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Car reviews - Ford - Courier - V6 range

The Car

25 Jan 2005

FORD is bracing its Courier light truck against tough new competition with a keenly priced V6 offering free air-conditioning and automatic.

The powerplant, available now in 4x2 and 4x4 Super Cab and Crew Cab styles in GL and XLT specification guises only (there is no Courier cab-chassis V6), brings the total number of variations to 31.

It is a development of the 4.0-litre overhead cam V6 unit that has powered the larger US-sourced Explorer SUV here since 1996.

In today's tune it produces a class-leading 154kW of power at 5250rpm and 323Nm of torque at 3000rpm.

Ford says that the torque top is produced at a lower and more useable rev range than those of its rivals.

To help achieve this the aluminium-headed sequential fuel-injected V6 features a two-stage variable induction system that improves low to mid-range torque below 4000rpm.

A world car in the truest sense, the engine of the Japanese-engineered Courier is built in Germany and the body is manufactured in Thailand before the two are bonded together at Ford's South African plant.

Another ace up Ford's sleeve is the availability - at no extra cost over the standard five-speed manual gearbox - of a five-speed automatic transmission in Crew Cab models, in lieu of the others' four-speed units.

It's an electronically controlled auto that adapts to the driver's driving style and has an overdrive lock-out (for the fifth ratio).

The manual, meanwhile, is a heavy-duty unit with a self-adjusting clutch.

Ford is also making air-conditioning, which is an $1800 option in most other Courier models, standard across the V6 range.

Using the $37,990 Courier V6 GL Crew Cab 4x4 manual as an example, it undercuts the equivalent Rodeo LX Crew Cab V6 4x4 with air rival by $1000, as well as the Navara DX 4x4 by $790.

But the Triton GLX Double Cab 4x4 at $37,490 with air and $37,330 Toyota HiLux 4x4 with a chilled Double Cab still cut in at below the Courier.

Depending on which of the eight models is chosen, the V6 option adds as little as $1555 to the price (compared to the four-cylinder petrol XLT Crew Cab 4x2 with air) and up to $5680 (against the four-cylinder petrol GL Crew Cab 4x2 with no air).

All Courier V6s include a 20mm ride-height increase over the existing four-cylinder models to facilitate engine installation, for greater ground clearance and to enhance its appearance (Ford says it wanted a more "aggressive" stance).

The V6 4x4 automatic models now have a rear-to-four-wheel drive selector switch activated from inside the cabin.

It works with an electronic remote front-wheel hub lock so the driver doesn't have to step outside to manually lock the front hubs. Ford confusingly refers to this as 'Shift on the Fly', but the actuation of two to four-wheel drive in either low or hi-range still requires the driver to stop.

The V6 comes four months after last September's PH Courier four-cylinder revamp.

This saw colour and trim alterations, improved comfort, better audio, fresh instrumentation graphics, redesigned tail-light and side repeater lenses and new style wheels on some models.

Standard carpeting and floor mats and its own colour chart complete the V6 differences.

Now six years old, the current Courier dates back to the 1999 PE and embraces the usual body-on-frame construction, double wishbone and torsion spring front/leaf spring and solid axle rear suspension, and (powered) ball and nut steering.

The four-cylinder models (in 82kW/271Nm 2.5-litre turbo-diesel and 92kW/210Nm 2.6 petrol guises) are built alongside their Mazda B-series twins at Ford's Thailand plant.

Ford says it has wanted the V6 option since the PE's inception, but limited capacity has stymied its progress until the South African plant stepped in to address its need.

It expects the model mix to be 45/30/25 diesel/petrol/V6, with 60 per cent of the latter being autos. The company also hopes to top 8000 sales in 2005.

Metropolitan - rather than rural - buyers are expected to be the main purchasers of the V6. They're the dual purpose types that need sedan-style comfort and performance combined with light truck-duty abilities.

Ford Australia is realistic about the V6 Courier's sales forecasts for 2005. It has identified that around 20,000 six-cylinder light trucks will be purchased this year, and hopes to snare around 10 per cent (2000) of these for itself.

Last year's 7077 tally was the model's best ever year, representing an 898-unit increase (15 per cent) over the 2003 result. Ford says this is slightly ahead of the 13 per cent overall rise in the 4x2 and 4x4 pick-up and cab-chassis segment.

But Ford can't crow too loudly about the Courier, as its Rodeo rival recorded 24,055 sales in 2004, a 4829 rise over the year before, when the new generation RA model arrived.

Navara sales were also up (from 9085 to 11,994) while the Triton's 95 unit drop to 6808 was not far behind Ford's effort.

And Toyota, which rules the segment with 28,077 sales in 2004 despite offering a 1997-vintage vehicle, has an all-new HiLux with modern coil spring suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and up-to-the-minute styling inside and out waiting in the wings.

GoAuto understands that there will be a new generation Courier that's sure to be bigger and much more refined, released some time during 2007.

Did you know?

"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" best describes the Courier's reason for existence in Ford's line-up.

Always a Mazda-sourced vehicle, it was devised for Ford in America in the early 1970s as a response to rising sales of the burgeoning Nissan/Datsun, Toyota and - ironically enough - Mazda pick-ups from Japan.

The first oil crisis of 1973 sealed its future there while the second a few years later prompted Ford Australia to import it from late 1978.

The mark II models arrived from mid-1985 and lasted with only a few changes until the current Courier's February 1999 debut

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