The most successful Australian-designed and -developed vehicle in history, the Ford T6 Ranger, will have undergone its biggest change in over a decade when the order books finally open up sometime in the second quarter of 2022, ahead of deliveries from mid-year.
More than just a reskin, restyled dashboard and optional V6 engine stuffed under an F-Series-like bonnet, Project P703 shares few interchangeable items with its PX III predecessor, according to T6 chief engineer Ian Foston.
“There are almost a handful of parts in this car that you would say are identical to the previous vehicle,” he said. “There are a lot of things in the current Ranger that are really good, like the proportions, the balance of glass to steel from a visibility point of view… and what we’ve tried to do with the things that we think are good and we like is make small adjustments everywhere to make it a better experience all-round… for us, almost every part in this car has been retooled or tweaked.”
The program started in 2015, right after the related Everest SUV’s global launch, so has been almost seven years in the making. Right from the start, it factored in the next-generation Ranger, Raptor and Everest, as well as the Bronco that may or may not ever come to Australia. T6.2 Ranger development started in earnest from 2017.
To date, Ford has yet to reveal many important details about the 2022 Ranger, including precise dimensions, capacities, weights, engine outputs, fuel consumption figures, specific safety specifications, equipment levels, pricing and other information.
Production commences in Thailand and South Africa (which plays a bigger part since it’s just had a massive factory overhaul to improve efficiency and quality) early next year, though which produces what has yet to be divulged.
So, with so much that’s new, why not use T7 instead of T6.2? Mr Foston said that the Ranger is still architecturally the same as before – a body-on-frame, with the body that attaches in a very similar way, with similar technologies. If Ford was to go unibody or move the driving position in a significant way, then that would warrant a complete platform change. It’s down to the way things are done.
Therefore, most of the Ranger’s basic body and chassis hard points do not change – the location and angle of the windscreen, roof, front door apertures, seating positions, rear glass and tub location – and nor do the overall dimensions, meaning that, internally, Ford still classifies it as part of T6. Especially as Ford Australia remains the vehicle’s global homeroom.
To understand what drove this level of change from today’s Ranger to the new T6.2, a history lesson is in order – and it’s a little known and very good one at that!
The Ranger model lineup consists of XL, XLS, XLT, Sport and Wildtrak.
When Ford Australia started the T6 program back in about 2007 ahead of its 2011 launch, it was not envisaged to be the true global medium truck sold in 180 countries (the most in the Ford world) that it is today. North America was conspicuously not part of the original program. However, that changed during the 2010s, requiring substantial re-engineering during the life of the existing model, for it to take the different petrol and diesel engines required in America, as well as different body-styles – namely the Everest (2016) and Raptor (2018) offshoots sold everywhere else, including in Australia.
This led to the development of two different T6 platforms – the original first-gen one-piece frame that has served all (non US-built) Rangers to date (until 2022), and a newer second-gen three-piece frame developed for Everest, Raptor and the current US-market only Ranger.
The one-piece frame has a single stamping front to rear making up the box section of the chassis, and it’s a cost-effective (read: cheaper) solution most trucks use. But it doesn’t allow for much variation. This changed with the 2015 Everest, with the T6 platform evolving into a three-piece frame, bringing in a new front clip from the A-pillar forwards to take different engines, a scalable middle section and a rear section with Everest/Raptor’s new coil-sprung as well as leaf-spring rear suspension capability. This allows for suspension variation in the rear, adjustable wheelbases in the centre, and engine modularity up front.
The styling reflects Ford’s current North American F-Series full-sized truck.
What the 2022 T6.2 Ranger introduces is the third-generation three-piece frame, developed alongside but also substantially different from the US-market Ranger, with every part and panel having a different stamp number, according to Mr Foston.
“Off the platform from this third-generation T6 platform onwards, all the vehicles will be multi-piece, a three-piece frame,” he said. “The chassis is completely retooled from scratch - the whole thing is brand new.”
To summarise, besides the design, the biggest shift is in the T6.2’s footprint, with the wheelbase and tracks increasing by 50mm each, to accommodate the V6 options slated for the Ranger and others – including the confirmed 3.0-litre turbo-diesel based on the F-150 unit released in America in 2018, as well as a 2.7-litre EcoBoost twin-turbo petrol unit expected in Australia later on.
Consequently, everything forward of the engine firewall is new, necessitating a switch to a hydroformed structure. Not only does it cradle a V6-sized powertrain, it is said to significantly alter the Ranger’s dynamic abilities on and off road, and even allows for the fitment of bigger wheels.
The platform has been overhauled, featuring a 50mm longer wheelbase and 50mm wider tracks.
