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New Ford Ranger tested hard

The Ford Ranger was run on a rolling road at high revs for 50,000km without rest, in 41 degree heat.

It’s going to take on the unbreakable Toyota Hilux, so Ford has to make sure it was tough enough.

That’s why, as part of its gruelling testing process, the new Ford Ranger was run on a dyno (rolling road) at high revs for an incredible 50,000km without rest. It did all this in 41 degree heat.

Ford is confident its all-new Ranger will be up to the challenge when it goes on sale here in October and Working Wheels can understand why after a sneak peak at the gruelling development process.

The new Ranger, and its Mazda BT-50 twin, was developed by a 500 person team led by Ford Australia. Ford doesn’t want to say how much it invested in the new Ranger, which will be sold in more than 180 countries, but said it would bring the Australian arm $700 million in development income when the deal was announced in 2006.

Codenamed T6, the program is a massive responsibility for the Australian squad, given the increasing importance of the workhorse ute in the global Ford empire.

The Ranger was tested on six continents but the program was centred at Ford Australia’s You Yangs proving ground located between Melbourne and Geelong.

Working Wheels visited the normally top secret facility and got a taste of what the Ford engineers did to make sure the Ranger is tough enough to go into battle against the Hilux.

Because it will sell in so many regions, running high in the South American Andes to the desert country of South Africa, the engineers but put it through an incredible array of tests.

To make sure the Ranger can cope with running in the Middle East, where owners drive at high speeds in extreme heat for long periods, engineers carried out a particularly harsh test in its world class Advanced Centre for Automotive Research and Testing centre.  

With the temperature set to 41 degrees, a Ranger covered in black cladding was put on dyno rollers which simulate a rolling road. A robot sat on the driver’s seat with one leg controlling the accelerator, another for the clutch and a hand to control the gear-changes.  A computer program, based on a real world test, controlled the robot and the dyno rollers.

The Ranger was run at v-max (top speed) for about one third of the time, as well as 60 per cent of v-max and 80 per cent for 21 days straight. 

It is just one of hundreds of tests carried out in a range of facilities at the proving ground. One has the engineers drop the temperature to -30 degrees so they can see if the Ranger will still start.

In other rooms, Rangers were run for long periods of time without any humans present.

Ford set up a range of special sensors to keep an eye on the prototypes including fluid sensors, smoke detectors, infrared cameras and a device that can smell leaking fuel which all allow the prototype to be run alone.

The Ranger’s suspension was also tested using a rig with hydraulic arms from a flight simulator costing $5 million as well as taking a pounding on a brutal torture test at the proving ground.

Engineers also loaded it up with more than one-tonne of weight and ran it through a man-made creek that was 800mm deep. We suggest you don’t do that with your Ranger.

The recovery hook was also tested by lugging a 3500kg vehicle out of a muddy bog, while another Ranger prototype was made to pull a 3550kg trailer 4000 metres above sea level on Mt Evans in Colorado, the highest paved road in the US.

Other test locations included the -30 degree cold of Sweden, the humidity of Thailand, Japan, Brazil, South Africa and even the Autobahns of Germany.

The team ran more than 9000 simulated crash tests followed by 110 actual crashes as well as 410 sled tests, which include a sled slamming into various parts of the vehicle.

It’s an incredible development program which will give the Ranger the best possible chance of beating the Hilux on worksites and farms around the world.