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Driven: Ranger leads Ford charge for change

On the range: Ford's PX MkII Ranger is on sale now, but will face still competition from October when the all-new Toyota HiLux arrives.

Ford toughens up the Ranger ute for the dual-cab title fight

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Ford logo20 Aug 2015

By STUART MARTIN

THE changing face of Ford’s Ranger pick-up will be mirrored by a change in the brand’s image between now and the end of the year, according to the car-maker's local boss.

Ford Australia's top-selling model is set to go head-to-head with the new Toyota HiLux, due in October, with both sporting new faces, more comfort equipment and safety technology than before.

Speaking with media at a Ranger drive event in Victoria this week, Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman said a change to the brand’s image is coming, along with the refreshed line-up.

“You might find that we present and position ourselves as a brand for the remainder of the year in a different way,” he said.

“Many at this table universally or quite consistently tell me that our product line-up is a lot better than our brand image and that we have one of the best line-ups in the market, yet we don't seem to have gotten that through to consumers.

“Clearly we have got to earn the right and respect to have them drive our vehicles, somehow we've got to get that across to them,” he said.

Last year, light-commercial ute sales totalled 175,373 sales, down from more than 182,000 the previous year, but the four-wheel-drive segment alone outnumbered both mid-size as well as large SUVs and was second only to small cars in sales in 2014.

So far this year, the 4x4 LCV ute sales stand at 79,082, up by 3.1 per cent, the fourth largest segment by volume in the overall new-vehicle market.

Toyota’s veteran HiLux still leads the charge, but the Ranger and Mitsubishi’s new Triton are among a host of vehicles – Nissan’s new Navara, the Holden Colorado, Mazda’s BT-50 among them – pushing the segment to sales success.

Mr Whickman said the car-maker was confident of the new Ranger’s sales potential in the face of renewed competition from Toyota and several other class competitors.

“I would say our aspirations are positive and we're confident that we should be able to do better, but having said that we'll have to earn the right to do that.

“The product will speak for itself and we'll see what the consumers will say,” he said.

Ranger’s petrol entry level single- and double-cab XL models are long gone (more than a year out of the range and not missed, according to Ford), leaving the entry level XL single-cab turbo-diesel manual at $27,390 plus on-road costs, a $3000 price rise over the outgoing model.

The 4x4 XLS price is unmoved, while the rest of the range increases between $500 and the aforementioned $3000.

The heavily facelifted Ranger, designated PX MkII, has a new bonnet, front grille, headlights and front fenders, bumper profiles and new wheel designs, but the rear is unchanged.

It also comes with the Sync2 system for the top two XLT and Wildtrak variants, controlling most of the car's infotainment, sat-nav and climate control systems via an 8.0-inch touchscreen.

The new vehicles also get changes to the dampers for better pitch control, electric power steering, a new cable-shift six-speed manual gearbox and idle-stop fuel saving system for the manual versions.

The phone-dependant Emergency Assistance system (which direct-dials 000 after a crash) is standard across the range, while a reversing camera is only standard on the Wildtrak and tied to option or dealer accessory packs involving the centre rear-vision mirror display set-up for the rest of the range.

The Ranger offers – unlike many of its competitors – two powerplant choices as per the outgoing model.

The entry level engine is the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder now producing 118kW (up from 110kW) and 385Nm (an extra 10Nm) and still teamed to either six-speed manual or the optional six-speed automatic.

The 3.2-litre 20-valve five-cylinder diesel delivers an unchanged 147kW and 470Nm, but fuel economy has improved by up to 20 per cent. The 2.2 returns between 6.6 and 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres, depending on the model and body style, while the larger 3.2L returns between 8.2 and 9.2L/100km.

The XL kicks off the range in single-cab chassis 2.2L manual guise from $27,390, or the Hi-Rider is priced $30,890 automatics add $2200 and 4WD pushes the price up by $7900 for much of the range or $11,400 in the case of the XL.

