What can we expect from Ford’s new Ranger?

Ford’s Ranger has led the way in the ute segment since 2012. What can we expect next?

BACK IN THE DAY your average ute was slow, poor offroad, unsafe and ordinary on the road. About the only thing it was good for was lugging a load.

These days all that has changed. Modern utes have power, 5-star safety ratings, and are better offroad and on then ever, albeit not quite to 4X4 wagon standards.

Ford’s Ranger has pretty much led the pack since its introduction in 2012 as the PX, and revised as the PX2 in 2015. But at the time of the launch Ford told us they were already working on the next version, as you’d expect, and for a while now we’ve been seeing camoed Rangers around Melbourne. Here’s a video we were given:

Now we can’t tell much from this short clip for sure, but a few things appear to be changed:

  • Disc brakes on the rear – excellent news, as disc brakes dissipate heat better than drum brakes, and aren’t prone to filling with mud which needs to be tediously cleaned out.
  • Coil springs at the rear – if that’s what it looks like then more good news. So much wrong with leaf springs; they don’t handle torque well (which is why you see asymmetric shocks), don’t position the axle well and have built-in dampening which should be left to the shocks. In short, coils are better than leaves. Oh what’s that? Load carrying? Be serious, the Defender 130 used coils for a 1.4 tonne payload, the Unimog uses coils, as does the G-Professional and many heavy-duty others. There’s only so far leaf spring handling can be developed.
  • Improved towbar – a problem with the original PX was the low towbar. That was improved by the aftermarket, but it looks like Ford have paid attention and provided a decent one this time.
  • Odd exhaust – sticks out the side. That’s probably just the development vehicle though.

Although as the Ranger is developed here in Australia we don’t know if that’s a version that will be sold here or overseas. There’s already a short wheel base, single-cab Ranger with a coil rear end in Thailand, for example, and this test car is left hand drive.

Now Ford aren’t giving away much of course. We did ask them about this vehicle, but as usual in these cases there is no comment…occasionally we get lucky with a tidbit but not this time. So in the absence of official Ford words it’s time to dive straight into speculation! Here’s my pick for what we’ll see in the next Ranger:

  • Terrain Management – Ford’s adaptive terrain system as we saw in the Everest, where you get to select different modes like Rock, Sand and Mud. This would not be any great improvement on the existing system though. The Everest’s unit only works in high range except for Rock Crawl, the sole mode available in low range other than Normal mode. I do hope Ford improve the brake traction control system though.
  • A new engine – pretty sure we’d see a different engine ready for Euro 6 compliance, and hopefully more power with it.
  • AdBlue – yes, we can expect that too, thanks to emissions standards.
  • All-wheel-drive – possibly. Ford has the drivetrain to do it with the Everest…would they though?
  • Improved safety – the Ranger is already 5-star, but we’d like to see new tech from the Wildtrak filter down the range and new features added. Adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking would be good.
  • Less manual transmissions – every time a vehicle is revised the manual transmission is either dropped or reduced across the range.

Stuff we don’t want to see:

  • A non-lockable centre diff if it’s all-wheel-drive – no manufacturer has ever produced a system with a computer-controlled clutch/centre diff that is the equal of a plain old lockable centre diff, so until that job is done, leave the clever electronics out of front/rear torque distribution.
  • Electronic parkbrakes – complexity 4X4 owners do not need.
  • Minimum 18″ rim size – 17″ is where it’s at.
  • Reduction in payload or increase in weight – the payload is just enough and the weight is a fraction too much. What would be great is an increase in GVM so it can tow 3500kg in the real world.

Here’s another shot of the same vehicle but on a different day. Ford are obviously not too bothered about people seeing the car as it seems to be seen a lot around Melbourne.

What about you, what do you reckon Ford should change on the Ranger, and what would you hate to see?

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper