Ford’s updated light-commercial ute is more car-like but will still handle the rough stuff

Ford unveiled the 2015 Ranger ahead of its official Bangkok motor show debut earlier this year with a suite of improvements to the already well-regarded light-commercial ute that is designed and engineered in Australia.

Immediately noticeable is the revised exterior, which has been made to look more muscular with a new bonnet, trapezoidal grille and headlamps.

The changes extend inside and continue the modern trend of making utes as car-like as possible.

There is a generous eight-inch touch screen, while a new dual-digital TFT instrument cluster allows drivers to monitor and control functions including vehicle information, trip details, entertainment, navigation and climate control.

Also elevating the new model is a raft of technology upgrades, including Ford’s SYNC 2 infotainment system, lane-keeping alert, adaptive cruise control, forward alert, front and rear park sensors, a tyre pressure-monitoring system and cameras, and on-board sensors to detect if a driver’s becoming drowsy.

Ford’s engineers have also tweaked the suspension for a more comfortable ride and included an electronic power-assisted steering system to adjust the weight of steering depending on the car’s speed, ensuring the big rig isn’t difficult to navigate around town or at freeway speeds.

However, Ford Asia Pacific design manager Dave Dewitt says the refinement hasn’t come at the expense of utility.

“The interior may look more car-like but it’s as practical as ever, ” he said.

The spec sheet certainly seems to back him up. The Ranger maintains its class-leading 800mm wading depth and generous approach and departure angles (28 and 25deg. respectively).

The electronically controlled transfer case allows drivers to shift from two-wheel-drive to high-range four-wheel-drive on the move. When descending tricky passes, low-range 4WD allows for low-speed torque or additional downhill braking.

It also maintains its 3500kg towing capacity and choice of three engines — though the diesel offerings are improved.

The top-spec 3.2-litre five-cylinder Duratorq diesel has an updated exhaust gas recirculation system allegedly helping it improve fuel efficiency by up to 18 per cent, while keeping outputs at 147kW and 470Nm.

The 2.2 four-cylinder unit gets more power and torque, with 118kW and 385Nm on hand (up 8kW and 10Nm), while also having improved fuel economy.

The biggest fuel savings are in a differently tuned 2.2-litre diesel unit, which boosts efficiency by up to 22 per cent but is not yet offered in Australia. The 2.5-litre petrol engine remains unchanged with 122kW and 225Nm.

The Ranger has emerged as one of the benchmarks in the light-commercial sector and a clear second to the popular Toyota HiLux in sales last year.

It is expected to arrive in the second half of this year, which is a big one for the market with the new HiLux, Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara also due to arrive in the near future.


© The West Australian