First Drive: 2012 Ford Ranger

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By James Stanford

Australian correspondent James Stanford has always written about the trucks we don't get to drive in the U.S., like the Ford and Holden Utes and Volkswagen Amarok. This time, he gets behind the wheel of the global 2012 Ford Ranger.

If you live in the United States and like compact pickups, it might be best to hit the back button on your browser.

Why? I’ve driven the all-new 2012 Ford Ranger, which will be sold in 180 countries but not the U.S. It’s a great ute — or, as you guys like to say, truck.

Developed by a global Ford team headquartered in Australia, the new workhorse started as a clean sheet of paper, giving the team the freedom to build exactly what it wanted.

After a run through the South Australian outback, some road driving outside Adelaide and some load hauling, I believe the new Ranger could very well be the best hauler of its kind, possibly even beating the recently released Volkswagen Amarok, though a direct comparison would be needed for a solid conclusion.

We’ll get to the reasons this small pickup is so good in a bit, but an explanation of the truck is probably in order.

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What’s New

The 2012 Ranger, which was code named T6, was cranked up in 2005. Ford led the project, and Mazda was involved. As it has in the past, Mazda will sell its own version based on the same basic vehicle, called the BT-50.

Engineers set out to knock off the king of the class, the Toyota Hilux, with a pickup that would suit the needs of most markets on the planet, including the Middle East, South America, Europe, Southeast Asia and Australia.

They came up with a rugged separate chassis ute that will be offered in 20 different variants, with Single Cab, Super Cab (with a second row of short-trip seats) and a spacious five-seat Double Cab.

You can have a regular steel bed or a cab chassis with a tiny aluminum flat tray on the back. There are low-riding two-wheel-drive versions and a more popular high-riding two-wheel-drive model.

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Powertrains

Ford raided the global cupboard for engines and will offer a choice of a gas unit and two turbo-diesels.

Ford took the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine from the Fusion and Escape and mounted the alternator higher to aid with water crossing. This one has a variable intake camshaft and a standard exhaust cam. It manages 137 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 167 pounds-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. The entry-level turbo-diesel is a Ford Europe-sourced 2.2-liter four-cylinder with common rail injection. It used to serve in the Mondeo and now earns its keep in the Transit cargo van. Peak power is 148 hp at 3,700 rpm, while the torque is a handy 277 pounds-feet between 1,500 and 2500 rpm.

Spending some extra coin gets you the current range-topping engine, a 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbo-diesel, also from Europe’s Transit. This one makes 197 hp at 3,000 rpm and a more impressive 347 pounds-feet of torque between 1,500 and 2,750 rpm.

The gas engine makes do with a five-speed manual, while the two diesels come with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.

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Power Hauling

We tested the 3.2-liter diesel, and it is a good match for the truck. It didn’t have to work hard on steep trails, and it didn’t seem to notice anything when we loaded 1,500 pounds of cement bags in back.

This is a fraction of what the Ranger can haul. Depending on the model, you can lug 3,368 pounds in back. The maximum tow rating comes in at a respectable 7,385 pounds.  

Ford says the Ranger’s frame is twice as stiff as the previous model and 10 percent stiffer than the Hilux’s frame. It uses leaf springs at the rear and a double A-arm setup at the front with upper and lower joints.

The cab is isolated from much of what is going on with the help of fluid-filled rubber chassis mounts that are more compact than those found on F-Series trucks.

All this helps contribute to an impressively smooth ride. The typical chassis jiggling over bumpy surfaces in these kinds of trucks is reduced to very low levels, and it feels more like the car-based utes in Australia rather than something with a ladder frame.

The handling is also eye-opening. The four-wheel-drive models we tested have 9.3 inches of ground clearance, so they‘re not sports cars, but they certainly punt along twisty roads better than other pickups of this size.

The Ranger’s steering is another highlight. It’s now rack and pinion rather than recirculating ball, and it feels more precise and predictable. The only downside is that there is very little feedback, and it can vibrate (with rack rattle) on some particularly rugged off-road trails.

We tackled some steep, rock-strewn tracks, and the Ranger handled them easily, thanks to its ample torque, low-range gears and the rear locking differential. With 31.5 inches of wading depth, it should be able to cross some reasonable waterways.

The new Ranger Double Cab is 218 inches long and 72.8 inches wide, and its bed is 70 inches long and 61.4 inches wide. The single cab’s bed is the same width, but is 91.2 inches long.

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Ford has loaded the Ranger full of safety gear, including electronic stability control with roll-mitigation sensors, antilock brakes and six airbags on all models except the base, which gets two. Engineers told us they are confident that crash tests will show it is even safer than the current safety king, the Amarok.

The interior of the Double Cab is impressively spacious. A 6-foot-2 bloke sat comfortably in back while the driver put his seatback as far as it could go. There were no tears or threats because the seatback didn’t even touch his knees.

The interior design was influenced by power tools and chunky watches, but the engineers didn’t get too carried away, as everything is where it should be and is easily controlled.

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You can operate some of the features using the voice-control system on premium models, an indicator of just how quiet the Ranger is. Extra sound-deadening materials were used liberally through the cabin and roof to make passenger conversations much easier.

Drivers can also use the Bluetooth system for phone operation via steering-wheel-mounted controls. You can also use Bluetooth to stream audio from music players.

The designers also factored in heaps of really useful storage areas, including a glove box big enough to stow a laptop, storage below the rear seats and a center bin that can be cooled to store beverages.

It will take a bit longer to see how the new Ranger holds up at worksites and in the outback, but our first impression is that it is a world-class ute that will likely give the Hilux a real scare.

We Australians do feel a bit sorry that Americans won’t be able to buy the new Ranger, but giventhat  we miss out on the F-Series, Ram and Chevy trucks because they aren’t made in right-hand drive, there is a limit to our sympathy.

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Comments

Ford......if you are listening, bring this truck to the States with more powerful gas engines and one of those diesels. This would be a game changer.

At first glance I hated it, but after reading the article, it offers everything I need, except availability at the local dealership.

3,368 pounds of payload? I wonder how that would translate to the states as that's WAY into 3/4 ton truck territory here. Makes you wonder if US ratings are handicapped in some way. If the Ranger came here, it would probably have the gas 3.5 V6 and maybe a 1,200 capacity. Although, the new 2.0L Ecoboost engine would be interesting. No chance of getting the diesels here.

nice truck! but is it me or does the truck look like it was squeezed together from both sides? it looks out of proportioned, looks too skinny, not much track width?

Nice truck, the 3.2 diesel sounds like a great combination. I can see why Ford doesn't want it in NA. It would eat F150 sales like a fat guy at a buffet.
@Matt - the 2.0 EB is a turd in bigger vehicles.
http://www.trucktrend.com/roadtests/suv/163_1108_2012_ford_explorer_ecoboost_test/index.html

The only thing I don't like about this truck is the short box length. I could get over it if it came with the 3.2 diesel and a six speed manual. (Even my wife pefers manual gearboxes).
Odd how the manufacurer's think that North Americans don't like:
1. Diesels
2. Manual transmissions
3. Decent "small" trucks.

I suspect that the F150 will shrink a bit to meet future emission/mpg standards.
Global platforms?
WTF Ford?
Will this turn out to be the next F150???????

"twice as stiff as the previous model n 10% stiffer then the hilux"

wow, was the old frame that soft? no wonder the hilux kicked ass around the world.

well, if they won't bring the hilux here, very unlikely we'll get this ranger either.

other countries use compact n midsize to do what we use fullsize to do. our macho "bigger is better" got the best of us.

It will forever be a mystery to me that these great American brand trucks aren't available in America. I don't want to hear about cannibalization of the F-150 either, this is a different product with a different consumer and one that would compliment the US vehicle offering portfolio altogether. Earth to Ford Motor Company, WE WANT THIS TRUCK!!!

This is agitating. I should have hit the back button like they suggested.

I like it a lot in particular with a 3.2 l diesel in it. I like the fact that a 6'2 person can sit comfortably in it. This is a winner. At 7200lb of towing capacity, this thing can easily tow a two-horse trailer loaded. The F150 EB will be my next truck probably, but if they import the Ranger, I don't know.

