Upgraded Ford Ranger unveiled ahead of 2018 release
FORD has given the Ranger ute its second facelift in seven years - with automatic emergency braking, speed sign recognition and push button start available on the most expensive models.
While the visual changes are subtle, the other big news is the small engine under the bonnet of the flagship XLT and Wildtrak models.
The existing 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel - the biggest capacity engine in the class - carries over unchanged.
However, buyers of the XLT and Wildtrak will have the option of choosing the 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder matched to a 10-speed auto borrowed from the upcoming Ranger Raptor.
The 2.0-litre with 157kW and 500Nm pumps out more power and torque than the 3.2-litre (147kW/470Nm) -- and has the same output as the high-performance Ranger Raptor ute.
However, unlike the Raptor which can only tow 2500kg, the XLT and Wildtrak equipped with the twin turbo 2.0-litre diesel and 10-speed auto combination will be able to tow 3500kg, as with the rest of the range.
The XLT and Wildtrak miss out on the Raptor's four-wheel disc brakes and will instead continue with traditional front discs and rear drums.
Ford says the new Ranger line-up due in showrooms in September will give ute buyers in the $55,000-plus bracket more choice and more technology, including features not yet available on the new Mercedes X-Class.
"The pick-up segment is at all-time record levels in Australia," Ford Australia boss Graeme Whickman said in a media statement.
"The Australian market has shifted in a relatively short time frame, pushing pick-ups like Ranger towards the top of the sales charts. It's also seen new buyers come in to 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."
Ford retained the 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel in the Ranger because Aussie ute buyers customarily favour bigger engines.
To help allay concerns about the reliability of the smaller 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel four-cylinder Ford says it has done the "equivalent" of more than 5.5 million kilometres of durability testing.
Ford says the 2.0-litre's peak power is available from just 1750rpm "giving customers access to more torque, more of the time."
For the tech heads, the "Bi-Turbo" uses one fixed-geometry turbocharger for greater throttle response and to "eliminate lag" by spooling up quickly at low speeds. The secondary turbocharger has advanced variable geometry to deliver "performance and smoothness at higher speeds, taking over from the primary initial turbo".
Prices for the new line-up - and the cost of the 2.0-litre engine option - will be released closer to the Ranger's showroom arrival in September.
Photos show the visual changes are subtle, with new headlights, grille and bumper. The Rangers sold in Australia - sourced from a factory in Thailand - do not get the same changes to Rangers sold in the US.
American-made Ranger models come with a steel front bumper and four-wheel discs, and are available with a sliding rear window and a blind zone warning system embedded into the tail-lights.
Ford Australia says there are currently no plans to introduce these features on Ranger models sold locally.
However, as with the most recent Ranger update introduced in 2015, radar cruise control and lane-keeping technology - features not yet available on rival utes - will be standard on the flagship Wildtrak and optional on the XLT.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling