An Aussie Ford F-150? Why the muscled-up 2022 Ford Ranger looks the way it does
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Ford set out to make the 2022 Ranger look larger, wider and stronger than before, with a visible family resemblance to the larger F-150 truck of North America, but without losing the established T6 styling theme that has served the series so well since launching over a decade ago.
Achieving that balance was the dilemma when design work for Project P703 commenced in Melbourne in 2017, especially as feedback showed that the existing Ranger’s design continued to rank highly with customers across the globe.
To that end, while the nose with its squarer, flatter bonnet, so-called ‘C-clamp’ daytime running lights (as part of either a surprisingly old-fashioned halogen or more-contemporary matrix LED lighting system), upper interlocking grille bar and tail-light graphics all possess a clear visual connection with the F-150, the execution manages to retain the ‘Ranger’ feel from before.
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Though a team effort from across Ford’s global design centres, the 2022 Ranger is based on sketches from Ford Australia design manager, Leigh Cosentino.
“The F-150 is a lot more linear and a lot boxier, even with the new Ranger’s more volumous form,” he explained. “But Ranger has a lot more playful nature in its surface language and its muscularity in the fender and in some of the angles and the attitude and assertiveness of the front end as well.
“I think that’s really important that comes across.”
Pushing out the dash-to-front-axle length by 50mm and widening the tracks by 50mm to accommodate the new hydro-formed front-end structure to take new V6 engines also gave the opportunity to subtly alter the Ranger’s stance, to be a little more aggressive than before.
The resulting F-Series-style higher bonnet line, squared-off corners and blockier grille mean that front overhang could be reduced substantially, with the added benefit of increased airflow to the radiator for better temperature management (especially when the truck is heavily loaded or during towing) and climate-control performance.
“In the current Ranger, the headlights are a lot more swept back, a lot rounder in section,” Mr Cosentino said. “With this one, we tried to ‘truck up’ a little bit for want of a better word. We’ve made it a little bit bluffer, it’s a lot squarer in the volume of the hood to the fender, and it gives it that really stanced feeling, that real structural, solid nature in the front end, especially.”
Beyond aesthetics, an additional benefit of adopting the F-150-like appearance is safety, since raising the bonnet line even by a few millimetres decreases the severity of pedestrian impact injury, as well as boost the Ranger’s chances of scoring a higher crash-test rating.
Although the wheelbase and tracks have been stretched, overall length and width have not changed from the previous model. Ford says this is because research showed that buyers did not want a larger medium-sized truck, though cost constraints also played a part in maintaining the dimensional status quo.
“It's keeping the proportions of the vehicle, which people love, because they love the size of the truck,” according to T6 chief platform engineer, Ian Foston. “People have told us they don’t want us to make it much bigger… (they want us to retain) its physical dimensions, because of where they park it, the tracks it drives down, that kind of thing. Actually, in the exterior of the truck, it's kind of the right size, you know.”
Interestingly, despite the blockier design, the 2022 Ranger is claimed to be better aerodynamically, aided by detailed air flow work underneath and around the vehicle.
Observing the newcomer’s profile, the dual cab’s rear door’s window line kick-up has been altered in angle, so while it visually connects with the previous model, it’s also a fresh take. The side glass is not interchangeable with the old truck, nor are the doors due to different structures, seals and internal workings, and even the roof pressing has been altered. The rear window is one of the few external carryover parts, since all other panels are new.
Moving to the rear of the Ranger, box capping around the top of the bed has been introduced, in order to achieve modularity for accessories to be bolted on. While they’re similar to the current P375 US-market Ranger, in P703 it features an extruded alloy rail that’s load-bearing for added functionality.
The design team was also keen to avoid the “bland, flat back” of most truck tailgate styles, by incorporating more volume and material in the back to give it more section, as well as a connection with the profile and freshly buffed-up front end. It was also an opportunity to carry over the Ranger lettering, connecting the old model with the new.
The tail-lights have a C-shaped blacked-out section that actually houses the side and rear radar sensors for the newly acquired blind-spot and lane-keep driver-assist systems.
Ford says it spent thousands of hours with existing Ranger owners in Australia, Thailand, South America, Europe, China, Saudi Arabia and North America to observe how they use their trucks, conducting over 5000 interviews to help shape the new model.
The optional box step that’s integrated between the rear wheel and bumper in the utility body version to help shorter people gain better access the tub came about during this program, as they would step on the tyre to reach inside. Another is the ability for the tray to take a full-width palette. Clinics found that in some cases these were enough for some prospective buyers to purchase the vehicle.
When the 2011 T6 Ranger was being developed, it was done so mainly for Australia, Africa, Europe and South America. But with North America getting in on the act much later in the program after abandoning the medium truck segment in 2012, a more identifiable connection with the F-Series was necessary.
Furthermore, while Ford isn’t saying, making the new Ranger seem a bit larger and muscular than the outgoing model (launched only in the USA in 2019) would give it some breathing space from the car-based Ford Maverick pick-up from below.
“We really looked at Ranger as the F-150’s brother,” according to Ranger chief designer, Max Tran.
“The Ranger has developed a strong following over the past 10 years, and we really leaned into the iconic design features that have made it such a beloved truck across the world but also push the design envelope.”
Leigh Cosentino summed up the thinking behind the latest Ranger’s looks this way:
“The truck heritage at Ford Motor Company is really important, and we talk about this thing at Ford called ‘truck love’, where people have a real connection and real passion for their product,” he said.
“I wanted to make something that was a bold-enough statement for people to fall in love with it, and maybe it will be polarising and different for certain people, but I wanted to make something that really stands out and draws that emotion out in people.”