For being a Ford, this is still a truck I could buy--in the cab-and-a-half version.

I like everything about it except for the lack of a real front bumper. Painted plastic bumper covers are a real PITA on trucks.

Great write up! While ford has a case in the US to delete the Ranger they should at least have more diesel options.

News flash to Ford not everyone wants an F150 or bigger. Sell a smaller truck in the USA or loose my business. Same news flash for GM and Dodge.

If the Japanese seize the opportunity and start to build newer well-designed smaller trucks with efficient engines then I will buy from them.

I want to buy American but decisions like this leave me banging my head against the wall on a lack of vision.

Wow, looks like a red headed step child. reminds me of a ford fusion front end. The New Colorado makes this thing look like ugly betty. I wonder if this ranger will come with a mini "man step"?

Maybe ford is afraid if they off the ranger in the U.S. that it will take some sales away from the f-150. But right now the ranger will not be offered here in the U.S. for now anyway.

GM wins again!

@Bob - interesting comment. It will be fun to see a Japanese Tacoma spank a Taiwanese Colorado.

Ford:

THIS is the size of truck I want/need. Why won't you sell it to me?

If you want this truck built and sold in the USA, see my Facebook page and sign petition. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ford-bring-the-new-world-Ranger-to-the-States/176237855779573?v=wall

GM wins again!

what i thought GM just lost the $30,000 shootout

137 HP out of a 2.4L gas motor?! What is this 1993?

I should know better because this is typical of Ford. Update everything but the powertrain and then update the power train the next year. (they have done this with the Mustang and F-150 over the past 2-3 years)

I sure hope the rest of the world gets some new powertrains in this thing for 2013. (yes, yes I know there are some things more important than power but these are two generation old power figures)

Most counties don't have capable fullsize trucks, so manufacturers make mid size trucks as capable as fullsize, thats why ford don't want it here in NA since they are so worried about their crown and not what people want. They call this engine "DURA toro" thinking that people might mix it up with Duramax? why wont they just stick with Powerstroke?
Thank you GM for bringing Colorado to the States which looks a lot better then this Ranger.

lou, Colorado will be made in Thailand for most countries and in Wentzville, MO USA for NA, Last time I checked Taiwan and Thailand are 2 different countries.

Very funny dan the woman, well if I recall the ford finished in 3rd despite the fact they cheated and only offered a regular cab because they couldn't build a super cab for under $30,000.

Anyone here that likes the looks of the ford ranger better than GM'S new Colorado is either on drugs or is flat out lying about it. Go ahead and tell yourself you like the looks of the ranger better than the Colorado. No matter how many times you tell yourself that you know that you are not being truthful and your brand bias is definitely getting in the way.

To tell you the truth, that's why I haven't liked ford vehicles for many many years. there appearance has always looked like a ungly betty. I will admit they are making progress as there latest offerings are much improved in that department but most of the time, there fugly.

I wouldn't mind buying and shipping one over here in the US if I can get that kind of payload and towing along with the diesel engine.

@Hi Everyone. I posted excerpts of the CAR ADVICE road test on the previous thread about Ford Electronics.

Ford can't bring the ranger here bcuz they can't include it as an f-series. just wait, ford will name it some weird name like franger or something than bring it to the us so they can bump up the f-series number.

Not a fan of car front end on trucks, same goes for the Colorado. Like the ratings though. What is the hilux's ratings?

Ford needs to sell this hear, not everybody wants/needs to drive around in the Barge sized F-150

@Matt. No it would be still a 3,300lb payload. The Ranger is built like a 1 ton Pickup.

@Sandman4X4 in Asia they only allow narrower widths.

@Lou comes in 20 different models including cab chassis with a much longer bed. Lou, you also realized this is probably going to be the be the basis for future models of the F150 that will be sold everywhere and built in Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Thailand.
Ford has said they hope the Global Ranger can get 400,000 global sales, that is why for the first time they are selling it in 180 countries.

@mhowarth they will sell mainly Diesels, nobody is going to buy the petrol version, if they want to do anything with it.

