Future models - Ford - Ranger

Hands-free tech for Ranger

Ranger goes high-tech: Ford brings luxury-car tech to its all-new ute.

Ford’s new Ranger ute to offer voice-activated phone, audio, nav and climate control

Ford logo4 May 2011


FORD’S new Australian-designed Ranger ute will match Volkswagen’s standard-setting Amarok one-tonner by offering the convenience of voice-activated phone, audio, navigation and climate systems.

Similar to the latest hands-free systems now offered in premium versions of many passenger cars, the new Ranger’s high-tech Bluetooth Voice Control system will allow drivers to operate their mobile phone and the car’s audio, satellite-navigation and climate-control systems using only voice commands.

As with the Amarok dual-cab launched here in February, the technology is expected to be an optional extra on the Ranger, making it one of the most advanced utes ever sold in Australia, where it will go on sale with the choice of at least two body styles in the third quarter of this year.

Ford says its engineers leveraged a common global electrical architecture in the all-new Ranger’s ‘T6’ platform, which was designed and developed by Ford Australia and will also spawn a five-door wagon SUV derivative that is also being engineered locally.

However, the new Ranger, which made its world debut at the Sydney motor show last October, will not come with the even more advanced Ford Sync infotainment system that debuted in North America’s version of this year’s third-generation Focus small-car, which goes on sale in Australia in around the same time as the Ranger in August.

The higher-tech Ford Sync with MyFord Touch system, which adds a range of extra features including a password-protected WiFi hotspot inside the vehicle allowing up to five WiFi devices to connect, is now available in the US and will be rolled out across Europe in 2012, but won’t come to Australia until 2013.

When it does arrive here, it is unclear whether the ground-breaking MyFord Touch and Sync system, which beats most European luxury brands to offering in-car internet capability, will be offered with all the functionality available elsewhere, including text-to-voice, digital radio and iTunes tagging.

Described as Ford’s most technologically advanced model ever – as well as Ford’s first truly global vehicle - the MkIII Focus will, however, be available here with other advanced equipment including Active Park Assist semi-automatic parallel parking system and Adaptive cruise Control with Adjustable Speed Limiting Device (ASLD).

27 center imageWhile those luxury car-like technologies will not feature in the Ranger, Ford’s redesigned one-tonner will offer the safety of electronic stability control, ABS brakes with EBD, side and curtain airbags, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, trailer sway control and adaptive load control systems.

Full details about these and other new high-tech Ranger gadgets are yet to be revealed, with confirmation of the Bluetooth Voice Control system being the latest in a series of pre-releases about the vital new global model, which will be sold in more than 180 countries worldwide.

Five new images of the new Ranger infotainment system show a large central colour screen that sets new standards for a Ford ute, but doesn’t match the classy eight-inch colour MyFord touch-screen found in the US Focus.

It does, however, come with the same voice-activated phone, audio, climate and navigation functions, a five-way steering wheel controller similar to the Focus’ and advanced features like audio streaming.

As with other systems, Ranger drivers will be able to make or take phone calls, access the mobile’s phone book and calling history, and use pre-recorded voice tags for favourite numbers simply by pressing the voice-activation button and issuing a voice command.

Just as useful for trades people, the Ranger’s hands-free system offers control of the radio, CD player, iPod and other external devices via a USB port.

Wrapped in a classy carbonfibre-look surround, the system’s Human Machine Interface control panel is operated by a central joy stick alongside a soft-feel number pad to enter phone numbers, while selected models have an SMS-like multi-tab speller.

Integrated into the top of the Ranger’s centre stack is the optional navigation system’s five-inch colour screen, providing audio and visual directions to programmed destinations plus current location details, with maps stored and upgraded via an SD card.

New to the Ranger is a dual-zone climate-control system like that fitted to premium versions of the Amarok, in this case surrounded by the same carbon-style material at the bottom of the centre stack.

“The Bluetooth Voice Control system sets Ranger apart from other competitors because it keeps drivers connected to their customers and business safely while enjoying the convenience of their iPod and automatic climate-control systems while on the road – all with a voice command,” said Ford Asia Pacific and Africa electrical integration manager Con Papadomanolakis.

“Customers who are used to these convenience features from their passenger cars will be delighted to find the same – if not higher – level of comfort in Ranger.

“Packed to the gills with smart technology and creature comforts previously seen only in premium passenger cars, the all-new Ranger offers a no-compromise choice for those looking for an all-in-one work and family vehicle.”

Ford has also revealed that selected Ranger models will also come with cruise control, theatre-dimming, drive-away locking, rain-sensing wipers, automatic wiper park, auto defrosting, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and an alarm system with interior motion sensors, battery back-up siren and dead locks.

Some Rangers will also offer automatic headlights, puddle lights, time-delay follow-me-home interior lights, brake pressure-sensing hazard lights and a central LCD trip computer display showing distance to empty, average fuel consumption, instantaneous fuel consumption, average speed and outside air temperature.

As we’ve reported, the new Ranger - which will again come to Australia from Thailand but will also be built in South Africa – is all-new from the ground up, with redesigned powertrains, suspension, steering and braking systems, a longer wheelbase (now measuring 3220mm) and wider wheel tracks.

Like its mechanical twin, the all-new Mazda BT-50 that will be launched locally around the same time, the new Ranger will again be available in dual-cab, single-cab and super-cab configurations with two and four-wheel drive, topped again by a WildTrak-badged flagship.

Both new Ford and Mazda models will offer two new turbo-diesel engines in the shape of 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder and 110kW/375Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder.

However, Mazda has confirmed the new BT will continue as an all-diesel model, eschewing the entry-level Ranger’s 122kW/226Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder Duratec petrol engine.

Ford and Mazda have also confirmed that some versions of the new Ranger and BT-50 will come with increased 3350kg (3.2-litre) and 2500kg (2.2-litre) towing capacities.

The new Ford and Mazda utes will be joined by further body derivatives of the Amarok, plus all-new Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-Max models next year.

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GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.