By Sue Mead for PickupTrucks.com
Ford unveiled its all-new global 2011 Ford Ranger "T6" Friday at the Australian International Auto Show in Sydney. A global team based in Australia developed the midsize pickup that replaces two regional Ranger platforms currently used by Ford.
An early reveal of a Ranger Double Cab XLT 4x4 was held Oct.13 at Cockatoo Island, in the Sydney Harbor, for the automotive press.
The Ranger sports "Ford Truck Tough" styling cues that include Ford’s iconic three-bar horizontal grille and wide nostrils, but the new Ranger is more fluid and aerodynamic than the blunt-shaped design of the current U.S. F-150 light-duty and Super Duty heavy-duty trucks.
Global Small Truck Market
Ford says the Ranger is the most capable small pickup it has ever built. The completely redesigned rig will go on sale next year in 188 countries. In Australia, it will be sold alongside the lighter Falcon Ute car-based truck. The new Ranger will not be sold in the U.S. or Canada.
Ford’s compact pickup, known as a “Kangaroo Chaser” during its early Australian heritage, dates back to Henry Ford’s 1917 Model TT one-ton, the first chassis built specifically for a truck; the 1925 Model T Runabout, which added a pickup-body cargo box, adjustable tailgate, four stake pockets and heavy-duty leaf springs; and the 1928 Model A, the first closed-cab pickup, with a safety glass windshield, roll-up side windows and a three-speed transmission. In Australia, the first “ute” was developed, in 1934, by Ford Australia putting a utility back onto a V8 coupe, which was exported to the U.S. In 1979, the first authentic compact pickup, the Ford Courier, was offered in Australia; the Ranger nameplate was introduced in 2007.
The 2011 Ranger sports a freshened contemporary exterior and interior design; a new range of diesel and gas powertrains with increased performance, more torque and improved fuel economy; new technologies that provide greater comfort and better handling; and is longer, wider and taller than the model it replaces. The new Ranger rides on an all-new frame and chassis that gives it an enhanced and upgraded off-road capability. It also gets as a wider and deeper box, plus increased payload and towing capacity.
Marin Burela, CEO and president of Ford Australia, said the design and development of the new pickup was led by Australia’s Ford Product Development Center and tested in the demanding terrains of Australia as well as in other countries where the truck will be sold.
"In Australia, Ford reinforces its tough-truck credentials by revitalizing the Ford Courier and rebranding Ford Ranger around the world,” Burela said. "It’s anchored by work credibility, versatility and bolder styling, which will make it more appealing to a dual-purpose user."
"Compact trucks are a global phenomenon from Australia to Argentina," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford group vice president and president of Asia Pacific and Africa regions. "The new Ranger was built with feedback from customers around the world that wanted more truck toughness but also a vehicle that could be used for work and personal transport, with family safety as well."
The truck will be built at three assembly plants. Thailand will be the first plant to come on line next year, followed by South Africa and South America. Ford reps declined to identify an on-sale date, but said production will begin in Thailand next summer.
Ford said the Ranger raises the bar in this globally competitive segment and offers the most "high-tech product" in its class, the result of the capability of its all-new family of engines that bring increased performance and fuel economy, a new six-speed transmission, gains in quality and new technologies that improve ride and handling and safety.
"We looked at the evolving needs of this buyer and made it more sure-footed and cutting-edge," Hinrichs said. "The new Ranger has more precise steering, ride comfort, new side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, emergency brake assist, trailer-sway control and the segment’s first rearview camera system. We also know that fuel economy is a reason to buy.”
Hinrichs identified Toyota’s Hilux as the top competitor to the Ranger in Australia. The new model also has the segment’s deepest water-fording depth.
Pickup trucks (combined two-wheel and four-wheel drive) are the second-best-selling segment of the market in Australia after small cars, offering Ford a significant growth opportunity, though Ford executives declined to project numbers for Australia and global sales.
Key competitors and their year-to-date (September) sales volume in Australia are Toyota Hilux (30,127); Nissan Navaro (15,932); Mitsubishi Triton (12,384) and the Holden Colorado (10,380). The Ranger has sold 10,925 units in 2010, and since 2007 about 52,000 Rangers have been sold. (Total Courier sales since its introduction were 110,528.)
Ford calls the introduction of the 2011 Ranger a “rolling launch” for revealing information to the press and buyers. The Blue Oval chose Australia for the Ranger's first unveiling, but it has declined to disclose many specifications, including horsepower, fuel economy and pricing. A staggered model launch in the second half of 2011 will limit opportunity to grow, but Ford expects that 2012 will be the big year for growth of the Ranger globally.
