October 27, 2011

All-new 2012 Ford Ranger delivers a refined ride, confident handling and quiet interior

The all-new global Ford Ranger may boast proven pickup truck toughness and capability, but this means tough, not rough. With a brand-new chassis, steering system and suspension, Ranger offers a smooth and quiet ride, car-like comfort, as well as precise steering.

Ranger is rare in the pickup segment by prioritising driving dynamics as a core product quality and its chassis engineers have delivered a pickup that is agile, stable, precise and comfortable.

Among the highlights of the chassis is an all-new frame that is longer and stiffer, and has been engineered to get the job done, day in and day out. Along with new front and rear suspension, it enables a more refined ride and quiet cabin environment. Ford has also introduced a new rack-and-pinion steering system in the all-new Ranger for more accurate steering control.

To further enhance ride comfort, engineers inserted hydro mounts on Ranger’s frame between the rail and cabin. Constructed of hard rubber and filled with hydraulic fluid, these help to isolate vertical and horizontal motions more effectively, reducing cabin shake and leading to a more pleasing ride overall.

“The result is a tough pickup truck that provides the best possible road manners,” said John Tatge, Ford Ranger chief program engineer. “For traditional pickup buyers, the benefits are huge with no compromises in payload capacity or towing ability. For customers coming from other segments who expect smoother, more refined road handling, the all-new Ranger delivers with less of the harshness typically found in pickups.”

New frame provides backbone
The backbone of the all-new Ford Ranger was engineered for robust strength as well as to fulfil a dual role for many customers who use their vehicles for business and pleasure. Emphasis was placed on developing a new chassis that would deliver real durability, while improving interior ride comfort and optimising vehicle stability.

A longer wheelbase and increased track, both front and rear, were adopted for improved drivability and passenger comfort.

Sure-footed both on-road and off, Ranger easily absorbs undulations with an extended 3,220mm wheelbase – the longest in class. The front and rear track on the 4x4 model is 1,560mm and 1,590mm on the 4x2 model. The increase in track also translates into more interior comfort, shoulder and second row leg room.

The chassis frame is designed to meet stringent crash performance standards, with priority given to meeting targets for rigidity, torsional stiffness and increased towing capacity.

Initial development started with computer-aided engineering work before the first test vehicle was built. Designs generated by computer simulation greatly reduced development time and identified areas where strength needed to be added or reduced without affecting structural integrity, rigidity or crash performance. As a result, the new frame is twice as stiff as the outgoing frame for torsion and bending.

A suspension for the world
Combining global expertise from experienced dynamics engineers from Europe, Australia, South Africa, and North America with valuable insight from manufacturing hubs in Thailand and South America, the all-new Ranger delivers impressive SUV-like steering and handling coupled with the highest levels of comfort. The result is on-road and off-road performance that customers will value.

Up front, the torsion spring suspension has been replaced by a new coil-over-strut suspension that allows for better tuning of the upper and lower wishbone design. The new rear leaf spring suspension system also provides a smooth, firm and comfortable ride without diluting the payload capacity.

The suspension set-up, while similar for two- and four-wheel drive models, has unique capabilities and has been tuned with specific damper valving and spring rates on all models for a variety of road conditions as well as to compensate for weight, centre of gravity, engine torque and drive distribution.

In Australia, where Ranger was primarily developed, around-town manners with the ability to make a camping trip to the Outback were must-haves during the early phases of development engineering. Extensive gravel-road testing and long-distance test trips through the harsh and demanding Outback have helped to fine-tune suspension settings, tyre performance and steering feel and response.

In South America, thorough testing was carried out to reduce the tendency of skate, a phenomenon some vehicles in this segment exhibit and as a result of which they swing out while driving at high speeds on rough, corrugated, dirt roads. This is a common condition where insufficient rear-axle damping leads to the rear axle pushing the rear end of the vehicle from side-to-side.

In Europe, where vehicles are generally driven in developed areas, a premium was placed on high-speed dynamics, handling and steering feel.

In Asia, where single-vehicle households are the norm, Ranger needs to fill a dual role of daytime work truck and after-hours family transport vehicle. Hence, a unique suspension setup consisting of springs and shock absorbers has been developed for the Thai market to provide additional comfort when driving on potholed roads.

Engineers looked into every detail, from evaluating the thickness of the springs to finding the best common location for both the front bushings, rear shackles for springs and shock absorbers on all models. As a result, Ranger’s response is linear and controllable, and vehicle reactions including roll and yaw are carefully balanced.

“We’ve provided customers with a suspension that is responsive with no surprises or reactions from steering input,” said Alex de Vlugt, Ford vehicle dynamics manager. “The all-new Ranger is a fun-to-drive pickup that keeps the driver comfortable and in control at all times.”

Crisp and precise steering
Ranger’s new rack-and-pinion steering system is precise, but not overly tight, like that of a sports car. All the steering play that is normally associated with a re-circulating ball system has been eliminated, giving drivers accurate and confident control when steering.

