This ties in nicely with an earlier post detailing the only two options available for midsize pickup buyers wanting more off-road prowess. For now, it’s Chevrolet and Toyota’s arena. Both GM and Toyota dominate the midsize pickup segment — a class that saw its U.S. market share rise to 17 percent of total pickup sales last year.
However, Ford’s late-to-the-game Ranger pickup, arriving on these shores in 2019 as a 2020 model, should bring a third player to the midsize mud and rock jamboree. It might not carry the Raptor name made famous by its bigger brother F-150, but this spied test vehicle shows Ford isn’t willing to send the Ranger to America wearing just work clothes.
As next-generation Ranger development is mainly the responsibility of Ford’s Asia-Pacific development center in Melbourne, Australia, an Aussie engineer along for the ride apparently thought challenging the photographer to a fight was a fine idea. Passionate, those Aussies. Bless ’em.
The photos reveal front end styling that’s more aggressive than other Ranger prototypes, hinting at its special status in the lineup. No cutaway bumpers like on Chevrolet’s Colorado ZR2, but aggressive, nonetheless. Interestingly, there was also camouflage concealing the vehicle’s undercarriage, suggesting an upgraded suspension.
What we can tell you about this particular test mule (test goat?) is it rides on beefy 285/70 R17 BF Goodrich All-Terrain TA tires and emits the unmistakable sound of a diesel engine. Of course, the ZR2 also carries a diesel, and Ford has an obvious engine rival in its 3.2-liter inline-five. In Australian Rangers, this engine makes 197 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque.
It’s possible, even likely, that Ford wouldn’t want to enter the U.S. market with a diesel-only off-road Ranger. That leaves the company’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost (upgraded for 2018) and potentially the 3.5-liter EcoBoost as gas-powered options.
If the downsized mini-Raptor does find its way to the U.S., don’t expect it to roll out of the Michigan Assembly Plant at the same time as the first “ordinary” Ranger. It’s likely the off-road variant will hold off for a while as the regular model finds its footing.
[Images: © 2017 Spiedbilde/The Truth About Cars]