Ford reveals 2023 Ranger in Thailand

Published May 20, 2022, 8:02 AM

by Eric R. Tipan

New-generation Ford Ranger Wildtrak 4×4 and 4×2

As early as October 2021, various media outlets have been speculating on the profile, powertrain, and prowess of this second-generation mid-size pickup truck Ford calls the #NextGenRanger. Seven months later, it is finally in our region. But before it gets to local dealerships, we take its top two variants (the Wildtrak 4×4 and 4×2) on a 160-kilometer drive on city, highway, and advanced off-road terrain to test its capabilities.

Thailand hosted the 2023 Ford Ranger international media drive. The route took us from our cozy resort in beautiful Phuket to Ranger Ville — a massive rock quarry in Phangnga next to a forest. It was the perfect setting with hills, a pool, a slippery track, a mud section, loose surface, rocks, and sand, including steep descents and sheer ascents.

Bigger dimensions

Ford is not calling it an all-new model, even if it is indeed a model change and not simply a facelift, because the latest Ranger still shares its shape, powertrain, daylight openings, and chassis hardpoints with its predecessor. That said, there are still plenty of new features on the body.

It is longer (by 16mm), wider (by 58 mm), and taller (by 63 mm). The larger body allowed engineers to extend the wheelbase and track by 50 mm for more space and better stability. The front wheels were moved 50 mm forward to create a better approach angle and reduce the front overhang, while the rear suspension dampers shifted outboard of the frame rails to give the occupants a better ride on- and off-road.

New features

New on its façade is a fresh grille with an H-bracket that complements the signature C-shaped LED daytime running lights. These models have matrix LED headlights, a new taillight design, and a floating rail and a styling bar over the longer and wider bed.

The tail has an integrated sidestep to increase the truck’s efficiency and the owner’s productivity. It also comes with a new cargo management system with storage dividers, six tie-down points, an AC outlet, and even clamp pockets on the tailgate for cutting or measuring long items.

More hi-tech interior

Inside are new, slimmer seats to help increase cabin space, but are more bolstered to retain their snug fit. It uses leather upholstery with the Wildtrak’s distinct orange stitching. The cockpit sports a coast-to-coast linear design to increase visibility and has more soft touchpoints (door panels and armrests and the front edge of the dashboard).

The interior’s best feature will undoubtedly be the two new screens. One is the eight-inch LCD digital instrument cluster (that replaces the old 4.2-inch screen) with customizable color displays. The other is the tablet-like 10.1-inch or 12-inch touchscreen (variant dependent) with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth and USB (Type A & C) connectivity, and Ford’s latest in-vehicle comms software SYNC4A. Aside from the infotainment system, it also controls the air-conditioning system, several safety features, and the truck’s differential lock.

Same proven powertrain

Both engines are the same — the 2.0-liter single turbo for the 4×2 and the 2.0-liter bi-turbo for the 4×4. But these have been tweaked for cleaner emissions, so the power is down a few notches. The former has 170 PS (down 10 PS) and 405 Nm of torque (down 15 Nm), while the latter has 210 PS (down 3 PS) and the same 500 Nm of torque.

The test track

It rained in Ranger Ville that day, which made surfaces extra slippery, the mud stickier, and the pool just a little deeper, but needless to say, it overcame all obstacles with relative ease. The running joke was, that rappelling up the vertical face of the mountain would be the more apt challenge.

We ran it on 2-High, 4-High, and 4-Low, and engaged its Terrain Management System to run on Normal, Slippery, Mud & Ruts, and even Sand. We tested Adaptive Cruise Control, the Lane-Keeping System, Hill Descent Control, its 800-mm water wading capability, and its new 30-degree approach angle. It passed with flying colors.

Even novice off-roaders will find it relatively easy to use because of its Off-Road Sync Screen (with a 360-degree, front, side, zoom view) that lets drivers see the steering angle, pitch and roll angles, and it even comes with a predictive track overlay. The entire interface is very intuitive – everything is a click, twist, or tap away. That became a point to clarify with chief platform engineer, Ian Foston. Won’t these electronics be an issue down the line? According to Foston, this model did the most CPU simulations of any truck they currently have: done 5,000-meter altitude testing, went through extensive squeak and rattle rigs, dynoed for fatigue and exhaustion, and ran 5.5-million kilometers of durability testing. He added that electronics have been in trucks for 15 years at least — Ford just went one step further and used a large monitor as the input source.

When it gets here, the 2023 Ford Ranger can claim to be the most technologically advanced truck, and probably even the fanciest. We don’t know when that will be exactly, but Ford says it will be within the year.

Thailand gets the Wildtrak 4×4 (2.0-liter bi-turbo / 10-speed AT), the Wildtrak 4×2 (2.0-liter single turbo / 6-speed AT), and a new variant, the Ranger Sport (2.0-liter single turbo / 6-speed AT).

Are these what we will get? We will find out soon enough.