New engines, 10-speed boxes and super tech too

It’s a big deal when one of the country’s best selling car models is replaced and that is exactly what is going down this week as Ford launches its improved Ranger bakkie range in South Africa as it continues to chase its archrival for that top spot. If first impressions are anything to go by, then it’s off to a good start.

While we still needed to drive the newcomer to form an honest opinion on Wednesday (you can now read our driving impressions here though), it was clear that the Blue Oval is deadly serious considering the improvements on paper as its top selling pickup enters its third era bearing an extensive range of new mechanical, technological, feature and comfort upgrades to make Ranger an even more compelling choice amongst workhorse and leisure-oriented bakkie owners alike.

You may need to look twice to see the physical changes, but perhaps the most significant news among latest Ranger’s tough truck upgrades that include exterior and interior detail changes, is the arrival of an advanced all-new 2-litre four cylinder diesel engine in single and biturbo incarnation, in conjunction with a sophisticated new 10-speed automatic transmission in four flagship models. The familiar 2.2 and 3.2 TDCi turbodiesels continue to make up the bulk of the new range.

The made in South Africa Ranger remains one of the country's top-selling vehicles and the leading LCV export to over 140 countries around the world including Europe, the Middle East and Africa and this extensive range of under-the-skin changes is by far the most significant upgrade yet for the current-generation Pretoria-built Ranger.

The big new Ranger news is of course that new 2-litre four-cylinder diesel built in Port Elizabeth in stonking 157kW 500Nm biturbo form, or in 132kW 420Nm single turbo configuration, both of which deliver superior performance, improved fuel efficiency and significantly improved refinement thanks to reduced lower noise, vibration and harshness.

The high-tech 2.0 Bi-Turbo is exclusively available in flagship Wildtrak spec and will soon power the much anticipated Ranger Raptor too. Packing a variable-geometry high-pressure turbocharger along with a fixed-geometry low-pressure unit, the two chargers work in tandem for greater torque and responsiveness at lower engine speeds, before the smaller turbo is bypassed at higher revs to allow the larger turbo to boost alone and deliver staunch top-end power. 

The Single Turbo engine offered in Ranger Double Cab XLT 4x4 and 4x2 models, packs a compact single variable-geometry turbo to deliver optimally at lower engine speeds. Both these new 2-litre engines are exclusively matched to Ford's sophisticated new 10-speed automatic transmission to offer wider spread of ratios ­and high-tech new features, including real-time adaptive shift-scheduling to select the optimal gear for performance, efficiency or refinement depending on the driving scenario.

The familiar five-cylinder 147kW 470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder Duratorq TDCi continues in Wildtrak double cabs and XLT double and Super Cabs, as well as XLS  SuperCab models. while the tried and trusted 2.2-litre TDCi mill remains across the new Ranger line-up in either 88kW 285Nm in five-speed manual gearbox base-spec, or making 118kW and 385Nm in the midrange and like the 3.2, comes in the choice of six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes.

New Ranger also brings significantly improved SUV-like ride quality thanks to the anti-roll bar now sitting behind the axle for improved roll control. This allows for the selection of softer front spring rates, which in turn dramatically improves ride performance and comfort and now allows four separate damper rates, rather than just one, to be tuned to suit different manual, automatic, 4x2 and 4x4 configurations. This also allows standard tyre pressure to drop from 240 to 210 kPa.

These refinements all combine to bring a plusher ride over rough surfaces and better isolate occupants from the road inputs, while improving Ranger's handling over corrugated surfaces for better steering precision and control, especially when heavily laden. Ranger's exceptional towing capacity of up to 3500kg remains unchanged, as does its impressive load capacity of up to 1200kg on selected SuperCab models, along with 800mm water wading depth and 230mm ground clearance.

Wildtrak models now get HID LED daytime headlamps, a titanium-effect trapezoidal grille and a lower, sharper bumper, as well as a striking new Saber Orange exterior colour, while Ranger’s car-like cabin benefits an upmarket new Ebony Black feel. Other Ranger novelties include a torsion rod assisted EZ lift tailgate for finger touch operation, acoustic laminated front side glass and a new B-pillar margin seal to reduce wind noise intrusion in XLS, XLT, while Wildtrak also adds Active Noise Control.

Ranger continues to lead the bakkie world when it comes to high tech too, adding Semi-Automatic Parallel Park Assist to the Wildtrak spec to enable the bakkie parallel park itself. That is in addition to existing Wildtrak safety features including Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Alert, Lane-Keeping Alert and Lane-Keeping Aid, and Auto High Beam Control.

Depending on the bakkie’s specification, Ranger's safety package incorporates a comprehensive Electronic Stability Control  system with Traction, Trailer Sway, Hill Descent and Adaptive Load Controls; Hill Start Assist and Roll Over Mitigation, while a full Category 1 Thatcham specification alarm system is now standard on all Ranger XL, XLS, XLT and Wildtrak models, complemented by a spare wheel lock across the range.

XLT and Wildtrak models now also get Passive Entry and Start to allow the driver to access and fire their Ranger up by pressing the Start button with the key fob still in their pocket, while Ford’s award-winning SYNC technology adds gesture, voice or touch control of all infotainment functions. Smartphone integration comes via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and there are also Waze real-time traffic and navigation services with Bluetooth voice control and audio streaming. 

All new Rangers are backed by a comprehensive Ford Protect four-year/120 000km warranty and a six-year/90 000km service plan at 15 000km intervals, three-years/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. 

Now all we need to do is get behind the wheel of the new Ford Ranger — come back latest first thing Thursday morning for our full driving impressions...

New Ford Ranger Pricing
Single Cab
2.2 TDCi Base 5MT 4x2 - R287K
2.2 TDCi XL 6MT 4x2 - R359K
2.2 TDCi XL 6AT 4x2 - R372K
2.2 TDCi XL 6MT 4x4 - R411K
2.2 TDCi XLS 6MT 4x2 - R390K
2.2 TDCi XLS 6AT 4x4 - R449K
3.2 TDCi XLS 6MT 4x2 - R401K
3.2 TDCi XLS 6AT 4x4 - R460K

2.2 TDCi Base 5MT 4x2 - R336K
2.2 TDCi XL 6MT 4x2 - R381K
2.2 TDCi XL 6AT 4x2 - R393K
2.2 TDCi XL 6MT 4x4 - R429K
2.2 TDCi XLS 6AT 4x2 - R426K
2.2 TDCi XLS 6AT 4x4 - R472K
3.2 TDCi XLS 6MT 4x2 - R424K
3.2 TDCi XLS 6MT 4x4 - R480K
3.2 TDCi XLT 6AT 4x4 - R568K

Double Cab
2.2 TDCi Base 5MT 4x2 - R350K
2.2 TDCi XL 6MT 4x2 - R409K
2.2 TDCi XL 6AT 4x2 - R428K
2.2 TDCi XL 6MT 4x4 - R455K
2.2 TDCi XL 6AT 4x4 - R474K
2.2 TDCi XLS 6MT 4x2 - R455K
2.2 TDCi XLS 6AT 4x4 - R508K
2.0 SiT XLT 10AT 4x2 - R514K
2.0 SiT XLT 10AT 4x4 - R570K
3.2 TDCi XLT 6MT 4x2 - R542K
3.2 TDCi XLT 6AT 4x2 - R571K
3.2 TDCi XLT 6MT 4x4 - R604K
3.2 TDCi XLT 6AT 4x4 - R617K
3.2 TDCi Wildtrak 6AT 4x2 - R609K
2.0 BiT Wildtrak 10AT 4x2 - R632K
2.0 BiT Wildtrak 10AT 4x4 - R678K