Pickup trucks these days have switched from workplace tools to lifestyle toys. This is quite evident in how Ford has turned the Ranger into a vehicle for both work and play. And given its expertise in trucks, it has done a rather good job at it. But with fiercer competition these days, it’s not enough for the automaker to simply rest on its laurels. With the all-new Ranger, Ford has definitely upped the ante.
And that starts with the very distinctive styling. Your eyes will be drawn to the squared-off front grille, part of it eating into the headlight clusters. Taking a page from the larger F-150 are the C-shaped running lights. At the back, there are new rear light clusters, and the Ranger name is stamped on the tailgate. But no matter what the changes are, a pickup will always look like a pickup. This is where Ford’s clever engineering kicks in.
The cab receives a complete overhaul. Dominating the dashboard are two screens: one for infotainment and the other for instrumentation. Taking note on how its customers interact with its trucks, Ford has decided that a large center display is the best solution as it thinks it gives users a more uniform manner of meddling with the Ranger’s controls.
Powering this screen is a revised iteration of Ford’s in-house Sync software. Aside from the usual slew of features like smartphone integration, voice commands, and preinstalled apps, the infotainment system can interact wirelessly with the FordPass app. It can check the vehicle’s status or operate some of its functions remotely.
The shift from a traditional gauge cluster to a fully digital one is another product of the automaker’s survey of its customers’ activities. Just like the center screen, the instrument display shows everything that the driver needs to know in a clear and concise manner. Further decluttering the cab is the new switchgear on the center console, the most notable being the self-centering gear selector.
The bed also receives some major changes. With the track width increased by some 50mm, Ford says that a standard-size pallet can fit in between the wheel wells. Aside from the usual tie-down points within the tray, there are now solid anchoring points on top of the bed to offer more places to secure large loads. Other market-dependent features include a clever partitioning system and a household-style outlet.
The tailgate even gets some neat tricks. There are provisions for workbench tools like vices and drills, cutouts for cups and plates, and even a built-in ruler. Customers will definitely appreciate the inset steps behind the rear wheels as they offer easier access to the contents of the bed.
One cannot talk about trucks without discussing the powertrain. The all-new Ranger has an extensive portfolio of diesel motors starting with the 2.0-liter engine with a single turbo. This will have two performance levels, and will very likely spell the end of the veteran 2.2-liter mill. Predictably, this engine will also have a biturbo version.
But the biggest news of all is the availability of a larger 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel yanked out of the F-150. While Ford hasn’t revealed any output numbers for it, the added power and torque available from this engine will surely put the all-new Ranger into a league of its own. What’s interesting is that there are no concrete plans for the Raptor yet, and the V6 will be available in standard trucks.
Off-road capability is further enhanced by one of two four-wheel-drive systems. The first is a part-time layout with dedicated 2WD and 4WD modes. The other is a computer-controlled setup which allows the driver to simply leave the system in 4WD, and the vehicle will be the one to figure out how much power to send to each axle. Such a system is already in use in most crossovers, and Ford wants its customers to experience the same convenience in the all-new Ranger.
Ford has repetitively claimed that engineering the all-new Ranger was the result of an exhaustive research program which involved extensive studies of its customers worldwide. And all of the learnings from that initiative have somehow been integrated into its newest truck. The automaker is keeping mum about launch schedules for markets around the world, and only time will tell if its homework has really paid off.