It’s a measure of quite how much Australia loves the Ranger that this story was the most popular the Wheels website has ever run. Ever. In more than a decade, nothing has really come close
HERE IT IS, the 2022 Ford Ranger, nearly three years out from launch. Spied on route somewhere in an outer Melbourne suburb, this is a full-sized clay mock-up of the future medium-sized Ford dual-cab ute, providing the best images yet as to what the next-generation Ranger will look like when the production version’s covers come off sometime in late 2021 or early 2022.
With Ford Australia flatly refusing to comment on these extraordinary images, Wheels published these pictures online, suggesting that the mystery ute was either the reskinned Ranger, or a copycat styling exercise from a rival carmaker keen to cash on the one-tonner’s worldwide success.
However, as our story spread globally, events took an unforeseen turn when American website Jalopnik (that also ran our pics) was sent an email on behalf of “outside counsel to Ford Motor Company” asking it to voluntarily “…take down copyrighted images of a Ford automobile”, as these were published “…in violation of a non-disclosure agreement” – proof positive from Ford’s US attorneys that this indeed is a Blue Oval vehicle. The cat was out of the bag.
So, the 2022 Ranger is shaping up to be a thorough yet faithful rebody of the existing Ranger that was all-new back in 2011 (and comprehensively overhauled four years later), with fresh sheetmetal boasting slightly more angular styling, but with similar dimensions and proportions.
Yet it’s easy to see the larger F-Series truck influences (pictured, right) coming to the fore as well, thanks to the bold grille, boxy wheel arches, deep glass area and subtle rear window-line kink. Dig a little deeper, and the C-shaped headlights, six-point grille, square front foglight housings, side steps, taillights and chrome back bumpers are conspicuously similar to the recently unveiled full-sized 2020 Super Duty F-250 sold Stateside. We’re definitely looking at Ford’s future ute design language here.
The blacked-out windows point to this prototype being a non-driveable clay buck, meaning there is no interior. The dolly that’s holding up the front righthand ‘wheel’ also gives the game away.
As we outlined last issue, the next-gen Volkswagen Amarok will be twinned with the 2022 Ranger as part of a growing technological co-op between the two automotive giants, so expect VW’s 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel powertrain as an option on the Ford, alongside evolutions of the 2.0-litre Panther four-pot diesel that debuted late last year.
Ultimately, the 2022 Ranger will be the final-ever to be designed and engineered completely in Australia. While its visual connection to the big F-Series underlines the Ranger’s increasingly vital role in the North American truck market, it also reminds us that their eventual replacements due in the latter part of the 2020s will be based on a shared all-new scalable truck architecture that’s currently under development in Detroit. Ford said as much in a statement back in January this year.
Upshot? The world-class Australian engineering pool at Broadmeadows and Geelong has probably already started contracting. Will we ever see the likes of this final Aussie Ranger ever again?
A WHEELS TRADITION
Back in 1985, editor Peter Robinson published pictures of the 1988 EA Falcon – nearly three years out from launch and at a time when the XF was our bestselling car. Just as incredibly, though identical to the production EA, the pictures were buried on page 35 of American magazine Car & Driver, as the Yanks believed they were of a car just weeks away from launch! Evidently leaked deeply within Ford, the images were meant for Ford top brass eyes only, and remain one of our all-time greatest scoops.