New Ford Ranger is nearing its official debut after testing in extreme environments and production facility upgrades.
The new hybrid-powered Ford Ranger has undergone tests in extreme off-road environments ahead of its launch in 2023.
Ford says the heavily updated ute has covered around 10,000km of desert driving, 1,250,000km of customer driving and 625,000km of rugged off-road durability testing, all with a maximum load capacity.
The Ranger has also undergone “thousands of hours” of computer and real-world simulations covering aerodynamics and the durability of components and structures.
“It’s important that our customers are able to rely on the Ranger to deliver years of dependable service,” said Ranger chief program engineer John Willems. “So we’ve gone to great lengths to subject the next-gen Ranger to extreme tests – stressing it much more than a typical consumer would – to help ensure it’s ready to face everything life throws at it.
“Whether it’s tackling muddy bush tracks, coping with the rigours of extreme tropical weather, towing over Alpine passes or enduring temperatures of more than 50deg C, the Ranger has to do it all.”
Ford says it started using computer simulations because some tests were believed to be too rigorous for humans. Simulations and robotics have replaced humans for the more extreme tests, such as the ‘squeak and rattle’ rig, where the Ranger’s suspension and whole body is exposed to punishing test cycles that are repeated 24/7.
The new Ranger comes as part of Ford’s commitment to offer a zero-emissions-capable version of its entire commercial vehicle line-up by 2024, introducing a new plug-in hybrid powertrain option for the new Ranger. This will be available in Europe but Australian details are yet to be announced.
Due in 2022, the new Ranger looks to adopt styling cues inspired by its larger US-market sibling, the F-150, which itself is now available in all-electric Lightning form. That’s most evident at the front, where gaps in this prototype’s camouflage expose distinctive new headlight designs, but the overall proportions and silhouette look closely matched to the current Ranger.
Ford is expanding its operations in South Africa to ready its Silverton factory for production of the new Ranger and its mechanically identical Volkswagen Amarok sibling, making its largest ever investment in the country to the tune of $1.05 billion (roughly AUD$1.4bn). Right-hand drive production of the Ford Ranger still comes out of Thailand, too.
The American firm will also spend $686 million ($915m) upgrading the plant’s infrastructure. The upgrades include a new on-site robot-equipped bodyshop and stamping plant, box line and paintshop improvements and the addition of new vehicle modification and training centres.
The president of Ford’s International Markets Group, Dianne Craig, said: “The Ranger is one of our highest-volume, most successful global vehicles. This investment will equip our team with the tools and facilities to deliver the best Ford Ranger ever, in higher numbers and with superior quality.”
While the new Ranger will be Silverton’s main focus, the plant will also produce the next-generation Amarok. Both utes are being developed together in a partnership between the two companies that’s said to greatly improve economies of scale.
Ford and Volkswagen confirmed a wide-ranging global alliance last year, whereby the two will join forces to develop commercial vehicles and pick-ups, including a Ford EV built on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform.
Silverton’s carbon footprint is also an important focus. As well as production line upgrades, Ford’s investment will fund construction of 4200 solar-equipped car ports, with further environment-saving innovations earmarked for the future.
Andrea Cavallaro, Ford’s director of operations, said: “Our aim is to achieve ‘island mode’, taking the Silverton Assembly Plant completely off the grid, becoming entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon-neutral by 2024.”