The XL sits on 16-inch steel wheels and has manual seat adjustment, automatic halogen headlights, manual air-conditioning, cloth trim and vinyl floor coverings, Bluetooth and USB-equipped sound system, the lower-grade Sync system, a rear diff lock, cruise control and four tie down points in the tray.

Added to that in the XL Plus (starting from $46,480 in 4WD-only guise) are daytime running lights, 17-inch steel wheels, side steps, a second battery, an expanded wiring harness and auxiliary inputs and a 3.5-inch multi-function display.

The XLS (also 4WD only model) goes beyond the XL with 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog-lights, carpet floor covering and front floor mats.

Stepping to the penultimate Ranger, the XLT starts from $46,490 in 4x2 form and ups the wheel size to 17 inches and adds a towbar, chrome exterior trim, upgraded sidesteps, a sports bar with cargo area light, tinted windows, an integrated rear bumper step, automatic projector headlights, power-folding exterior mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, the up-spec Sync2 system, two 4.2-inch colour screens in the instrument panel and dual-zone climate control.

There's also the addition of a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift, auto-dimming centre mirror, an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with sat-nav, two USB points and an SD card slot, WiFi hotspot and digital radio reception, tyre-pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors and a 12-volt outlet in the tray.

The flagship Wildtrak starts from $57,890 in manual guise and steps out on 18-inch alloy wheels and its sidesteps get brushed-look inserts and a blade-style sports bar, exterior puddle lamps, power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, floor mats front and rear, front parking sensors (which can be turned off for 4WD work), a reversing camera, ambient lighting and the roller-shutter hard tonneau.

Buyers of the XLT and Wildtrak can opt for a Tech Pack (at $1100 and $600 respectively), which adds a reversing camera to the XLT and Adaptive Cruise Control (with Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist and Driver Impairment Monitor).

Ford Ranger pricing*
4x2
XL Single Cab Chassis 2.2L $27,390
XL Single Cab Chassis 2.2 Hi-Rider $30,890
XL Single Cab Chassis 2.2 Hi-Rider (a) $33,090
XL Single Cab Pick-up 2.2L $28,390
XL Super Cab CHassis 2.2L Hi-Rider (a) $35,590
XLT Super Cab Pick-up 3.2L Hi-Rider (a) $46,690
XL Double Cab Chassis 2.2L Hi-Rider (a) $37,590
XL Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L Hi-Rider $36,390
XL Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L H-Rider (a) $38,590
XLT Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L Hi-Res $46,490
XLT Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L Hi-Rider (a) $48,690
4x4
XL Single Cab Chassis 2.2L $38,790
XL Single Cab Chassis 3.2L $41,290
XL Single Cab Chassis 3.2L (a) $43,490
XL Plus Single Cab Chassis 3.2L (a) $46,480
XL Super Cab Chassis 3.2L $43,790
XL Super Cab Pick-Up 3.2L $44,790
XLT Super Cab Pick-up 3.2L $52,390
XLT Super Cab Pick-up 3.2L (a) $54,590
XL Double Cab Chassis 2.2L $43,290
XL Double Cab Chassis 2.2L (a) $45,490
XL Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L $44,290
XL Double Cab Picl-up 2.2L (a) $46,490
XL Double Cab Chassis 3.2L $45,790
XL Double Cab Chassis 3.2L (a) $47,990
XL Plus Double Cab Chassis 3.2L (a) $51,960
XL Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L $46,790
XL Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L (a) $48,990
XL Plus Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L (a) $52,960
XLS Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L $45.590
XLS Double Cab Pick-up 2.2L (a) $47,790
XLS Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L $48,090
XLS Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L (a) $50,290
XLT Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L $54,390
XLT Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L (a) $56,590
Wildtrak Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L $57,890
Wildtrak Double Cab Pick-up 3.2L (a) $60,090
*Excludes on-road costs.

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