It's been said many times before: The all-new 2012 Ford Ranger will not be sold in North America. Why? It's too close in size and capability to the best-selling Ford F-150, according to Ford executives. And if this new Ranger were offered, it could confuse buyers and hurt F-150 sales.
The new Ranger, code-named T6, was always intended to be part of the global "One Ford" design to cater to a wider international market. Ford's engineers worked with design centers in North America, Asia and Europe with a few very specific priorities to keep in mind. It had to keep the Ford DNA, offer great fuel economy, be exceptionally quiet and be a great drive. And it needed to offer more comfort than in any pickup truck before it.The 2012 Ranger will be made in three different plants around the world: Argentina, South Africa and Thailand. We had our road test (and off-road test) in Thailand, in the northern province of Chiang Rai.
An SUV nose has been employed into the design features, bringing the Ranger's coefficient of drag to a class-leading .39. A rear spoiler is integrated into the tailgate, and the wheel arches are all full metal panels, unlike the previous model's plastic claddings that added width and girth. Sixteen-inch five-spoke alloy wheels that are nicely fit and flush against the arches give the Ranger a purposeful stance.
A higher belt line and raised rails of the load box increase the Ranger's functionality in the load area. The single cab and the Super Cab have some of the biggest box volumes in the class at 64.3 cubic feet (7.4 feet long) and 51.2 cubic feet (5.9 feet long), respectively, while the load box of the Double Cab we test-drove had 42.7 cubic feet (4.9 feet long).
On the 3.2-liter Wildtrak model, a power outlet is available in the top of the rear fender well in the bedliner. The power socket provides a 12-volt supply and is located conveniently in the box to allow owners to run a portable fridge and air pump for camping.
Entering the cabin of the new Ranger felt like we were getting into a more luxury-like SUV with high-grade plastics, even panel fit and a general high-end feel. The armrests and door pads are now trimmed with thicker foam, and a revised shape makes them feel more comfortable. Larger door pockets can hold a thicker map book and 1-liter water bottles, and the glove box can easily stow a 16-inch laptop and an average-sized women's handbag.
Switchgear changes include a new four-wheel-drive control switch, and steering-wheel-mounted phone, cruise and audio controls are now available (initially) on the top 3.2-liter Wildtrak model.
The gauge cluster houses clear displays with the engine heat and fuel indicators in between the pods. An LCD display indicates the gear shifts and mileage. There is also a full functioning "drive computer" that shows the average fuel consumption, distance to empty and distance to cover.
One area in which the Ranger surpasses other pickups in the market is its in-car entertainment system. The six-speaker CD stereo sounded clear, and it took us by surprise because other trucks come with semi-decent units. Some other nice touches include an armrest with a large box below that can hold six 12-ounce drink cans. Big side mirrors add to the great feel and safety of the car.
On the road
At more than 18 feet long and more than 6 feet wide, the new Ranger is bigger than the previous-generation model. It remains easily maneuverable on narrow city streets and during parking, thanks to a responsive steering system that requires no more than three-and-a-half turns of the wheel lock-to-lock.
The Ranger's water-wading capability is among the best in the segment. The four- and two-wheel-drive Hi-Rider models can wade through up to 30 inches of water even when fully laden. The Ranger also boasts outstanding maximum payload capacity of more than 3,300 pounds (single cab, chassis only), as well as excellent ground clearance of up to 9.3 inches (four- and two-wheel-drive Hi-Rider models).
Our drive started with an easy 18-mile run through the city of Chiang Rai. The 3.2-liter diesel was quick and shifted smoothly. Very little diesel clatter was heard in the cabin, and wind noise was very low as the steeply raked windshield and revised door design kept outside noise away. The Ranger more than holds its own in cabin quietness, an attribute not often associated with a pickup truck where there are stiffer doors using less glass area and with more sound-deadening materials in the doors, roof and body.
In Sports Manual mode, the gearshifts were livelier, and the upper limits of the 347 pounds-feet of torque can be felt as the Ranger kept an easy 100 mph cruising speed. Up front, the entire suspension is brand new. A new coil-over-strut suspension allows for better tuning of the upper and lower wishbone design. The suspension setup, while similar for two- and four-wheel-drive models, has unique capabilities and has been tuned with specific damper valving and spring rates on all models to compensate for weight, center of gravity, engine torque and drive distribution.
Giving drivers more precise steering control, Ranger's new rack-and-pinion steering system has been carefully tuned for low-speed maneuverability and responsive on-road driving. We started our off-road drive up to the coffee plantations of Chiang Rai. The track was a combination of mud, gravel and soft sand. On the steeper inclines, the 3.2-liter engine showed us its impressive torque was as it easily climbed across all terrain. The tight turns on the muddy trails did little to hamper our progress.
We had little issue taking in the off-road terrain as the approach and departure angles were good at 29 and 20 degrees, respectively, while the ground clearance was good when we took in some logging trails on the way down back to the city.
Interior soundproofing was excellent with little road noise, and a muted revving diesel engine was all we heard.
A 21-gallon diesel fuel tank provides a possible range of 620 miles. In a recent mileage test conducted by Ford, we're told a 2.2-liter Ranger got a class-best 990 miles before it ran out of fuel.
Features in the Ranger 3.2-liter Wildtrak we tested include dual-zone climate control, power folding mirrors, backup camera integrated into the rearview mirror, multifunction steering wheel and reverse sensor. Also unique are hill start assist, hill decent control and rollover control systems.
Safety features are class-best with more than 9,000 simulated crashes done during early tests and more than 200 actual crash tests. Other features include stability control, adaptive load control and trailer-sway control.
With nothing carried over from the previous Ranger and all the new technology and improvements added in, this Ranger is surely going to be a hot seller in Asia. Now it's time for North American dealers to make their requests for this new Ranger.
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