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New US-built Ranger hints at local Ford pick-up facelift

Power Ranger: While the North American Ranger features a potent 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine from the Mustang and Focus RS, do not expect to see it offered Down Under.

Refreshed Ford Ranger could receive AEB, 10-speed auto from US version


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15 Jan 2018

FORD Motor Company North America whipped the covers off its local-market Ranger over the weekend, with the mid-size pick-up likely providing a preview of the facelifted Thai-built model that will launch in Australia later this year.

Significantly, the US Ranger's boosted safety levels – including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – and 10-speed automatic transmission could feature in the incoming refresh of the Australian-market Ranger.

However, Ford Australia production communications manager Damion Smy cautioned against using the US-built Ranger as a template for what will be offered Down Under.

“It's a US-market model,” he said. “The Ranger in the US is a North American product built in North America for the North American market.

“Ranger is a global product, but (this) is a vehicle that is tailored to the North American market, so it is not indicative of what we will have in Australia.”

Nevertheless, GoAuto understands that the Thai-built Ranger facelift will feature US influences and be revealed in the second half of this year, with a local launch to take place before the end of 2018.

Mr Smy added that the Aussie Ranger remains a high priority for the Blue Oval, particularly after it finished 2017 as Australia’s second best-selling model with 42,728 registrations, trailing only the Toyota HiLux (47,093 units).

“We will continue to develop the Ranger for the Australian market, and that vehicle will be tailored to Australian tastes,” he said.

“We'll provide information closer to launch on the update of the Australian Ranger … but there are a lot of exciting things in Ranger's future, but that's a continuation of development of Australia's most popular 4x4 pick-up.”

Since 2014, the mid-size pick-up segment in the US has grown 83 per cent, paving the way for the Ranger to return to Ford showrooms later this year for the first time since US production of the previous-generation model ended in December, 2011.

Speaking to journalists at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit today, Ford Motor Company North America executive vice-president and president Raj Nair said the car-maker's Asia Pacific Product Development Centre in Broadmeadows, Victoria played a significant role in preparing the US-market Ranger.

“Our guys in Melbourne are key to our global development team, and they have done a fantastic job with that Ranger platform,” he said. “Clearly we have made some changes to the truck for North America, but we are really proud of the team and what they have done with the global Ranger.”

Mr Nair added that changes to the US Ranger over the Australian version are numerous due to the varying requirements each market has.

“We have had to do quite a bit. Obviously there are different legal standards, there are aspects of what we change in the frame, what we change a little bit in the styling. It has a little bit tougher look. The frame-mounted steel bumper,” he said.

“So a lot of those things are pretty specific to the North American market. But it has definitely got some good bones underneath it, and we owe our Australian team members that.”

As mentioned, a suite of advanced driver-assist technologies will make their debut in the US-built Ranger, including AEB, pedestrian detection and blind-spot monitoring – depending on variant.

These will likely arrive Down Under and add to the pre-existing adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, driver impairment monitor, lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning features offered as part of the optional Tech Pack for local XLT and Wildtrak high-grade variants.

However, some of this kit is likely to proliferate further across the line-up as standard equipment, while other technologies could be optionally available.

Furthermore, the addition of a 10-speed automatic transmission co-developed with General Motors (GM) is a key feature for the commercial model, promising greater efficiency and four extra gears over its Aussie counterpart.

However, its inclusion in the Australia model is dependent on changes Ford may make to the range of 2.2-litre four-pot and 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engines currently available Down Under.

As previously reported by GoAuto, their long-term future is in doubt due to the ongoing development of new 2.0-litre EcoBlue four-pot and 3.0-litre Powerstroke V6 powerplants that could be mated to the 10-speed automatic.

The former seems destined for the engine bay of the eagerly anticipated local Ranger Raptor flagship that is expected to be unveiled next month, however, its exact tune remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, the US-built Ranger will feature a 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit from the Mustang and Focus RS, but it is unlikely to be offered in Australia due to market preference towards diesel-powered pick-ups.

Styling-wise, the US Ranger is a familiar proposition Down Under, with key differences being LED headlights and tail-lights, a twin-power dome bonnet, a twin-bar front grille insert, restyled steel front and rear bumpers, wheelarch extensions, and a reshaped tailgate with the word 'Ranger' embossed.

Inside, the familiar 8.0-inch touchscreen powered by Ford's Sync3 infotainment system carries over, while the centre stack has been subtly tweaked with some new switchgear, as well as a different gear lever.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, and a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 10 mobile devices make their debut, too.

Whether any, or all, of these exterior and interior changes will make their way into the local Ranger is currently unclear.

GoAuto has previously reported that the facelifted Ranger is also set to receive rear disc brakes in the place of the current drum set-up, matching that of its Volkswagen Amarok V6 rival.

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