Ford could drive ute prices out of the paddock with its expected near-$80,000 pricing on its twin-turbo Ranger Raptor that will take on the European competitors from July.
The Australian designed and developed Raptor, heavily based on the Ranger and to be built alongside its less potent sibling in Thailand, will appeal to the tradie seeking performance and a lot of street cred.
For Ford, the Raptor sends a signal to the new flock of Europeans including the Volkswagen Amarok and incoming Mercedes-Benz X-Class that have wasted little time promoting their power and price superiority.
The Raptor uses a bi-turbo version of its all-new 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, eschewing the 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel used in its existing Wildtrak flagship that costs $59,590 (before on-roads).
It is rated at 157kW/500Nm, making it the most powerful four-cylinder ute, but lags slightly behind the V6-engined $68,490 Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate at 165kW (180kW on overboost) and 550Nm, and the upcoming arrival of the six-pot Mercedes-Benz X-Class mid-year with its 3.0-litre V6 rated at 190kW/550Nm.
However, Ford took a more holistic approach in its Ranger Raptor – named after the US market’s F-150 petrol-engined V6 – and is equipped with substantial chassis upgrades and tweaks designed to make it more capable when leaving the blacktop.
Using the Ranger as a base, the Raptor leaps in front of the previously range-topping Wildtrak in price and performance thanks to its reworked suspension and strengthened chassis.
It gets expensive Fox Racing Shox as dampers and uses longer fixed-rate springs that a Ford spokesman said were “worth as much as a small engine”.
At the back, the rear axle receives a Watts linkage system to control bodyroll and improve articulation for better traction.
The Raptor sits on wider front and rear tracks, and picks up four-wheel disc brakes in lieu of the Thai-centric rear drums as fitted to the Ranger and rivals such as the Toyota HiLux, Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara.
The engine is an EcoBlue unit from Ford’s new Panther powerplant line-up and is also used on the latest Transit, albeit with one turbocharger and a lower state of tune in that vehicle.
The engine isn’t the only new component in the drivetrain though, with Ford for the first time offering a 10-speed automatic for the Australian market that feeds into a 4WD system used on the V6 US-spec F-150 Raptor.
Aside from the Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz utes, the Raptor will also field competition from the Holden Colorado-based HSV SportsCat that will kick-off from $60,790, as well as the incoming Toyota HiLux trio of the Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X.
This article originally appeared on CarsGuide.