Car reviews - Ford - Ranger - utility range
14 Feb 2007
By CHRIS HARRIS
FORD Australia has finally released full pricing, details and model availability of its Ranger ute range, which lobbed onto the market just before Christmas with only manual transmissions.
Officially launched this month, the Ranger line-up is completed by five models (out of 13) that can be ordered with a new five-speed automatic transmission.
Auto is available in only one of the 4x2 models, the XL crew-cab ute, which is priced from $36,490 – a premium of $2000 over the manual version.
In the 4x4 line-up, auto is available in the XL single cab-chassis (at a premium of $4000, but that also includes air-conditioning), the XLT super-cab ute and the XL and XLT crew-cab utes.
Air-conditioning is standard in all but the entry-level 4x2 and 4x4 models, which also make do with bench seats.
All models can be ordered with ABS with electronic brake-force distribution ($900) or a $1200 safety pack that includes the ABS/EBD, side airbags, power windows, premium trim and central locking – all of which is standard on the range-topping XLT 4x4 models.
Accessories include a bed liner for the utes ($493), a soft tonneau cover ($380), sports bar with high-mounted stop light ($912) and a heavy-duty 3000kg tow pack including a load-levelling kit ($1180).
As revealed at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney motor last October, the Ranger replaces the long-running Courier nameplate, but it still shares its basic architecture with the Mazda B-Series Bravo-replacing BT-50.
Both companies have dropped the 4.0-litre V6 engine in favour of a pair of four-cylinder direct-injection common-rail turbo-diesels, which carry Ford’s Duratorq badge in the Ranger.
The 2.5-litre turbo-diesel develops 105kW at 3500rpm and 330Nm at 1800rpm, while the 3.0-litre version offers 115kW at 3200rpm and 380Nm at 1800rpm.
Only the 3.0-litre TDCi comes with the all-new electronically-controlled five-speed auto option.
A variable-geometry turbocharger is claimed to significantly reduce turbo lag, broaden the torque curve and promote smoother and faster acceleration.
Compared with the previous Courier model’s 2.5-litre diesel, torque is up 22 per cent at 200 fewer revs and fuel economy has improved 17 per cent in the new 2.5-litre engine.
Chief platform engineer Mark Bill said this week that the engines were developed specifically to produce plenty of torque.
"It’s torque that provides the grunt to move a truck," Mr Bill said.
"These engines develop high torque and provide it right across the rev range, resulting in improved engine and towing performance compared with Courier."
Tough new exterior styling includes a taller cargo box, which is 50mm higher than the Courier’s, lifting storage to 1266 litres on single-cab models.
Inside, the front seats are now more sculpted and supportive, with larger head restraints. Switchgear is claimed to be more intuitive, while a redesigned centre console has easier-to-operate controls and new ventilation controls, as well as a standard audio system that features an AM/FM radio and an in-dash CD player with MP3 capability.
Emphasis has also been placed on more convenient storage areas around the cabin. The two-bin centre console can store up to 10 CDs and two mobile phones.
The single-cab, crew-cab, chassis-cab and super-cab incorporate the innovative rear access system (RAS), which combines the two front doors with two rearward opening doors for easier loading and unloading.
The ute’s chassis is tougher and more durable while the suspension has been tuned to deliver sharper handling and a more refined car-like ride.
At the front, 4x2 and 4x4 models are fitted with an independent double-wishbone suspension with a longer and larger torsion bar and larger-diameter dampers for greater driver control and ride comfort.
The rear suspension has been strengthened for improved hauling and towing capabilities via longer leaf springs and a new stabiliser bar.
Overall noise levels have been improved through improved seals around the doors and glass, new door-latches, better air flow over the new external mirrors to reduce buffeting, new all-terrain tyres, revised floor damping and a new dash insulator.
Braking power comes from larger ventilated discs at the front and leading and trailing drums at the rear.
Ford Australia president Tom Gorman said the name change to Ranger brought Australia into line with the rest of the Ford world.
"The Ranger brand is used by Ford around the world and, with an all-new vehicle for 2007, we saw this as the ideal time to introduce a new light truck with a bold new name for the Australian light commercial market," Mr Gorman said.
"It is more powerful compared with Courier, offers improved functionality, significantly increased towing ability, and maintains a one-tonne plus payload across the range.
"Ford engineers have built on the company’s vast experience in trucks to deliver the ultimate one-tonne vehicle with the performance and power to get the job done.
"At the same time, we recognised that Ranger had to be versatile enough to adapt to the changing needs of the light commercial owner in the 21st century. It needs to be a combination of reliable work mate, family vehicle, lifestyle statement and an adventure vehicle.
"We listened to the market and focused our improvements on Ranger’s classic rugged exterior, its refined and comfortable interior, exceptional diesel performance, great driving feel and fantastic ability both on and off-road.
"We engineered Ranger to deliver on all these expectations. It’s the can-do truck – a truck that means business."
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