Forget the Mustang, Ford Australia has revealed its most important model – the all-new 2022 Ranger.
With the ute accounting for nearly 70 per cent of all Ford Australia sales at times, the company has pulled out all the stops to ensure it remains popular. So there’s a fresh look, more powerful engines and the latest technology to try and keep the Ranger one of Australia’s favourite new vehicles.
Set to hit showrooms by the middle of 2022, Ford has unveiled the core models in the line-up including the entry-level XL, mid-level XLS, XLT and Sport as well as the Wildtrak; which will be the flagship until the new Ranger Raptor arrives.
Although the Ranger is a global model, sold in more than 180 countries, development of the all-new model was led by Ford Australia’s design and engineering based in Melbourne.
Starting from the ground up, Ford’s engineers overhauled the chassis used for the out-going model, extending the wheelbase by 50mm and widening the track by the same amount. A new front-end body design allows for a larger engine bay, which crucially will fit both a new V6 engine but also have enough room for hybrid systems in the future.
On top of the chassis the designers shaped a new body, which crucially continues the “Built Tough” theme of Ford’s other ute models – the F-150 and Maverick.
Ford conducted more than 5000 interviews with customers to understand what they want, and the ‘tough truck’ look was the overwhelming demand – from both male and female customers, according to the company.
“Customers told us the Ranger needs to look tough and needs to inspire confidence,” said chief designer Max Tran. “They were very clear in what Ranger should be, both in the way it looks, and the way it makes them feel.”
To this end the front end features a bold grille and squared off corners to project a big on-road presence, rather than go down the more ‘SUV-like’ design themes of some rivals.
Ford’s designers also spent a lot of time at the other end of the Ranger, ensuring the tray was as capable and practical as it could be. For starters it’s 50mm wider, which means it can accommodate a full-size pallet between the rear wheel arches.
They also fitted a new plastic-moulded bedliner as well as similar material around the top edge of the tray, which the company believes will make it easier to add aftermarket accessories including canopies.
The tailgate also features a built-in ruler so tradies can measure on the go, as well as cup holders and the space to install clamps if you need to hold something down (for cutting or assembling).
Getting into the tray is easier too now, thanks to an integrated step in the rear bumper, which Anthony Hall, Ranger vehicle engineering manager, explained comes directly from customer experience.
“When we met with our customers and observed how they climbed up to the load box, we saw a big improvement opportunity,” Hall said. “There were people stepping on the tyre and then going over the side of the truck or hoisting themselves onto the open tailgate.”
Smarter new cabin
Inside the design of the new Ranger is a leap forward in terms of technology, with a digital overhaul that takes the working-class ute to new heights of sophistication. The most obvious feature is the new infotainment screen that sits proudly in the centre of the centre console.
This Tesla-style portrait touchscreen will control most of the key functions through Ford’s latest SYNC4 system, including entertainment and even the off-road settings. Importantly, Ford has confirmed this isn’t just a high-end model feature, with even the base XL getting a 10.1-inch version of the screen with the higher-grades a larger 12.0-inch version.
An 8.0-inch digital dashboard will be standard across the entire range too. There’s also a new ‘e-shifter’ that helps save space in the centre section to liberate more small item storage.
“You’ll find the interior plush but with the dual purpose of work and play in mind. The new short throw e-shifter is central to the layout and is another example of where customers really guided our decision making,” explained Tran. “Customers overwhelmingly liked the e-shifter – they liked the fact that it looked higher-tech and that it was intuitive to use.”
Another benefit of this enhanced technology will be the expansion of the FordPass smartphone app, which will now be capable of starting, locking and unlocking as well as checking on the status of the car.
It’s not just a cosmetic upgrade for this new Ranger, the driving and capabilities have been changed too along with the larger chassis.
“We have a really wide spectrum of customers,” explained Graham Pearson, Ranger vehicle program director. “On one end, you might have small business owners looking for very work-oriented transportation. They want traditional two-wheel drive with a single cab and a load box to transport their goods. “At the extreme other end, you have the serious off-roaders who really push their Rangers to the limit with endurance races like King of the Hammers or the Dakar Rally. The Next-Generation Ranger will meet the needs of both types of customers and everyone in between.”
The front wheels are now 50mm further forward, which improves the approach angle, while the rear dampers have been moved to try and improve both on- and off-road ride comfort. There’s also an increased turning range, for better maneuverability.
Ford will offer two four-wheel drive systems, an electronic shift-on-the-fly set-up or a full-time 4×4 system; but the company hasn’t said which model will use which system.
Under the bonnet Ford has confirmed the initial engine line-up will include a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel with either a single or twin-turbo set-up depending on model. But the bigger news is the arrival of a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel to the Ranger, which should add extra muscle and has the potential to make the Ford the most powerful non-petrol ute on the market.
The engines will be paired to three transmission options – a new six-speed manual or updated versions of the six-speed and 10-speed automatic gearboxes from the current model.
No power, torque or performance figures were released for the new Ranger, with Ford keeping all market-specific details under wraps until closer to its arrival in showrooms.