As the 2011 Ranger’s outside dimensions have grown, the new platform has created a roomier interior and easy access into the new truck. It has more shoulder and second-row legroom and comes with seating for up to five, depending on the model. The cabin has been restyled with a more contemporary look, with higher levels of craftsmanship, modern materials and more features. It is also set up to be more driver-oriented.
“It’s a hard-working truck designed to make its hard-working owner proud,” said chief designer Craig Metros, a 24-year Ford veteran who has played a significant role in Ford pickup design around the world. “It’s not often in the pickup truck world that designers get the opportunity to re-invent a vehicle from the ground up”.
Metros, who served as design chief for the Ford F-150 light-duty pickup in North America, led the Australia-based design team. He describes the new Ranger's design as “21st Century Tough. It’s the result of a design process that answers pickup truck owners’ wants and expectations from all around the world. We explored a bandwidth ranging from Ford North America’s very traditional and much-liked F-Series to influences from Europe’s very successful kinetic design language.”
The Ranger is often used as a sport pickup in Europe, Metros says. Therefore, top-of-the-range Limited and Wildtrak models are tailored with leather interiors, larger wheels and many features typically found on luxury cars.
“In others parts of the world, including Africa and central Asia, or among fleet buyers, Ranger trucks are for the most part strictly utilitarian, with a hose-out interior,” Metros said. “We looked outside the automotive industry at contemporary designs in many consumer products. From power tools to wristwatches, we wanted to apply that same sort of ruggedness and purposeful styling to the interior.”
The Ranger’s designers drew inspiration from the look of power tools from Bosch and DeWalt for interior styling elements, as well as the G-Shock watch for design cues used for the instrument cluster, to create an image of delicate instruments set within a rugged housing. A tastefully crafted console is the palette for the truck’s navigation screen, audio functions and controls for the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.
Manual-transmission models get a new short-throw gearshift, and a new lever-style parking brake is used for optimal driver ergonomics. Double Cab models have 20 different areas of interior storage, with door-pocket cupholders designed to hold a water bottle and an available center console that can keep up to six beverage cans cool. The glove box will also hold a laptop computer. Under the rear seats is stowage for electronic items or small packages that can easily be accessed. Also available on some models is a rear-seatback center armrest that folds down and incorporates two cupholders.
Imagine a Ford Explorer Sport Trac with a power dome on the hood, and you have a good first image to draw upon for the 2011 Ranger Double Cab unveiled in Australia. The front end has a short, low-slung overhang, whereas the pickup’s belt line and rails of the box were raised significantly. A clamshell-shaped hood with a cut line in the fenders is a thoughtful design element that gives good access to the engine bay. A horizontal cut line links the headlamps and front fascia. Headlamps, mirrors and fenders (or mudguard flares) have grown larger and give an integrated look across all versions and contribute to its sporty and bolder look.
Metros said the entire front end of the vehicle, particularly the hood, was very challenging to design because of pedestrian-protection requirements and the desired aerodynamics to aid with fuel economy and reduce drag. The Ranger’s side mirrors are larger for improved rear vision and were sculpted to reduce wind noise.
The Double Cab is the first body style to be revealed; the all-new family will include three body styles, 4x2 and 4x4 configurations, high- and low-ride models and “a broad series array” that will range from hose-out work trucks to fully featured personal vehicles, Ford says.
The new pickup is larger in nearly every dimension and has a wider, deeper box capacity, as well as increased cargo capacity. The Double Cab model is 7.5 inches longer, 1.7 inches wider and 2.5 inches taller than the current Double Cab. Its wheelbase grows 8.6 inches to 126.7 inches, which Ford claims is the longest in its class.
The front and rear track on the 4x4 model is 61.4 inches and 62.5 inches on the 4x2 model. The longer wheelbase and increased track were engineered to improve driving and passenger comfort.
Ranger’s chassis setup comes from the expertise of Ford’s global dynamics engineers from Australia, South Africa, Europe and North America, in addition to insight from Ford’s manufacturing facilities in Thailand and South America. Ford says its goals of creating SUV-like handling and comfort, reducing mass and increaseg structural integrity were achieved as a result of the new frame, new front and rear suspension, and new steering system.
All critical driveline components (powertrain, transfer case, oil pan, exhaust system and fuel tank) are tucked between the frame rails to reduce the risk of damage during off-roading. Underbody shielding protects other important components. Minimum ground clearance on 4x4 models, as well as 4x2 Hi-Riders designed for off-road use, is 9 inches with the base 16-inch tires. Seventeen-inchers are also available. Dual front hooks — each rated at 13,277 pounds — come standard on the Australian-market Rangers on 4x4 and 4x2 models. Also, the pickup’s electrical components and air intake are mounted high in the engine compartment to reduce the risk of water penetration and potential electrical shorts.
