A car that still appears in our best-selling charts, the Ford Ranger seems to be everywhere in New Zealand. Brand loyalty for the Ranger is also high, and with this in mind we went to Ford New Zealand’s biggest launch of this year, for the all-new Ranger.

Ford New Zealand: Clean Car Programme

Simon Rutherford, General Manager of Ford New Zealand, has some strong beliefs about Ford and the Clean Car Discount. “We believe we can be the best in the segment. We will get compliance under future CCD,” he says. To back this statement up, Ford has a plethora of new hybrids and EVs coming, including:

Arriving in 2022:

  • Puma MHEV arriving now
  • Focus MHEV (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle) arriving now with 180 ordered, and all sold
  • Escape PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle) arriving now, and Escape MHEV in Q4 of 2022. The ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) version of Escape will go once PHEV and MHEV are available.
  • E-Transit Cargo arriving Q4 of 2022. This is a fully electric vehicle.

2023 will see New Zealand with the Mustang Mach-E (full EV). In 2024 the E-Transit Custom (full EV) is coming.

2022 Ford Ranger

“In 2002, the Ranger is estimated to still be Ford’s core product,” says Simon. It accounts for over 50% of Ford’s total sales in New Zealand, and reached 60% at one point.

The design of the new Ranger has been intense. Simon says that the development of this new generation of Ranger started in 2016, and this included entire days ‘living’ with Ranger owners to find out what they liked about the car, and what they didn’t like. The total number of owners interviewed and consulted was well over 5,000, and all feedback was taken in to be reviewed and possibly included in the new model.

Anticipation for this new model has been almost extreme, with Ford already having 5,055 customer orders, and over 50% of those orders are for the all-new V6 model. The existing 2.0-litre bi-turbo model continues on in the two base models, the XL and XLT. DriveLife experienced this engine in our drive from the Far North to Wellington, although the ‘new’ 2.0-lite biturbo engine has undergone work to make it develop more power and torque, as well as being smoother and quieter.

Delivery of the car has already started, although if you want a Wildtrak you are going to need to wait until next year. Next year will also see New Zealand receive the 292kW, petrol-powered Raptor model, priced at under $90,000. Ford New Zealand already has 691 orders for the Raptor. The previous Raptor was about 5% of all Ranger sales, while this new model is sitting at 15% of all orders. In saying that, Ford New Zealand treats the Raptor as a completely separate model to Ranger.

2022 Ford Ranger: Design

After all those customer focus groups and “living in the day of the life” with their buyers, there have been numerous improvements and changes to the new Ranger. Thankfully, the ute does not have a rotary shift knob, like other Ford models such as the Focus. Nope, Ford Ranger buyers want a ‘real’ shifter. So Ford has compromised a little here, and new to the Ranger is the “E-Shifter”, a stylish and small shifter that is motorized, meaning – for example – if you get out of the car, it will move the transmission to Park by itself.

At the rear, there are boxed-in steps (Ford calls them Boxsteps) just behind the rear wheel arches, to make it easier to access the bed when the tray is down and loaded up. Ford looked at other models that have this instep on the corner of the bumper, but found moving it forwards to behind the rear wheel arch made it more practical in use.

Another customer requirement was to not have a floating’ central screen. So the screen is totally integrated into the dashboard, something we are DriveLife prefer as well. The central screen is large, too, starting at 10.1” and on the Wildtrak, 12” in size. The driver’s information displays are also a good size, at 8” or 12” depending on the model.

The 2022 Ranger has an all-new chassis, with a wider track front and rear and a longer wheelbase. That longer wheelbase is achieved by moving the front wheels forward by 15mm to give the car a better stance, and to increase its entry angle. In fact, Ford declares that the new Ranger is best in class for entry and departure angles. Wading depth remains unchanged at 800mm.

2022 Ford Ranger: Development

The new car has undergone a huge amount of testing, says Ford. Included in this testing is using advanced computer simulators to focus on the ute’s structure, aerodynamics, thermal and Noise Vibration Harshness (NVH). These simulators ‘drove’ the new Ranger to the equivalent of 1,250,000Km of customer driving, 625,000Km of rugged offroad durability testing, and over 10,000Km desert driving.

Actual testing conditions for the car went from temperatures of -50 to +50 degrees, and up to 5,000m in altitude.

2022 Ford Ranger: Powertrain

The big news for the new Ranger is without a doubt the all-new 3.0-litre, V6 turbo-diesel power plant. This new engine puts out 184kW of power, and a very decent 600Nm of torque, realised at 1,750-2,250rpm. Mated to this engine is a new 10-speed automatic gearbox.

The ‘old’ 2-litre bi-turbo diesel continues on in the lower two models of Ranger, but this engine has undergone some work to make it more powerful and develop more torque, as well as to reduce NVH. It now manages 154kW or power, and 500Nm of torque at 1,750-2,000rpm.

Both engines are biodiesel capable, and towing is rated at 3.5 tons. At last the Ranger has an integrated brake controller, so no more drilling holes in your dash for an aftermarket unit. This feature has been a long time coming.

There’s a new “Tow Haul” selectable drive mode, and also a Trailer Light Check via Ford Pass app on your smartphone. Also new to the latest Ranger is “BLIS Trailer Tow” function: You add in the in dimensions of your trailer and its load, and the Ranger will adjust things like blind spot monitor and other aspects of the car, depending on the load you have.

