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Exclusive: Ford Ranger Raptor captured

Muscle bound: Ford’s engineers were spotted testing what appears to be a Raptor off-road version of the next-generation Range ute near the Ford proving ground in Victoria.

Ford hits the road with off-road Raptor version of all-new 2019 Ranger utility

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Ford logo27 Jun 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

FORD’S next-generation Ranger looks like it has been working out at the gym, judging by this exclusive head-on view of a muscular, high-riding, wide-track engineering mule captured on public roads near Ford Asia-Pacific Product Development’s You Yangs proving ground in Victoria.

This fresh prototype of the new Australian-developed Ranger ute due in production in 2019 has all the design signatures of a Raptor, the sporty off-road design theme employed with great success on other Ford tough trucks such as the top-selling F-150 in North America.

Apart from fat wheels and flared wheelarches, this dual-cab vehicle has a bashplate under the front bumper in place of the usual Ranger bib spoiler, pierced by two black-painted tow hooks.

And instead of a blue oval badge up front, the grille is emblazoned – Raptor style – with the Ford name in big, black capital letters stretching across the width of the front air opening, here partly hidden behind camouflage netting.

GoAuto has been told that these high-end versions of the Ranger will get a sophisticated five-link rear suspension, dispensing with the leaf-sprung solid axle of the workhorse variants. This suspension will no doubt be shared with the upcoming new-generation Everest large SUV and the related all-new Bronco.

As we have previously reported, four-wheel disc brakes are also on display on these new-generation test vehicles.

At the back, the towbar has been tucked up higher into the bumper to improve departure angle clearance for off-track work, curing a complaint by some owners who say the current model is prone to dragging its butt on the ground in rough going.

This particular engineering test vehicle is right-hand drive, indicating that Australia is likely to get a Raptor version of the Ranger next time around, again answering the pleas of many customers for whom the current Ranger Wildtrak flagship is just too tame.

It remains to be seen if Australia will get the turbocharged EcoBoost V6 petrol engine that GoAuto has now confirmed will sit under the bonnet of some high-end Ranger variants such as the Raptor, at least in North America where petrol powertrains are a necessity for sales success.

The raised bodywork at the front of this test vehicle affords a good look at the lower bits of the new front suspension with its reshaped lower control arm that appears to curve down to the junction with the strut.

This might have been done to provide a little more suspension travel for better off-road ride without compromising ground clearance or jacking up the vehicle any further – a move that would have consequences for body control in corners.

At the top of the windscreen, the blacked-out panel houses autonomous emergency braking (AEB) sensors that next time around most likely will include Volvo/Subaru-style pedestrian and cyclist detection cameras. Parking will be aided by 360-degree cameras.

The new Ranger appears to be wider than before, perhaps to suit customer tastes in America where the vehicle will go on sale for the first time, supplied by a factory in Ford’s home state of Michigan.

The plant currently builds Focus but, as Ford announced last week, this Focus production is being shifted to China to make way for Ranger and Bronco in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

The reborn Bronco is being developed on the same Australian-developed T6 platform as Ranger and Everest, with most pundits expecting the Bronco to borrow heavily from the latter.

Ranger is set to get a whole new look, but we are not convinced that the contour of the mudguards and door skins will look exactly as they appear in these photos, as a bit of padding has likely been tucked under the black-and-white camouflage to alter the shape to confuse nosey motoring publications.

The headlamps, tail-lamps and exterior mirrors seem to have been carried over from the current vehicle, but we would expect those to change before the vehicle goes into production in Thailand and the United States in a little over two years.

China also is set to get Ranger for the first time, but the official announcement from Ford China states a launch date of 2018, which means the world’s biggest market will get the current model, at least initially.

Ford Asia-Pacific Product Development has a multitude of current-model Rangers running around with only part camouflage across the front, and we speculate that this is the version that will go to China, with a minor facelift to suit Chinese sensibilities.

The Chinese vehicle, most likely fitted with a four-cylinder petrol engine in place of the diesel powertrains destined for Australia, will be built at the same Thai plant that makes the Ranger and Everest for the Middle East, Europe, Australasia and South-East Asia.

It is unclear if China will switch over to the new Ranger when it arrives just a year later, in 2019, but a Ford Asia-Pacific spokesperson at the Shanghai motor show in April insisted that there are no plans to switch production of the Chinese-market Ranger to China in the foreseeable future, even though Ford’s commercial vehicle joint-venture manufacturing partner JMC already builds the Everest at one of its plants.

Such one-tonne pick-ups are largely an unknown quantity in China, so the Ranger import deal represents a toe-in-the-water exercise, albeit one that could explode with typical Chinese automotive market growth rates.

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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.