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Future models - Ford - Ranger

Exclusive: Short-wheelbase Ford Ranger revealed

Short comings: Ford’s truncated Ranger test vehicle goes through its paces at the You Yangs proving ground.

Ford tests cut-down Ranger as it looks to expand on Thai-built ute’s success

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Ford logo17 Mar 2015

FORD’S Australian engineers have been testing a no-frills short-wheelbase version of the company’s successful Ranger one-tonner at the You Yangs proving ground in Victoria.

As our pictures show, the single-cab cab-chassis mule is markedly shorter between the front and rear axles than the regular Ranger that is set to receive a major mid-model facelift this year.

While the standard Thai-built Ranger has a long 3220mm wheelbase, we estimate the SWB version sits on a circa-2860mm platform, representing a cut of about 360mm.

The aluminium tray and overall length have been similarly shortened, producing a more nimble but nevertheless rugged utility that, should it reach production, would likely be targeted at mining companies, farmers and the like.

As per Ford’s usual policy, Ford Australia brand communications manager Neil McDonald would not comment on a specific engineering vehicle, saying: “The (Ford) proving ground and our research and development centre at Geelong work on and test a lot of things for various markets, but we have nothing to confirm.”

Ford’s Australian-based Asia-Pacific design and engineering centre was responsible for the development of the global model – launched in Australia in September 2011 – and its Everest SUV spin-off that is due to hit the market this year.

Bearing the new-look grille of the updated Ranger that is set to be launched in Australia in the second half of this year, the stubby Ranger workhorse was doing laps of Ford’s high-speed loop when spied by our photographer who had seen a converted long-wheelbase dual-cab Ranger with the shorter wheel-span on a previous visit.

Apparently armed with a base 2.2-litre diesel engine, the SWB Ranger potentially could undercut the price of the current entry-level diesel cab-chassis variant, the XL single cab, which sells in Australia for $24,390 plus on-road costs.

A petrol engine could drop the price further, below the $19,740 2.5-litre XL single cab, but target buyers looking for such a workhorse – especially farmers and miners – would invariably favour diesel.

Markets such as South Africa might have initiated the move that would deliver a vehicle to help Ford meet the challenge of cheap Chinese-made utes.

Locally, it would give Ford Australia a unique proposition against rivals such as Holden’s Colorado, Toyota’s HiLux and Mitsubishi’s Triton.

The Ranger has emerged as Ford’s top seller in Australia, even making the industry’s list of top 10 vehicles in most months. Last month, it was ranked eighth among all vehicles, and third in the LCV ranks behind the HiLux and Triton.

The SWB Ranger seen here was being tested alongside a variety of undisguised facelifted dual-cab Rangers, including an upmarket Wildtrak and an even superior version called Limited.

While the Wildtrak in our photograph has a black sports bar, black exterior mirrors and its name in a stick-on decal on the driver’s door, the Limited has a body-colour sports bar, chrome mirror scalps and a chrome Limited badge on the driver’s door.

The Limited shares roof racks, side steps and a rear step built into the bumper with Wildtrak, but hints at superior safety technology, perhaps with blind-spot warning system.

Ford’s new Ranger-based Everest SUV – also due later this year – appears to share some trim and spec of the Limited, including items such the exterior mirrors and safety features.

The Everest is in the final stages of testing at the proving ground ahead of its imminent production start-up alongside Ranger at Ford’s Rayong plant outside Bangkok.

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