Ford Australia has let one of its worst-kept secrets out of the bag with confirmation that the hi-po, toughened-up Ranger Raptor dual-cab ute will launch in the Asia-Pacific region next year.
Described by the carmaker as ''an off-road performance variant'', the Raptor nameplate is synonymous with Ford's Performance division, which already produces such a version of the F-150 large pick-up sold in the United States.
The company has revealed few other details, short of describing the Ranger Raptor as ''purpose-built'' and ''desert-racing inspired'', but several images and a video of a camouflaged prototype under test in the Australian outback are enough to whet the appetite.
Evidently, the Ranger has bulked up in its ascension to Raptor status, with Ford promising '"a head-turning exterior look that exudes toughness".
As previously reported, the Ranger Raptor is expected to sport flared wheelarches, fatter 285/70 BF Goodrich All-Terrain tyres, a bashplate, two tow hooks, a Ford-emblazoned black front grille and a tucked-up towbar.
Additionally, disc brakes are set to be employed by all four wheels, while a five-link coil-sprung rear suspension eschews the leaf-sprung solid axle used by non-performance, workhorse Ranger variants.
However, what powertrain the flagship Ranger will employ is less clear, with suggestions it could be the F-150 Raptor's 3.5-litre 'EcoBoost' twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine, which punches out 336kW of power and 690Nm of torque.
If the test mule’s soundtrack is anything to go by, it is likely that petrol propulsion is on the cards for the production Ranger Raptor meaning an uprated version of the mid-size ute's current 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel unit is unlikely. Either way, Ford assures ''an adrenaline-pumping experience.''
Given Mercedes-Benz unveiled its X-Class last month – including a range-topping 190kW/550Nm X350d flagship – and Volkswagen is rolling out the 190kW/550+Nm Amarok Aventura Exclusive concept at the Frankfurt motor show next week, Ford will be keen to top all rivals in the output stakes.
Coinciding with the Raptor's launch, the Ranger is on track for a model refresh in the second half of next year, with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection and 360-degree cameras anticipated to be offered.
According to Ford Asia Pacific vice president, product development Trevor Worthington, the Ranger Raptor will further lift the bar in the mid-size ute segment.
"We are very excited to bring Asia Pacific’s toughest and smartest pick-up truck to a whole new level," he said.
"Ford Ranger Raptor will offer Ranger fans a fantastic opportunity to own an authentic off-road performance version of their favourite truck for the first time."
Ford Performance chief engineer Jamal Hameedi echoed this sentiment, adding that the newest Ranger is an outstanding achievement for the manufacturer.
"Combining the Raptor’s advanced off-road capabilities with the versatility of the Ranger is a significant accomplishment for Ford’s world-class engineering and design teams," he said.