The steering is a next-generation electronic rack and pinion system that is said to be easier to control, with more selectable modes to suit driver’s tastes but no changes to the base ratio compared to before.
The added width means a redesigned independent wishbone coil-sprung front suspension set-up, featuring completely new geometry, with the dampers also moving further outboard than before for better tuning range and a comfier ride.
“Everything is different,” Mr Foston said. “The coils, the shocks, the lower control arms, the upper control arms, knuckles… geometry, everything.”
There’s also increased axle articulation for a broader range of capabilities on 4x4 models, with improved approach and departure angles and a “negligibly” different (that is, slightly worse) breakover angle. Ford has yet to release these figures.
The 2022 Ranger is claimed to be better aerodynamically.
Cooling properties have also changed substantially, thanks to the hydroformed structure. The bluffer front end means a bigger set of radiators can be fitted, allowing for improved engine cooling and air-conditioning performance, especially under load or in very hot environments. To that end, there are also ‘e-fans’ developed from the current North American Ranger, with forced-air cooling for low-speed crawling situations.
“These ensure the right air flow even with accessories fitted,” according to Mr Foston, referring to the winches, driving lights, bull bars and other aftermarket items owners increasingly fit to their vehicles. Australian company ARB has worked with Ford to provide aero-suitable items as a result.
Another change is to the doors – they have a similar shape but have different profiles, stampings and tooling, seals and inner workings, and the rear ones even open wider than before, for easier access inside.
Moving out back, new leaf springs are fitted to the rear suspension, with four per side. Ford is not talking about the Raptor’s coil sprung rear for now.
The T6.2 has a new electronic on-demand four-wheel-drive system.
With four-wheel disc brakes now offered on some grades (the US version of the current T6 has had them since its 2019 launch), Mr Foston said that it has come about because of customer requests, admitting that a disc/disc arrangement does provide better braking performance. Which variants get what will also be revealed closer to the T6.2’s launch date.
Another change that improves the way the T6.2 drives on as well as off road is a new electronic on-demand four-wheel-drive system. It features full-time 4WD (4A) varying drive to the front or rear wheels, for more surefooted on-highway driving where more grip is needed, as well as six driving modes, as per the current Raptor. This is another first for Ranger in Australia but is only slated for higher grades.
Cheaper versions will stick with the standard part-time 4x4 set-up that offers 4x2 (rear-drive), 4x4 Low range and 4x4 High range. Still on going off the beaten track, there are now dual recovery hooks incorporated up front, and more prominently placed, for easier use.
The ute’s bed is now completely redesigned.
T6 Dynamic Experiences supervisor at Ford, Rob Hugo, said that the new Ranger has had extensive cold-weather testing in Europe, New Zealand, Canada and North America, and was even tested in river beds while driving in both forward and reverse, to better reflect owner use. This is on top of desert testing in Africa, Australia and the USA.
Speaking of tool for trade, the ute’s bed is now completely redesigned thanks to that 50mm track width increase, allowing a standard palette to fit. The bed liner is now moulded, with functional divider locators for tradies to do their own partitioning. Tie-down points are optionally available on external rails using strong tubular steel rails, the low box top surface is capped (like current US Ranger), with pop-out access covers for easy loading of aftermarket accessories. It’s all now welded together better so users can carry more loads and is more canopy-friendly.
Also aiding the T6.2’s workhorse aspirations, the redesigned tailgate has clamp pockets at either end, with an optional 240W socket. Lighting has been fitted under the rails, while 360-degree zone lighting is fitted all around the truck, along with puddle lights in the exterior mirrors, for greater nighttime vision. Handy for changing tyres in the dark, too.
There's an integrated workbench in the restyled tailgate.
Ford admits that most rivals were benchmarked, including the Toyota HiLux and outgoing Volkswagen Amarok – which, of course, will be replaced by a lightly restyled version of the T6.2, though Ford absolutely shut down any questions regarding the German brand’s vehicle.
The biggest challenge was achieving the breadth of capability required from a workhorse 4x2 truck to a high-series SUV 4x4.
“The toughest challenge was the bandwidth (required),” Mr Foston said.
“You think about the bandwidth required for Everest, which is our most premium, plush and most comfortable product, all the way through to the Ranger Single Cab Low-Rider to the Bronco to the Ford Performance products that will also come off this platform. How do we all of that and actually stretch the capability of the platform… how to you get the balance right? For me, that’s been the challenge, achieving all of that.
“And I think we’ve done that. And doing that in all the markets that we sell to in all of the 180 markets, off the one platform? I think the team has done an amazing job.
“We took what the existing Ranger was, and went out and said what are the things we want to improve.”