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Ford gets moving on new SUV

Cloak of secrecy: Ford's new T6 Ranger replacement is bigger that the current Thai-built model.

Engineers spotted testing rival SUVs as Ford embarks on next T6 program after Ranger

Ford logo24 Aug 2010

By JAMES STANFORD

FORD Australia has been benchmarking existing rivals for Ford’s new international SUV that Melbourne-based engineers and designers are developing off the locally engineered T6 platform that will also spawn Ford’s Ranger ute replacement next year.

As GoAuto reported a fortnight ago, Ford’s Australian operation has moved on to engineering the SUV after wrapping up the development of the T6 ute, which is likely to make its international debut at the Australian International Motor Show in October.

A convoy of ute-based SUVs, including a Mitsubishi Triton-based Challenger, the Toyota HiLux-based Fortuna and the Nissan Navara-based Pathfinder, were spotted by this writer last week near Geelong, Victoria, on a familiarisation drive for key Ford engineers.

Those engineers included Ford Australia chassis manager Alex de Vlugt, who was travelling in a Thai-built Ford Everest – an SUV based on the current Ford Ranger but not sold in Australia. The vehicles were travelling in line, covering suburban and country tarmac roads and a series of heavily rutted dirt roads.



27 center imageFrom top: Ford Everest, Ford Ranger T6 in testing, artist's impression of Ford Ranger T6-based SUV.

As reported in GoAuto, the project will be headed by Ford Motor Company vehicle engineering manager and SUV specialist Todd Hoevener, who has just signed off on the all-new Ford Explorer launched this week in the United States.

GoAuto snapped pictures of a disguised T6 crew-cab ute going through late program validation testing the day before stumbling across the T6 SUV rival drive – the first time they have been caught on camera in Australia.

The two T6 utes appeared to be early production vehicles, not test mules. While the cladding covered much of the vehicle, it was possible to make out parts of the headlights, as well as the muscular shape of the ute, which will go on sale next year.

Going by engine sounds as the vehicles passed, Ford was testing both a petrol and diesel version of the global workhorse.

The T6 is clearly larger that the current Thai-made Ranger, almost certainly making it the largest in its class. This size gain is expected to accommodate the US, where the new model will replace the bigger American Ford Ranger.

Early test mules spotted just out of Geelong last year looked larger than the Nissan Navara it was being benchmarked against and they don’t appear to have reduced in size.

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