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Ford has been snapped testing the next-generation Ranger at its You Yangs proving ground in Victoria, with the forthcoming ute to be boosted by all-new engines, a redeveloped chassis and the addition of more driver assist technologies.
Set for a local debut sometime in 2019, a right-hand-drive Ranger Supercab pick-up chassis development vehicle was spied being put through its paces, notably with a significant metal crossmember supporting the front suspension under the front-end.
Additional test equipment is visible via the wiring that runs from the underbelly of the new model and alongside its side sills.
A spokesperson from Ford Australia declined to comment on the engineering mule, but reaffirmed that work on the all-new Ranger is already underway – which is one of many ongoing projects funded by a $450 million budget for the Melbourne-based Ford Asia-Pacific Product Development team.
It is expected that two all-new turbo-diesel engines – a Peugeot and Land Rover co-developed 3.0-litre Powerstroke V6 and a 2.0-litre EcoBlue four-cylinder – will supplant the older 3.2-litre five-cylinder and 2.2-litre Duratorq four-cylinder units.
Torque also improves up to 20 per cent, while engine noise is reduced by half.
The 3.0-litre oil-burner is scheduled for a debut overseas later this year in the Ford F-150 pick-up – marking the first time that America's best-selling vehicle will be offered with diesel power.
This would out-match the current Ranger’s maximum output of 147kW and see it become the segment-leader in the power stakes, placing it ahead of the just-released Volkswagen Amarok V6 (165kW/550Nm).
Although the F-150 will pair a 10-speed automatic transmission with its 3.0-litre motor, it is currently unknown if the local ute will do the same or instead retain its current six-speed option.
Meanwhile, the 2.0-litre EcoBlue is up to 13 per cent more fuel efficient than its 2.2-litre predecessor thanks to a suite of innovative technologies.
Torque also improves up to 20 per cent, while engine noise is reduced by half and exhaust emissions fall to Euro 6 levels.
Announced in April last year, the direct-injection diesel four-potter first launched in the Transit Custom van in Europe with outputs of 125kW/405Nm, but maximum power can be upped to 147kW.
Furthermore, the addition of North America to the list of overseas Ranger markets means engineers will also be tasked to produce at least two turbo-petrol powerplants.
One of these engines will likely be a version of the 2.0-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder that has been employed locally by the Ford Mondeo, Escape and the now-defunct Falcon.
Alternative petrol options remain more of a mystery, but the 242kW/508Nm 2.7-litre twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 from the 2015 F-150 could be a possibility.
Stateside customers may also see these petrol units under the bonnet of the born-again Ford Bronco wagon, which will utilise the upcoming Ranger's new-gen T6 ladder chassis from 2020.
Oil-burning and petrol versions of the new ute will arrive in the United States as part of Ford's plan to have a full compliment of powertrain options to compete with General Motors and its diesel Colorado.
Despite the current Ranger using rear drum brakes, all of the spotted development vehicles were fitted with rear disc brakes, indicating that Ford will look to match the spec-level of the Amarok V6.
As well, self-driving technologies are also on the cards for the pick-up as a special track is currently being built at the You Yangs facility which will support testing for up to Level 2 autonomous standards.
However, the Ranger's level of autonomy when it hits the market in 2019 is still unclear, but it will inevitably be higher than its current grade.
Australia and other markets will continue to import the next-gen ute from Thailand, but the US version will be manufactured in America alongside the Bronco.