There are a number of drive modes to choose from: Normal, Eco (2wd), Tow Haul, Slippery, Mud and Ruts, Sand.

The new Ranger is built on the third-gen T6 body on frame global architectures, so that means an all-new frame, suspension, transfer case, automatic transmission, and new engine. Since 4WD is now electronically controlled, the Ranger can now can do fulltime 4WD on tarmac, as it intelligently varies power front to rear. The centre diff has clutch packs which will open or close if you are taking tight turns in low range to allow better control and less binding. Using “4A” mode on tarmac, the Ranger will use 90-95% front-wheel drive, while offroading will use 50/50 front/rear.

2022 Ford Ranger: Tech

The 2022 Ranger upgrades the infotainment system to SYNC 4A, and this includes cordless Apple CarPlay and cordless Android Auto – both very welcome with no cables.

Due to customer feedback, the car carries on with physical aircon buttons, as well as a physical volume/power button for audio. Other functions less used are placed on the centre screen, but many of them are fixed at the bottom of the screen, so are always there.

OFFROAD SYNC SCREEN

There’s a new offroad screen available on the centre display, depending on what model you have. This offroad screen will display the driveline and diff lock indication, also allows you to turn the diff lock on directly from the screen, and the same for hill descent control. It also shows the steering angle of the front wheels on the screen itself, as well as vehicle pitch and roll. When traversing over a steep slope where the driver can’t actually see what’s ahead, the front camera will peer over the slope for you.

2022 Ford Ranger: SAFETY

Safety for passengers is always high on Ford’s list, and the car now has nine airbags up from seven. There’s a high-strength cage around the cabin for rollovers or a crash and many other passive and active safety systems, such as:

·       Reverse brake assist, pre-collision assist

·       Evasive steer assist

·       Adaptive Cruise Control with stop/go and lane centring

·       Lane keep assist, with road edge detection

·       Front and rear sensors

·       Active park assist – does gears and brakes

·        Post impact braking (the vehicle will continue to brake after driver has lost control)

As well as the new Ranger and Raptor, later this year will see the New Zealand release of the new Everest, which will be powered by the new V6 diesel engine, with no 2.0-litre bi-turbo on either model (there will be two models of Everest available here). Preorders for the new Everest are sitting on 370, with over 55% of these for the top-spec Platinum. New Zealanders love their fully-equipped cars, it seems.

New Everest

2022 Ford Ranger: Drive Time

Presentations over, it was time to get some driving in. We’d be going on an hour-long drive in convoy, taking the new model mostly off-road. Because of this, all the cars we would be swapping between were all-wheel drive.

First up was the base XL model, with the updated biturbo motor. While it was hard to pick up changes from the last biturbo, it’s still a great power unit with gallons of torque. At the first car swap it was into a Wildtrak, with all the bells and whistles. Not only that, but all Wildtraks’ have the new V6 motor, and it’s a gem. Regardless of the ute’s offroad capability, that engine is supremely smooth and quiet. It’s hard to call it a diesel due to the low noise levels and smoothness of this new motor. I believe all who drove the new Ranger with the V6 were blown away by just how good it was.

But this part of the drive was about testing out the car on foresty tracks, checking out the axle reticulation, and driving in deeper water. Watching other cars do the axle reticulation test is always a bit of an experience, seeing just how much the suspension can travel before a wheel lifts off.

The car handled all we threw at it, and it did it easily. Not only that, but the ride quality is incredible. Hand on heart, this ute has now set the benchmark for refinement in a ute; the whole car is quiet and refined, and the ride quality on the tracks we were on was excellent.

Switching the car to 4H on the fly is easy, although going into 4L requires a stop and moving the transmission into neutral. The new e-Shifter is excellent too; it falls to hand nicely, and feels great to use. Much preferable to a rotary knob.

We went onto a ‘beach’ and cruised along the stones of the beach, in some areas deep stones where the weight of the ute came into play. Still even though I had moved into an XLT with the biturbo motor, in low range and with the diff lock on, there were no dramas from any of the cars.

It was into a Sport V6, and a drive along the beachfront and then down into some deep water to test out the Ranger’s wading capabilities. Again, no dramas, no one got stuck or in any sort of problem.

The hour over, we shot back to base and then grabbed a couple of Rangers to go and do donuts in mud. Although it had been raining a lot, the mud had dried out quite a bit. Still, it was fun sticking the car turning off traction control, and doing your best to get through the figure of 8.

With time running out, we grabbed a Wildtrak and headed back to the beachfront for photos and again to go through that deep water. It may have only been for an afternoon, but the 2022 Ranger’s offroading prowess was coming through.

As always, one afternoon in a car doesn’t give you enough time to really live with it and see what it’s like Daily Driving. I’d seen how good it was offroad, and now it was time to put the car through a normal DriveLife full review. So I’m heading back to Wellington in a V6 Sport model to see how it is to live with for a week. Hopefully, it’s as refined on the long trip home as it was offroading.

The end result – at least, after an afternoon driving the car – is that Toyota, Mitsubishi, Isuzu and others should be worried. The king is back and he wants his throne – and he has the credentials to take it back.

2022 Ford Ranger: Pricing

XL – 2.0-litre biturbo cab/chassis $46,990

XLT – 2.0-litre biturbo $56,990

Sport – V6 $75,490

Wildtrak 2.0-litre biturbo $75,490

Wildtrak V6 $80,490

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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