@Fred "Full Size Trucks" would not / do not sell very well as their capability is either below a Ute, generally a lot lower payload numbers, much poorer off road performance, higher prices, no diesel etc. How they are used in NA is irrelevant to the Car/Van/Pickup and Truck mix outside NA.
The tongue in cheek comment at the end of the article refers to the NEED of HD Pickups for RVers in Australia.

@Michigan Bob

Here you go..

http://autos.yahoo.com/ford-truck/f-150-supercab-4x2/2011/145-in-wb-xl-styleside/

$26,615 leaves more than enough for the 32v 5.0L, 3.73 limited slip, power group, fog lights including rear disc brakes and still stays under $30,000. Get a GM 1500 and you're stuck with manual windows, manual door locks, manual mirrors, no key fob and drum brakes because they're not even optional on base Silverados/Sierras. Enjoy that!

GM won't build the Colorado in NA for the same reasons Ford won't build the Global Ranger in NA. Losts of approval on the truck blogs but no interest in general. If so, where are all the buyers of current Colorados?

Looks like a HiLux!

Poser alert...

@Lou,

@Lou,

"Odd how the manufacurer's think that North Americans don't like:
1. Diesels
2. Manual transmissions
3. Decent "small" trucks."


1. Politics...

2. Because U.S. people are LAZY drivers...

3. Too much fast food, have to upgrade to a much larger one THAT THEY WILL RARELY USE TO ITS POTENTIAL!!! My weiner is bigger than yours with my straight pipes and 22 inch rims and plastic glued-on hood scoops!!!

No skid plates, proper bumpers, rims/tires yet they buy the 4x4 to pull their off-road toys with...

These are the same owners that have this full-size pickup yet pull a small trailer behind because they do not want to use their prescious bed! Posers!

@ Michigan Bob whats up with this ? -------> http://www.autoblog.com/2011/09/26/senator-calls-for-investigation-of-onstar-privacy-issues/

@Oxi sort of right has Hilux and Navara design aspects.

@Everyone
"Ranger will be produced in South Africa, Brazil and Thailand, which will make the Australia-bound vehicles.

Ford initially predicted annual global sales of 400,000 when announcing the plan but has since gone mute on projected volumes"
http://www.goauto.com.au/mellor/mellor.nsf/story2/6FE26957E29F1DCBCA25791700021AEE

@Oxi
"Ford’s team said it took on some design features of the HiLux, including the single-piece rear window, location of the b-pillar and ‘hidey holes’ below the rear seats, while the Nissan Navara’s wide-opening rear doors and space behind the rear seats were also built into the Ranger design"

@denverMike, the buyers of the current Colorado are all driving Tacomas, because the Colorado was a pos. The global versions are likely much better as they have many more resources dedicated to such a meaningful venture. Using outgoing US Colorado sales as a proxy for potential global Colorado sales is senseless period as they are different animals all together. Same goes with the outgoing 20 year old Ranger vs the one above. Also, a 30 mpg diesel changes everything, maybe putting even the Taco in obsolete territory.

Small truck sales suck here well because the trucks are all outdated pos's. Bring out some newer more modern versions and I think the small truck sales would take off especially with the current price of fuel.

Imagine what the current ranger would get for mileage with the 3.7, 6 spd, and a 3.31 rear...

It basically looks a lot like a Ford Sport Trac. Those didn't sell here. I hate reading the comment sections of small or midsize truck articles because all it is is a bunch of people whining. Vote with your wallet. If it was practical and economical for these brands to sell small trucks then they would. Face it: there is not enough demand to sell them. And by demand, I mean a large number of people who would actually BUY them at the price they would need to sell them for, instead of people that just whine on the internet that they want one

@CE given the lack of price difference and specifications of Midsize Pickups available in North America, they would not sell well globally either.

CE the Sport Trac was a huge seller in the early 2000's, but Ford let it go to the Wayside and and sales suffurd.

@Robert Ryan, are you implying that there isn't a sufficient price disparity between the full and mid-size trucks? Because if so, go back and read the $30K shootout and pay attention to what can be bought in this price range in the full size segment. Then, go price a fully loaded Tacoma.

@UncleBud That is one reason they Midsizers are not selling in the US. There is no such disparity as their are no Full Size Pickups outside NA. As a result pickups , Asian pickups , Utes or "cars" as they want to call them here, do not suffer from a price liability.