The steering incorporates a valve in the assistance system, which has been tuned to allow high flow at low engine revs to aid parking and low-speed manoeuvrability steering efforts and then avoids high flow at higher revs for good controllability.

In tight parking confines or narrow off-road tracks, drivers will also benefit from Ranger’s turning circle – 11.8 metres on 4x2 models and 12.4 metres on 4x4 variants. The responsive steering system requires no more than 3.5 turns of the wheel lock-to-lock, making it one of the best in the segment.

“We want to make Ranger feel like a small car instead of a big pickup, so controllability is much tighter than is traditionally seen on big trucks,” said Sam Ellis, Ford vehicle dynamics supervisor. “The driver doesn’t have to put in large steering angles to manoeuvre the Ranger. The pickup will also track where the driver wants to go without the need for a lot of little corrections, resulting in a more relaxing drive.”

Wheel appeal
To give the driver optimum control of the vehicle at all times and under all circumstances, Ranger is available with a range of steel or alloy wheels, in 16-in, 17-in and 18-in sizes depending on the series. The new larger wheels result in a stronger vehicle stance and better grip on challenging road surfaces.

Engineers have also put special efforts into developing Ranger’s tyres so that they deliver on a number of counts – excellent grip across a variety of road conditions, quiet for good interior and drive-by noise, long-lasting for low cost of ownership and low rolling resistance. The tyres also provide good steering feel, absorb road irregularities and contribute to a comfortable and plush ride.

The quiet Ranger
One of the quietest pickups in its class, Ranger introduces superior levels of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) refinement into a segment that is not often associated with cabin silence. Engineers paid particular attention to the reduction in wind and road noise to deliver greater in-cab comfort.

During wind tunnel tests, Ranger came in tops for the lowest levels of wind noise in both the front and rear seats, with a 22 per cent improvement over the outgoing Ranger. The latter is equivalent to the same noise difference between driving at about 40mph with the window closed and having it partially open with a two- to four- inch gap.

To achieve such levels, the engineers utilised computational fluid dynamics to ensure optimised vehicle shape and styling to reduce flow-related wind noise. They also used best-practice body architecture and materials to reduce external wind noise transmission into the cabin. The vehicle glass, as well as sound-deadening materials in the doors, roof and body, are all engineered to reduce interior noise.

Vehicle sealing is just as important when it comes to reducing leaks or whistles as well as minimising water and dust ingress into the vehicle. Ford tests showed that Ranger’s air leakage is 50 per cent lower and better than competitors, easily crowning it the best in class.

This was accomplished by the introduction of a double sealing system for all doors, door structural upgrades to deliver stiffer doors and the application of new technologies for improved back panel, floor and door sealing. The doors on the all-new Ranger are up to 40 per cent stiffer than the outgoing model and are stiffer than the leading competitor.

Road noise was also targeted through a comprehensive programme of tyre noise reduction, airborne noise treatment as well as structural noise and vibration isolation. The team specifically focused on treating the noise path into the cabin through and via the body panels, resulting in a quiet and comfortable vehicle under high-speed cruising conditions.

They also worked on reducing the levels of road noise when Ranger drives on diverse road surfaces. Hence, the stone pecking noise on gravel and rough roads has gone down while the impact noise from driving over bumps has also softened. Cabin road noise on coarse ‘chip’ roads has been reduced by 5dB overall, delivering a clearly perceptible improvement for customers during typical highway travel.

“Customers will immediately notice and appreciate the exceptionally quiet cabin,” said Ford NVH manager Michael Stellamanns. “It will be a surprise and delight for many who are not expecting such high levels of quality in a pickup truck, be it in terms of compliant ride, confident handling precise steering and improved, quiet driving environment.

Powerful new powertrains are at the heart of the all-new Ford Ranger, giving it more than enough muscle and backbone to get the job done, while delivering maximum fuel economy.

- 2.2 litre Duratorq TDCi four-cylinder diesel engine with peak torque output of 375Nm and power output of 150PS
- 3.2 litre Duratorq TDCi five-cylinder diesel engine with a stump-pulling torque of 470Nm and power rated at 200PS

The Ford Ranger is available in either two- or four-wheel drive versions with six-speed transmissions in both manual and automatic from. All the engines have also been calibrated to meet the most stringent emission standards worldwide, including Euro Stage V.

Available for the first time will be the six-speed manual, and, in selected Ranger diesel models, a six-speed automatic transmission to provide reduced engine rpm and extended operational range on long highway trips or in city traffic.

“The most basic requirement a customer wants from a pickup is torque and power,” said David Mitchell, powertrain development manager, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa. “Ranger not only delivers all that and more but is also able to do it in a way that sips less fuel.”

Impressive Duratorq TDCi diesels
Numerous refinements have also been achieved with the new diesel engines, including the implementation of the latest in fuel delivery technology, with a new high-pressure fuel system carefully tailored and calibrated for combustion efficiency. It delivers exceptional fuel economy ratings without affecting power levels. The precise injection timing and calibration also ensures a smooth combustion process to avoid a hard diesel combustion crackle, resulting in lower noise emissions more like a petrol engine.

