, thus improving ride comfort. A newly developed coil-over-strut suspension for the front has likewise been tuned for improved ride and performance, while a new rear leaf suspension system also works hard for both comfort and load capability.
A new rack-and-pinion replaces the recirculating ball setup for the steering. While the new rack did provide a more precise feel during on-road driving conditions, it's not as tough off-road than the ever reliable recirculating ball.
While the front brakes receive a modest upgrade with bigger rotors and larger calipers, the rear hubs are still equipped with drums. Ford engineers were quick to explain that the decision was actually based on better brake feel with the rear drums in the pre-production model compared to rear discs, and better pedestrian protection as well. Based on my drive, brake performance and feel was indeed impeccable for a pickup.
Fording through water
With increased ground clearance and a lot of design and engineering work, the 4x4 and 4x2 Hi-rider models boast of water-wading capability of up to 800mm. Something we were able to put to full use in Thailand.
Load it up
With pickups, the load capability plays an important part. The cargo box is significantly longer and wider than its competitors, increasing maximum payload to 1,400 kilograms for the commercial variants. The tailgate, too, can hold up to 200 kilograms of weight as well. Towing capability is rated at 3,350 kilograms.
Ergonomically Tough Inside
In considering how the interior would look, designers took inspiration from Casio's G-Shock watches and ergonomically designed tools. The result is a rugged and modern looking interior to match its 21st century exterior.
Some added features that were nice to see in a pickup were the tailgate lock, power outlet on the truck bed, and functional parts of the bedliner which can actually hold drinks in case you decide to have a tailgate party.
There are some nice features inside beginning with the extra large glove compartment (which can actually fit a 16" laptop inside), a rear view mirror with an integrated LCD display for the rear view camera, as well as an in-car-entertainment similar to the Fiesta with Bluetooth, Voice Control and iPod connectivity for its premium variants.
The top trim of the Ranger will be the first pickup truck to have Electronic Stability Program (ESP), an active safety system using advanced sensors to assist the driver in maintaining control of the vehicle in varying conditions. Other safety features such as Adapative Load Control, Emergency Brake Assist, Emergency Brake Light, Roll-over Mitigation, and Traction Control are some of the things you'd normally find in premium luxury vehicles. The Hill Launch Assist (also found in the Fiesta) finds company with the Hill Descent Control. Some of these features however, will only be available in premium variants.
In addition to standard driver and front passenger airbags for most variants, curtain and thorax airbags will also be offered in top trim levels.
Against the World
Like in the tagline of its deep dive program "Ford Ranger Against The World", the new Ranger is part of the One Ford program spearheaded by CEO Alan Mullaly. The global pickup will be sold in 180 different markets which, unfortunately, excludes North America where the model has been given the axe middle of this year. The new global pickup has been judged as too much of an overlap with the brand's best selling F-150 pickup.
To produce for the 180 markets where Ford will offer the T6 Ranger, it has designated three key plants to manufacture the new global pickup. Asia-Pacific markets will receive their units from Thailand. South Africa, with its newly revamped facilities will manufacture for its home market, Europe as well as emerging African markets. On the other hand, for South American markets, Argentina will follow suit.
Due to the recent flooding in major parts of Thailand, the rollout of the new Ranger has been delayed. In the Philippines, the new Ranger will be available in early 2012.
Tested Ford Tough around the World
Even though the Ford Ranger is only just starting to roll off the production lines, it has already gone around the world. Ford has subjected the Ranger prototypes to rigorous testing in as many as 15 countries. Test mules have logged a million kilometers on various driving environments such as severe heat and cold, monsoon rains, high altitudes, rushing rivers, arid deserts and potholed roads. The actual road tests was further supported by countless hours in Ford's state-of-the-art R&D facilities.
They say the new Ford Ranger is a game changer, but I beg to differ. In my opinion, it is actually rewriting the rules of what pickups should be. Several best-in-class and first-in-class features were put into the new Ranger. Customers asked, Ford listened, and put them into the all-new Ranger.