The 2018 Detroit Auto Show Looms Ahead
With the Detroit Auto Show just days away, we can’t help but speculate about one of the more exciting vehicles to us, as Ecoboost enthusiasts: the Ranger. Ford has unveiled the 2019 Ranger page on their website at this point, so we know it’s coming with absolute certainty. Details have been kept well under wraps, but I think we can speculate based on its current iterations in the Australian, European, and other overseas markets.
It's impossible to ignore the current generation of Rangers currently offered in non-US markets. This Ranger, known as the "T6," has been largely unchanged since 2011 and was developed by Ford Australia. Making an non-US market vehicle legal, a process called "federalization," can be an expensive and time consuming process, so it makes sense as an automaker to use components as configurations already present in the US market as much as possible. So let's kick off the speculation with the attention grabbing spec - the engines.
Drivetrain Choices in Context
Let’s talk about diesel. While gathering the research for this article, I initially had hoped to see the turbocharged 3.2L inline-5. That engine comes on the nicer trims of the overseas Rangers, and is likely US legal already (or at least easily brought into compliance) as it is offered on some of the current Transit models. However, with the F-150 bringing a 3.0L V-6 turbo diesel as on option in Spring 2018, I’m afraid the potent I-5 will be replaced with the 2.2L diesel four, or scrapped altogether. We don’t have an official MSRP yet for the F-150 diesel, but I’d guess it’ll start in the low $30k range, in line with its Dodge RAM competitors. The I-5 Ranger diesel is the premium engine choice in its own markets, and I think it’ll be hard for Ford to sell a diesel Ranger for a similar price alongside the diesel F-150, but I could be wrong. Additionally, the I-5 diesel makes quite a bit lower power numbers to the V-6, but the Ranger is also a much lighter truck. To avoid cannibalization, the 2.2L I-4 diesel makes more sense, as a budget engine option. I have no idea what it would take to make that engine pass federal emissions standards, or if it would even be worth spending that valuable research and development time on what will be relatively small sales figures in the traditionally petrol-dominated US market.
Diesel Engines are popular choice in European and Australian market Rangers.
As far as gasoline engines, the obvious choice is the naturally aspirated 2.5L inline-4. This engine is already offered on the Ranger in some markets, and is also available on the US-spec Escape. I’m also expecting to see the 2.0L I-4 Ecoboost, or possibly a retuned 2.3L I-4 in the lineup. The 2.0L makes more sense on paper, but from a cost standpoint the 2.3L makes sense too as it shares a “parts bin” with rear and all wheel drive cars in the lineup already. Additionally, the 2.3L has shown it can be mounted both longitudinally and transversely, giving the designers room to work with in the engine bay. The 2.0L turbo could still offer a worthwhile torque improvement over the 2.5L base engine. It also doesn’t share the performance designation as the current 2.3L’s have, making it easier to stuff into a non-performance model vehicle. If the 2.3L is used in the Ranger Raptor, perhaps we’ll have the 2.0L Ecoboost as an option in the regular rangers instead. The 2.3L also has recently received a lot of bad press pertaining to head gasket issues, causing a lot of headaches for Mustang and Focus RS owners. I suppose it’s also possible that it’ll be offered with the 3.3L V-6 instead, but I think that’s unlikely only because it has been years since Ford has announced a model without an ecoboost engine option. With the likely 2.5L I-4 base model, a diesel option, and the obligatory ecoboost option there isn’t much room for a V-6 option as well.
There's a good chance that the 2.7L V-6 and 8-speed could end up as the Ranger Raptor drivetrain.
Where does that leave the rumored Ranger Raptor? Clearly rocking a gas ecoboost engine, but this is harder to pin down. We know the 2.3L is available with all wheel drive and can be tuned up to a solid 350bhp, making it a good contender. That’s the “high output” option that follows the rest of Ford’s performance branding, and after some difficult deliberation, my pick as the most likely engine (I like to set my expectations low and hope I’m wrong). Alternatively, there’s also the 2.7L V-6 Ecoboost, which makes anywhere from 300-325bhp as offered on the Fusion Sport, Edge Sport, and others. That would be the preferred engine choice, and I could see a 350bhp+ version powering the “baby raptor” easily. Disappointingly, I don’t think there’s any way we’ll see the 3.5L V-6 Ecoboost here. Ford knows what that engine is capable of, and even detuned from the 450bhp F-150 Raptor spec, the Ranger would still top the 5600lb baja beast in the tarmac-based road test reviews at a lower price point. Sure, it’s in a different category as a light truck but it’ll be easier to slot into their lineup and pricing structure if it didn’t upset anything else in the current performance vehicle offerings too much. That’s regrettable though, as we can only imagine how great a stock 450bhp+ AWD truck weighing in the 4200lb range would be. On the plus side, MPT has already been working with both the 2.3L I-4 and 2.7L V-6 ecoboost engines and there’s definitely room for performance improvement.
The Ranger "Wildtrak" has been offered in non-US markets since 2011.
Transmissions will probably be the easiest to predict, as any of the base engines I chose above are available with 6 speed automatic transmissions already. As for the Ranger Raptor, both the 2.3L I-4 Ecoboost and 2.7L V-6 Ecoboost are available with 10-speed automatics, so that’s the likely outcome there. As much as I’d love to have a six speed stick on the Raptor, I doubt we will see a manual transmission on any Ranger model in the US. In the recently teased 2019 Edge ST video, it exhibits a 2.7L V-6 Ecoboost with a special 8-speed automatic transmission. There's a good chance that the 2.7L V-6 and 8-speed could end up as the Ranger Raptor drivetrain.
Features and Styling
The current generation Ranger has been running more or less unchanged since 2011. I wouldn’t expect any drastic changes to that, despite Ford representatives claiming it will be “all-new.” Buzzwords like that usually mean “same chassis with a different front fascia and a new connectivity feature.” Not that the current chassis isn’t capable of course, and there’s a great video published by Ford South Africa showcasing a pre-production Ranger Raptor ripping off-road in the Australian outback. That particular Raptor is a double cab (four door) but missing the roof racks present on other double cab Rangers. I’d expect a similar configuration for the US model. There are other cabin options, but I’m not sure if all of them will make it over for the initial release. The regular cab is the classic two-door only arrangement, and there’s also a super cab option, adding a bench back seat and a pair of rear suicide doors. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the regular cab not make the cut at first, but it may come later or as a fleet vehicle option.
For interior features, I think we can expect the usual arrangement for Ford vehicles in this price range. There will be a rear view camera (now required in the US on all vehicles built after May 2018), cloth seats with a leather upgrade option, and a variant of the SYNC system, the level of which depends on model or package choice.
Ford is already teasing us with the 2019 Ranger online placeholder.
Aftermarket Tuning Potential
We’ve been excited for the Ranger Raptor for a while here at MPT, and our calibrators have already been conducting calibrations R&D for both the 2.3L and 2.7L engines in other vehicles. The 10-speed transmission, introduced to us on the 2017 F-150 Ecoboost and Raptor, is something we are able to greatly improve over stock with performance in mind. Our expertise in tuning Ecoboost engines should give us plenty of room to increase power, so we expect great things from this truck.
— Written by Bret McGonigle
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