All-New Ford Ranger Delivers Refined Ride, Confident Handling and Interior Quiet

Category: Ford, Ford Ranger
Tags: South Africa

Ford Ranger Dashboard

  • Ranger offers compact pickup buyers outstanding driving dynamics, thanks to a stiffer frame and carefully tuned suspension that reduces body roll and new front and rear suspensions that help keep the driver in control
  • Ranger's new rack-and-pinion steering system gives drivers precise steering control and has been carefully tuned for parking and low-speed manoeuvring
  • Engineers meticulously reduced the levels of wind noise and road noise in Ranger, making it one of the quietest compact pickups in the segment

BANGKOK, Thailand, 11 Nov., 2011 – The all-new global Ford Ranger may boast proven pickup truck toughness and capability but it does not mean it has to drive like one. With its brand-new chassis, steering system and suspensions, Ranger offers a smooth and quiet ride, car-like comfort as well as precise steering.

Ford Ranger

Ranger's development team prioritised 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 new 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 suspensions, 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, the engineers inserted 'hydro' mounts on Ranger's frame between the chassis rails and cabin. Constructed of hard rubber and filled with hydraulic fluid, the hydro mount helps isolate vertical and horizontal motions more effectively. This reduces cabin shake and leads to a more pleasing ride.

"The result is a Built Ford Tough pickup truck that provides the best possible road manners," said John Tatge, Ranger chief program engineer, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa (APA). "For traditional buyers, the benefits are huge with no compromises in payload capacity or towing ability. For sport utility enthusiasts who prefer smoother, more refined road handling, the all-new Ranger delivers with less of the harshness typically found in trucks."

New frame provides backbone

The all-new Ford Ranger's backbone was engineered for robust strength as well as to fulfil a dual role for many customers who use their vehicles for work and family. Emphasis was placed on developing a new chassis that would honour the Ford Tough Truck heritage, 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 any undulations in the pavement with an extended 3220-millimetre wheelbase – the longest in its class.

Ford Ranger Dashboard

The front and rear track on the 4x4 model is 1560 millimetres and 1590 millimetres on the 4x2 model. The increase in track also translates into more interior comfort, shoulder and second row leg room.

As the backbone for the all-new Ranger, the frame is designed to meet stringent crash performance standards, with priority given to meeting targets for rigidity and torsional stiffness.

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 Australia, South Africa, Europe 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 musts 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 operated 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 transportation 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, vehicle dynamics manager, Ford APA. "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 a sports car. All the steering play that is normally associated with the re-circulating ball has been eliminated, giving drivers accurate and confident control when steering.

The steering incorporates a valve in the power-assisted steering 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 the whole controllability is much tighter than is traditionally seen on big trucks," said Sam Ellis, vehicle dynamics supervisor, Ford APA. "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 truck at all times and under all circumstances, Ranger is available with a range of steel or alloy wheels, in 16-inch, 17-inch and 18-inch sizes depending on the series. The new larger wheels result in a stronger vehicle stance and better adhesion to 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 a good steering feel, absorb road irregularities and contribute to a comfortable and plush ride.

Four tyre sizes have been developed for the compact pickup to cater to different users. The 215/70R16 tyre on the 4x2 model boasts improved comfort and grip levels, especially in the wet, contributing significantly to the precise, stable and agile driving character of the new 4x2 Ranger. Rolling resistance on this tyre has been improved by approximately 23 percent versus the outgoing model.

For going off the beaten track, the base 255/70R16 tyre for the 4x4 and 4x2 Hi-Rider models has a tread pattern that suits occasional off-road usage. Silica in the tyre compound – common in passenger cars – helped the team to achieve excellent levels of wet grip and rolling resistance, which was improved by 12 percent on this tyre.

Customers who require additional ground clearance can choose the 265/65R17 tyre which will prove helpful for driving in challenging and undulating terrain while the bigger 265/60R18 tyre certainly adds to the imposing stature of the new Ranger, and is aimed at users that mainly utilise their vehicles on sealed roads.

Altogether, engineers tested more than 100 tyres under challenging conditions – snow, ice, wet and dry roads, high-speed testing – in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the North America before making the final decision on the specifications.

The quiet Ranger

Impressively quiet, the all-new 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 in Australia, Ranger came in tops for the lowest levels of wind noise in both the front and rear seats, up to four sones over some competitors and up to seven sones – or a 22 percent improvement – over the outgoing Ranger. The latter is equivalent to the same noise difference between driving at 60 km/h 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 percent lower than numerous competitors.

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 measure 30 percent to 40 percent stiffer than the outgoing model and are 10% stiffer than its next best competitor.

Road noise was also targeted through a comprehensive program 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 traverses 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 5 dB overall, delivering a clearly perceptible improvement for customers during typical highway travel.

"Customers will immediately notice and appreciate the exceptionally quiet cabin," said NVH manager Michael Stellamanns, Ford APA. "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.

"The all-new Ranger is like the James Bond of compact pickups – tough, muscular and a thoroughly refined gentleman."

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