@Andy I was 12 in 2000 so I have no clue if that was the case or not. I just tried looking up sales figures for it and just found several sites saying that no Sport Trac only figures are available cause Ford rolled it into Explorer figures. I wouldn't say "Ford let it go by the wayside" and "sales suffered" because of that. They updated it twice in a 10 year period

@RobertRyan, I'm not totally following you, and I have the feeling that there may be a language barrier here. The Tacoma is selling, because the Tacoma is the only viable mid size option here. By "price liability", are you meaning that there is no segment pricing risk abroad (outside US) as there are no full size trucks abroad? I'm sorry but I'm confused about which markets we are discussing now.

@Unclebud, it is my fault for not being clearer in my post. You basically have it right. We really only sell midsizers here, so the problem of midsize prices being close to fullsize does not exist. The Tacoma is now basically owning the North American midsize market due to its own qualities and the lack of competition from the "Big Three"" and other imports. Only US Pickups sold here are HD diesels for the RV market. They are sold in such tiny numbers, they really do not count.

Speaking of there being no price disparity, has anyone priced 2-3yr old trucks? Toyota Tacomas seem to be pretty much even steven (or more expensive) than similarly-equipped fullsize from any Big 3 manufacturer.

@ Fred - my bad. I meant Thailand. But GM has not said that it would be manufatured in the USA. It could show up as a knock down that gets assembled in the USA. The money spent on upgrading Wentzville MO, indicates that they probably will be "reassembling" the Thai variant. Time will tell.

@Robert Ryan - Ford is agressively pursuing its global "One Ford" strategy. That may mean the global Ranger or a variant may become NA's F150. I would be very surprised if that happened. The F150 has been Ford's "goose that layed the golden egg" for decades.
I see what you mean in relation to "price liability". A full sided 1/2 ton like the F150 can be purchased easily for less than a comparably equiped small truck like the Tacoma. I looked at a NA Tacoma TRD Double Cab SR5 because I wanted to pull up to 7,000 lb. The F150 was cheeper after rebates. My F150 5.4 SuperCrew 6.5 box XLT with STX (Chrome package in USA) was 4,000 dollars cheeper than the Tacoma. Since I will never be the expert offroad driver that Oxi is, I chose the F150 ;)

@Oxi -
People buy trucks for different reasons.
My reasons fit my lifestyle.
Your reasons fit your lifestyle.
My choice isn't any better than your choice.
Just different.
Accept that and we'll all move on.

Your post shows the very reason you don't get any respect on this site.
Stop looking at things from your own narrow point of view.

You say most guys don't use a full sized truck to their potential?
True.

Most Tacoma 4x4's never get used to their full potential off road.
True.

What's the big deal?

@Lou, I don't think your numbers are right on the costs between an F-150 and a Taco, but based on what I've read from you in the past, I'm sure I'll get a detailed response. I look forward to it.

@ Lou Oxi will never understand. If you read his posts a pattern emerges. He is always comparing what he requires in a truck to other trucks and they never stack up. He sees the Tacoma as the perfect truck and therefore we should all be driving one. His self centeredness/self importantness/arrogance is sickening. How is it possible for one person to know everything and know whats best for everyone? Time and time again you pummle him with facts and logic. His response is always predictable. He either skirts the question or changes the subject. Must be lonely at the top.

@Jason H, that's because Taco's don't depreciate as quickly.

Why can't we get the new Ranger in the US??? It would be a PERFECT competitor to the new Colorado. C'mon Ford!

http://youarewhatyoudrive.blogspot.com

I think this is a really cool little truck after reading about it. I like fullsize vehicles. My 2011 F-150 is the perfect truck for me.

But in all honesty I really didn't want to like the global Ranger...And even today if given the choice I would still choose the F-150 over the Global Ranger...But after reading this article I've gaind alot more respect for the global ranger.

But alas, we will never know how succesful it would have been in the U.S.

Maybe now the Aussies will start driving more manly trucks, instead of those girly vehicles. Especially if the 4 cylinder diesel can crank out decent mpg, sorry mates...liters/100km



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