Will more power from a smaller capacity engine cut the mustard amongst ute buyers?
The old adage that Aussies love their V8s is looking a bit thin these days, thanks to the demise of the V8 from the Ford and Holden shopping list. The introduction of stricter emissions controls has resulted in the cubic capacity decline amongst some of the ute contenders in our market, bringing the various products in line with their counterparts on sale in Europe, where Euro 6 rules the day.
What remains at the higher end of the cubic inch comparison is the current 3.2-litre Ford and Mazda, the 3.0-litre Isuzu and the 2.8-litre Holden Colorado and the 2.8 litre Toyota HiLux. Other brands are downsizing their cylinders and adding bi-turbos to boost back power. This is a perfectly okay solution for those looking for power and torque, but not too bright a solution for those that tow higher-weight trailers and enjoy the experience of engine braking. Basically, big cylinders and high compression equal good levels of engine retardation. Drop down in size and the lack of cylinder volume, combined with less variation between gear ratios, means the driver will be hitting the brakes more frequently.
That introduction brings us to the latest version of the top-spec Ford Ranger for the 2019 model year, where Ford has adopted the same engine available in the Ford Everest SUV and now introduced in the Ranger Raptor.
The MY19 Ranger builds on the capabilities and off-road credentials that have seen the Ranger become the most popular 4×4 pick-up in Australia in 2017.
“The pick-up segment is at all-time record levels in Australia,” said Ford Australia president and CEO, Graeme Whickman. “The Australian market has shifted in a relatively short timeframe, pushing pick-ups like Ranger towards the top of the sales charts. It’s also seen new buyers come into the segment, especially at the premium end, which is why we’ve made Ranger more refined and more capable at an even wider variety of uses”.
For MY19, the Ranger’s suspension had been upgraded across the range to reduce and better control roll, with an emphasis on improving the driving experience when fully laden and towing. New packaging also enables geometry changes that bring improved ride and reduction in body roll, as well as improved steering precision.
The MY19 Ford Ranger offers a choice of three powertrains to deliver greater versatility to match Australians’ demands for a wider variety of applications.
With the backing of the equivalent of 5.5 million kilometres of testing, Ford’s new generation of diesel engines use advanced materials and sophisticated construction to offer Ranger BiTurbo customers an engine with common-rail direct fuel-injection, an integrated intake manifold, and a belt-in-oil primary drive.
The BiTurbo range uses sequential turbocharging to deliver greater responsiveness, drivability and maximum efficiency. A pair of turbochargers is employed for maximum performance and efficiency. The fixed-geometry turbocharger is employed to deliver greater throttle response and eliminate lag by spooling up quickly at low speeds. The secondary turbocharger features advanced variable geometry to deliver performance gains and smoothness at higher speeds, taking over from the primary initial turbo.
Available exclusively on XLT and Wildtrak, the new-generation bi-turbo diesel is coupled to an advanced ten-speed torque-convertor automatic to bring greater torque, improved flexibility, and a quieter, more comfortable drive to the MY19 Ranger. Drivers no longer have to contend with selecting low or high range for off-road work as there are enough ratios already in the box to provide the right gear for any application.
With 157 kW produced at 3750 rpm, and peak torque of 500 Nm from 1750 to 2000 rpm, the bi-turbo keeps its peak pulling power in a 250 rpm band, while maintaining the maximum towing limit for a braked trailer at 3500 kg, matching that of the 3.2-litre version. The Ranger Raptor that shares the same 2.0-litre engine and ten-speed transmission configuration is rated further down the food chain for towing at a maximum of 2500 kg.
The remaining models in the Ranger line-up that don’t get the 2.0-litre upgrade stay with the 3.2-litre, offering 147 kW at 3000 rpm and 470 Nm at 1750-2500 rpm, coupled to the six-speed manual or six-speed torque converter automatic transmission. Those buyers looking for the basic alternative drop a cylinder from the five-cylinder 3.2 and drive away in a four-cylinder 2.2-litre with 118 kW of power at 3200 rpm and peak torque of 385 Nm rated at 1600-2500 rpm.
Ford’s pretty impressive when it comes to safety features, and the MY19 Ranger includes Pre-Collision Assist using Inter-Urban Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Vehicle Detection and Pedestrian Detection. The system detects pedestrians as well as vehicles to initiate braking to a complete stop, an aid that can reduce rear-end collision damage and road-traffic collisions with pedestrians. The system, which functions at speeds above 3.6 km/h, is optional on XLT and standard on Wildtrak.
Traffic Sign Recognition, available for the first time on Ranger as part of the Tech Pack on XLT and standard on Wildtrak, is designed to identify traffic signs whether they are at the side of the road or above it, permanent or temporary. An icon of the speed sign appears on the instrument cluster and changes every time it detects you entering a new limit.
Lane Keeping Aid and Lane Departure Warning, and Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Warning carry over to the MY19 Ranger, available on XLT and standard on Wildtrak. These three options are sensible contributors to road safety, but, while the road sign recognition package is a worthwhile concept, in practice these inclusions are still struggling with their efficiencies and suitability for our ad hoc placement of roadside furniture.
An unusual inclusion for a ute is Active Park Assist (APA) available on XLT and standard on Wildtrak, to enable semi-automatic parallel parking. With the driver applying the throttle and brakes, the system steers the Ranger into the parking space. Hopefully, the driver will still look around them as well as at the camera vision to ensure maximum safety levels.
With a new internal mechanism, the Ranger’s tailgate is now lighter to lift, with a 70 percent reduction in initial force required to raise it for closing. Not only does this system require less effort to lift, it also means that it’s easier to lower.
There are a few cosmetic changes to the frontal appearance, with what Ford design calls “distinctive nostrils”, together with a broader intake for the lower bumper. Both the Wildtrak and XLT feature LED daytime running lights and HID headlights, together with Passive Entry Passive Start (PEPS) keyless entry and push-button start as standard on XLT and Wildtrak, and optional on XLS models.
From an entertainment and audio system perspective, SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility continues as standard on XLT and Wildtrak and is optional on XLS, including Bluetooth, an 8.0-inch full colour touchscreen and reversing camera. SYNC 3 enables use of Google Maps, Apple Maps as well as standard in-built sat/nav for when the Ranger is beyond mobile coverage areas. The mapping system also features a ‘breadcrumbs’ feature, allowing an unmarked off-road route, for instance, to be mapped as it’s traversed.
SYNC 3 also includes Emergency Assistance as standard. This system utilises the Bluetooth phone connection to automatically call emergency services in the event of a serious road-traffic collision. All Rangers delivered from May 1, 2018, gain a five-year/unlimited-distance warranty, as standard.