Ride and Handling
Ford’s driving dynamics team set out to develop a "driver’s truck" with agility, precision and comfort when unloaded or working. All powertrain and driveline variants were developed on a test vehicle before the first prototype was built to help engineers design for a wide variety of handling details, including turning circle and optimal suspension geometry, evaluating scrub radius, toe and camber settings, and the "elastokinematic" properties of the front and rear suspension. Its new suspension was developed in conjunction with Mazda.
“Through careful analysis and tuning, we found it was possible to build the first fleet of prototype vehicles close to final properties for suspension geometry, including changes under traction, braking and hard cornering,” said Matt Reilly, vehicle dynamics supervisor. “This was achieved by using a combination of newly developed computer-aided-engineering (CAE) models, the Kinematics and Compliance test rigs available at all Ford development centers and steering robots for precise and repeatable test inputs.”
“The result is a Built Ford Tough pickup truck with a single design that provides the best possible road manners," Reilly continued. "For traditional buyers, the benefits are huge with no compromises in payload capacity or towing ability. For sport utility enthusiasts who prefer smoother, more refined road handling, the all-new Ranger delivers with less of the harshness typically found in trucks.”
New hard-rubber "hydro mounts" on the frame between the rail and the cabin bring improved comfort. Filled with hydraulic fluid, the mounts help mitigate vertical and horizontal motions more effectively, thereby reducing body shake and smoothing the harshness typically associated with a truck ride.
Ranger’s longer, stiffer frame is 100 percent new, with a coil-over-shock front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and a new rear leaf spring suspension. It has the largest brakes in its class, with vented disc brakes up front and drum brakes in the rear.
Increased wheelbase and track also help driving dynamics, both on-road and off-road. The Ranger team also made advanced technologies available in the truck: Electronic Stability Program, antilock braking system and traction control, as well as optional trailer-sway control, Adaptive Load Control and rollover mitigation, all of which bring increased safety and control for hauling heavy loads.
The Ranger also introduces the segment’s first rearview camera system and rear parking sensors to provide additional visibility and alert the driver to obstacles while reversing.
The Ranger comes with two new engines and a choice of six-speed automatic or manual transmissions that improve performance, fuel economy and driving range.
Ford’s Duratorq TDCi diesel engines include a 2.2-liter inline-four-cylinder with up to 276 pounds-feet of torque and a 3.2-liter inline-five-cylinder with a robust 346 pounds-feet of torque.
Ford says its new economical 2.5-liter Duratec four-cylinder gas engine has more power than its major competitors and is flex-fuel capable.
Gasoline-powered Rangers get a standard five-speed manual transmission.
The Ranger will achieve a significantly increased payload capacity of up to 3,306 pounds on selected models. While Ford has not announced the truck’s top towing capacity, it says towing will be “exceptional.”
Ford also reports that the Ranger will come with more engine/transmission combinations as well as a variety of final drive ratios, from a stout 3.31 ring and pinion to an amazingly short 5.30 rear axle.
Ford Ranger Leaves the U.S.
The Ford Ranger first went on sale in the U.S. in February 1982. More than 6.5 million Rangers have been sold in the U.S., with its best sales year in 1999, with 348,358 pickups sold.
"In the past few years, we have averaged around 75,000 Rangers sales annually, with year-to-date sales of 43,000 through the end of September," said Derek Kuzak, Ford group vice president of product development, when we asked about why the new Ranger isn’t coming to the U.S.
"The compact pickup market in the U.S. has been declining for more than 15 years, having gone from almost 8 percent of the industry in 1994 to just more than 2 percent through August this year," Kuzak said. "So we have decided to prioritize our investment in full-size pickups and continue to develop the F-150 in all areas, including outstanding fuel economy. We are just now launching an all-new engine lineup for the F-150 that improves the fuel efficiency of the F-150 lineup by 20 percent. And we are offering the F-150 XLT Custom Package with the all-new 3.7-liter V-6 engine aimed at the entry-level personal-use buyer.
"This new F-150 series will be ideal for those Ranger owners interested in a pickup. For those Ranger customers interested more in affordable transportation than specifically a truck, we now either have, or soon will offer, many new affordable vehicles, including the Fiesta, Focus, seven-passenger Grand C-MAX and the Transit Connect.
"One additional important element of our decision was that this Ranger is bigger than our current product, which we'll build through the 2011 model year, and moves much closer in size to the current F-150," Kuzak added. "So its use here would become even more limited, especially when compared to the increasingly fuel-efficient F-150."