As has been much rumoured during the Ranger’s development, the venerable 3.2-litre inline five-cylinder turbo diesel engine that has been a mainstay of the Ranger line up since the T6 version launched has been dropped in favour of a new 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6.
While Ford is refusing to talk market-specific versions yet – or even engine specifications – it is hard to imagine we wouldn’t see the V6 here, while two versions of the 2.0-litre turbo diesel four will continue, with a revised version of the current bi-turbo likely to be the main form of propulsion in the New Zealand market.
A single turbo version of the 2.0-litre is also available at launch, with a range of transmissions that sees a new six-speed automatic lining up alongside a revised version of the existing 10-speed unit, with the six likely for use in lower-spec models. A manual transmission will also be available, but we doubt this will make it here.
But what of electrification? While Ford confirmed that some form of electrified Ranger would indeed be incoming, it wouldn’t be available at launch.
Chief engineer for the T6 platform, Ian Foston said that the company wouldn’t reveal any details about exactly what form of electrification the Ranger would receive just yet, but it had “considered many different propulsion technologies going forward on the T6 Ranger.”
However, it is thought that it will be a plug-in hybrid powered by a turbocharged 2.3-litre petrol four-cylinder with a single electric motor to generate 270kW and 680Nm of torque, although Ford has also teased a fully electric Ranger before.
While the company isn’t revealing too much about deeper mechanical details just yet, it did confirm that its engineers moved the front wheels forward by 50mm for a better off-road approach angle and outboard for better articulation, both of which improve the off-roading experience.
They also shifted the rear suspension dampers outboard of the frame rails to give drivers and passengers a better ride both on- and off-road.
The Ranger will now also have a choice of two four-wheel drive systems; an electronic shift-on-the-fly system, or advanced full-time 4×4 system with an automatic “set-and-forget” mode, while off-road recovery is made easier with prominent dual recovery hooks in the front bumper.
Additionally, the selectable off-road drive modes previously only available in the Raptor are now featured across the 4×4 range, while even the tailgate has been made smarter with the addition of a work surface that provides a built-in ruler and cupholders, as well as clamp pockets so tradies can “hold materials down for clean cuts and precision work.” Spring-loaded caps cover the pockets when not in use.
Durable caps now protect the tray edges and tailgate’s upper edge from damage, while structural attachment points are secreted underneath for the attachment of crossbars or a canopy.
But while Ford is still playing its cards close to its chest in regard to mechanicals, the reveal was all about how the new Ranger looks, inside and out.
As widely expected, the third -generation T6 now packs looks in line with the American pick-up line up of the F-150 and Maverick, with a bold new design, a wider stance, more prominent grille and signature ‘C-clamp’ daytime running lamps.
The sides are much more squared-off and flatter than the current model, strengthening the “big American pick-up” look of the Ranger, while the expected step in the side of the rear bumper has also been confirmed.
“This journey started even before we put pen to paper with our first sketches,” said chief designer Max Tran.
Tran’s team spent hundreds of hours with customers around the world to see how they use their Rangers on a daily basis, and conducted more than 5000 interviews and made more than 1,800 pages of field notes for reference, which the company says helped development and guide both engineers and designers to “build a pick-up with the features and capability customers wanted.”
“Seeing owners use their trucks, whether for work, family or play, inspired some fantastic ideas that drove our design and development decisions,” said Tran.
A good example of that, Tran said, is that integrated box side-step in the rear bumper.
“During our clinic sessions, we noticed that many customers had trouble reaching over the side of the truck into the bed; others were standing on the rear tyre or the bumper to gain access. So, we came up with the idea of a box step, behind the rear wheel. We mocked one up, tested it with owners and the response was overwhelming.
“In a very real sense, our customers have been with us all along the vehicle development journey,” he said.
On the inside, Tran said that Ranger buyers wanted a “flexible, modern cockpit that caters to both work and family duties. So, Ranger needs to serve as both a workspace and a haven, providing smart and connected features with more comfort and storage options than ever before.”
To this end, the Ranger’s dash is dominated by either a 10.1-inch or 12-inch touchscreen (depending on model) in the centre stack, and a fully digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel.
The large touchscreen features Ford’s latest Sync 4 infotainment system, which comes with voice-activated communications, entertainment and information systems, as well as an embedded factory-fitted modem, allowing connectivity on the go when linked with the FordPass App with features like remote start, vehicle status check and remote lock and unlock functions via a mobile device. The modem also allows for over-the-air updates.
Most of the traditional driving mode controls have been moved from the dash and centre console to their own dedicated display on the large screen, but thankfully accessible with a single dedicated button, so with one press, drivers can go to dedicated screen for all off-road and drive modes where they can monitor the driveline, steering angle, vehicle pitch and roll angles and other controls.
The next-generation Ranger will be built at Ford’s plants in Thailand and South Africa starting in 2022, while Ford New Zealand says it expects to launch it here mid-2022, and it will be revealing local specifications sometime in the next few weeks.
A local spokesperson also confirmed the electrified version will be available, but had no timing on it just yet.