Leading the way is Ranger’s new 3.2 litre five-cylinder diesel engine. With a flat torque plateau – higher levels of torque over a broad rpm – Ranger is able to pull full loads on the highway easily without having to change gear. Ninety percent of its peak 470Nm torque is available from 1,700 to 3,500rpm, providing better engine flexibility.

This remarkable amount of torque was put to the test in a Ford experiment where a 4x4 Ranger equipped with this engine effortlessly towed a 160-tonne steam locomotive out of its shed in Australia. And the good news is that all this torque does not have to come at a high price. The fuel consumption of the 3.2 litre engine in a combined cycle ranges from 28.3mpg on a 4x4 with manual transmission to 26.7mpg on a full-option 4x4 model with automatic transmission*.

For those who prefer an engine with a smaller displacement, there is a 2.0 litre four-cylinder diesel engine with 150PS that can be mated to either the six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. An additional 125PS entry level version of this engine with manual transmission will be available in early 2012.

The 150PS engine delivers peak torque output of 375Nm and power output of 150PS by utilising variable geometry turbochargers that allow more accurate control of boost pressure over a wider operating range. This enables lower-end torque capability for improved launch and driveability while deliver the engine fuel efficient. When fitted to a 4x2 model, the 2.2 litre engine consumes 34.0mpg km in a combined cycle*.

New six-speed transmissions for Ranger
The all-new Ranger features new automatic and manual six-speed transmissions for increased responsiveness and fuel efficiency.

The automatic gearbox provides drivers with various modes as well as manual control through sequential manual shifting. In Normal mode, the calibration focuses on comfort and fuel economy. For sportier driving, a quick flick of the gearshift changes the transmission into Performance mode. This provides later shift points and the driver can also manually select gears through a forward (downshift) or rearward (upshift) movement.

Another innovation is the automatic transmission’s ability to recognise when the vehicle is on a gradient. Using Grade Control Logic, the transmission will automatically downshift during downhill driving to provide additional braking from the powertrain when it senses the driver is applying the brakes.

Moreover, the transmission also has the ability to adapt to the driver’s style through Driver Recognition software. By determining the current driving style, including acceleration and deceleration rates, brake and throttle applications and cornering speeds, the transmission ensures the vehicle is in the right gear at the right time without undesired gear shifts.

“The aim of the software is to match the customer’s expectation of the gearing with his or her driving style,” said Tim Postgate, transmission calibration supervisor, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa. “A relaxed driving style will deliver significant benefits in terms of refinement and fuel economy, while enthusiastic drivers will be rewarded with sharper responses and a more defined sporty feel.”

For those who prefer greater involvement, the six-speed manual transmission provides crisp, precise shifting with its short, car-like gear shifter positioned ergonomically for the driver.

All manual transmissions have an upshift indicator in the instrument panel to help coach drivers on the best gearing for fuel economy.

New Ranger shapes up
Using the same cutting-edge simulation technology employed by Formula One teams, Ford's aerodynamicists performed more than 1,000 full-vehicle aerodynamic simulations to perfect the shape of the vehicle for fuel economy. They demonstrated with the simulation that with a hard line at the fender top, wind flow was divided and resistance lowered.

Working with the designers, the aerodynamics team managed to pare Ranger’s drag coefficient down to a very competitive ratio of 0.40 by implementing the most efficient design. They optimised the A-pillars, tapered the C-pillars and added a small spoiler to the top of the tailgate.

The biggest drag reduction came from a front air dam, which limits the amount of flow that goes under the vehicle and sends more air over and around the vehicle body. This chin spoiler effectively cuts the drag by about seven per cent while improving vehicle stability and helping to cool the engine.

“With about 60 per cent of the power required to cruise at highway speeds being used to overcome aerodynamic effects, minimising drag has real-world fuel economy benefits for the customer,” said Dr Neil Lewington, Ford senior aerodynamicist.

To make Ranger more efficient than ever, the engineers insisted on tyres offering the lowest rolling resistance, but without compromising grip, ride and handling. They also went through numerous permutations of matching gears to engine to deliver optimal fuel economy while ensuring optimal performance for the pickup’s leading towing capability and payload capacity.

The engineers also put in a first-in-Ranger Battery Monitoring System that optimises the alternator charging during deceleration and monitors the state of charge of the battery. The system’s regenerative charging functionality – converting the kinetic energy of the vehicle into ‘free’ electric current that is used to recharge the battery – contributes to real-world fuel economy.

“Powerful engines are at the heart of any pickup’s capability,” said Mitchell. “We’ve equipped Ranger with a range of capable powertrains that customers will appreciate – loads of power, heaps of torque, increased fuel economy, and reduced emissions. Sometimes it is possible to get the best of all worlds!”

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