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Sydney show: Ford launches all-new Ranger

World debut: Ford's Australian-developed Ranger ute was the star of the Blue Oval's Sydney show stand.

Aussie-developed Ford pick-up one of five world debuts at action-packed AIMS

Ford logo15 Oct 2010

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS and TERRY MARTIN

FORD Australia opened the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney this morning with the much-anticipated world-first unveiling of the all-new and locally designed and engineered T6 Ranger utility ahead of its mid-2011 production in Thailand and subsequent market launch Down Under.

The Ranger was one of five world debuts and more than 40 southern hemisphere or Australian premieres at the rejuvenated Sydney show, which will now alternate with Melbourne each year under the AIMS banner after being cancelled last year and boycotted by several high-profile brands in 2008.

The other world premieres were the Ranger’s mechanical twin, the Mazda BT-50, an F Sport version of the crucial new Lexus CT200h hybrid, a high-performance Suzuki Kizashi Turbo concept and, not least of all, a Subaru Forester SUV with a heart that beats almost as loud and strong as the Impreza WRX STI cult car.

But it was the T6 Ranger that was the first all-new vehicle to be unveiled in the Darling Harbour exhibition halls this morning, and the one that captured enormous interest given the role Ford Australia played in its design and development.

27 center imageLeft: Ford Ranger. Below: Ford Mondeo, Ford Fiesta.

Introduced by company president Marin Burela as “the largest vehicle development program ever undertaken in Australian automotive history for the world market”, the new Ranger will eventually be built in three countries – Thailand, South Africa and Argentina – and serve more than 180 markets around the world on five continents.

The Ranger destined for Australia will be built in Thailand alongside the BT-50 and boasts “more capability, more power and more features” than its predecessor. It was tested extensively from searing Outback heat to frigid Swedish winter cold.

It topped a comprehensively revamped Ford stand in Sydney this morning, which also included the first public outing for the (also Thai-made) WT Fiesta facelift, Focus RS hyper-hatch and MC Mondeo revamp.

Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) also took the opportunity to roll out the re-engineered GS and GT high-performance range featuring all-new ‘Coyote’ V8 engines.

Yet, in the scheme of things at Ford, the T6 Ranger overshadowed them all.

All-new from the ground up, with redesigned powertrains, suspension, steering and braking systems, it sits on a longer wheelbase (now measuring 3220mm) and boasts wider tracks.

Available in 4x2 and 4x4 guises, the one-tonne pick-up uses separate chassis construction to maximise its towing capacity and payload capabilities. Some versions can deal with up to 1500kg.

Following class convention, the steering is by rack-and-pinion (offering an 11.8-metre turning circle from 3.5 turns lock-to-lock, or 12.4m for the 4x4 version), the front suspension consists of coils and wishbones, and the rear suspension adheres to a leaf-spring design for maximum workhorse capability.

Key rivals either benchmarked or targeted by Ford were the Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton and Volkswagen Amarok.

Beyond the four-door dual-cab model unveiled in Sydney, there are two-door crew-cab and single-cab variations to come, while an as-yet unconfirmed five and/or seven-seater wagon bodystyle is believed to be in the pipeline – but that is at least two years away.

Customers will be able to choose between two ride heights over five levels of trim up to the range-topping XLT.

Design chief Craig Metros undertook the work at Ford Australia’s Broadmeadows head office, incorporating styling into the Ranger that he says recalls both the rigid up and down lines of a Ford F150 truck and the Kinetic Design ‘organic’ look of contemporary Ford passenger vehicles like the Ford Mondeo and Kuga SUV.

But the company is keen to stress that, while the new Ranger adopts class-leading modern design, comfort, safety and convenience, with one of the biggest and roomiest interiors in the business, it is still a tough truck.

Nevertheless, the high-waist, acute windscreen angle and general aerodynamic shape helped the design team to create a longer, deeper and higher-sided tub with exceptional capacity and a squarer, more volumetric appearance that Ford research shows appealed to one-tonne truck buyers.

Ranger double-cab’s cargo box measures in at 1549mm long, 511mm high and 1560mm wide (more than 100mm wider than before), given a total volume of 1.21 cubic metres. Width between the wheelarches is 1139mm.

Under the bonnet is a choice of three heavily revised or all-new powerplants, some with Euro V emissions capability.

Opening the range will be a 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder Duratec petrol unit producing 122kW of power at 6000rpm and 226Nm of torque, which Ford claims beats its major competitors and is 24 per cent better than the previous model.

This engine comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox, and can be configured for E100 Ethanol flex-fuel, CNG or LPG capability.

Next up is a choice of two common-rail turbo-diesels (Duratorq in Ford-speak), a 2.2-litre four-cylinder that delivers 110kW at 3700rpm and 375Nm between 1500 and 2500rpm, and a 3.2-litre inline five-cylinder from the current Ford Transit van developing 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm at 2750rpm.

Ford expects close to segment-leading economy but said it will reveal fuel consumption, emissions outputs and performance figures for all Ranger engines closer to launch. Tank size is 80 litres.

Most diesel models will be mated to six-speed transmissions in MT82 manual or 6R80 torque-converter automatic forms, with the latter offering manual control through a sequential manual shifting gate (a unique feature in the class, according to Ford), Grade Control Logic that downshifts the gearbox for additional braking, and driver-adaptive software.

There is a spread of final drive ratios – from 3.31 to 5.3:1 – depending on which drive type is chosen and whether the truck is a low- or high-ride model.

4x4 models feature an electronically controlled transfer case (which allows drivers to shift from 4x2 anytime via a console-sited switch), low-range gearing and ground clearance of up to 232mm. Major driveline components are located between the Ranger’s frame rails to prevent off-road damage and key electrical components and air inlets are placed up high for better water-wading capabilities.

An electric-locking rear differential is available on diesel 4x2 and 4x4 models, in combination with ABS brakes with EBD, and electronic stability control, which also includes traction control, yaw control and rollover mitigation. Ford claims the brakes – discs up front and drums at the rear – are the biggest in class.

Other safety-related gear includes the availability of side and curtain airbags, a reversing camera, rear parking radar, Trailer Sway Control and Adaptive Load Control systems. Ford promised to reveal more about these and other still-secret hi-tech innovations at a later date.

The interior is a massive step forward for a Ford pick-up, too, with Mr Metros noting that ergonomically focused power tools like DeWalt and the classic Casio G-Shock watch provided inspiration for the rugged cladding-like casing themes peppering the cabin.

Occupant usage habits were studied to improve storage as well as switchgear reach and functionality. Boots do not easily scuff doors and panels, and many controls are larger so they are operable wearing gloves.

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All future models

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Motor industry news

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.