Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) is gearing up to launch a new pickup model that is sure to get the attention of Ford truck fans all over the world: It's the first-ever high-performance Raptor version of the midsize Ranger pickup that Ford sells in many overseas markets.
To be clear, Ford hasn't said anything -- yet -- to suggest that this new Ranger Raptor will be offered in the United States. And we don't know a whole lot about the truck yet. It won't be launched officially (anywhere) until next year.
But with the midsize Ranger pickup set to return to the U.S. market late next year as a 2019 model, it seems like a very good bet that the new Ranger Raptor will find its way to U.S. Ford dealers. Here's what we know.
What we know about the upcoming Ranger Raptor
Like the F-150 Raptor that Ford sells in the U.S. and some other countries, the new Ranger Raptor has a more powerful engine and advanced off-road capabilities inspired by desert-racing vehicles.
It was designed by engineers at Ford's Asia Pacific Product Development Centre in Melbourne, Australia, and it will go on sale in Australia, South Africa, and other markets in the Asia-Pacific region next year. (Those other markets might include China; Ford is already importing the F-150 Raptor to China from the U.S.)
This short video, released by Ford this past week, shows a camouflaged Ranger Raptor prototype zooming across a desert landscape in the Australian Outback.
Ford hasn't yet said anything specific about the Ranger Raptor's upgraded mechanicals. The few hints available suggest that the Ranger Raptor's suspension is similar to the F-150 Raptor's, and its engine might be a souped-up version of Ford's well-regarded twin-turbo 2.7 liter EcoBoost V6, maybe making around 375 horsepower.
Ford also hasn't said anything about the Ranger Raptor coming to the U.S. But it seems like a no-brainer that it will.
Ford is about to revive the Ranger here; will a Raptor follow?
Ford discontinued the midsize Ranger pickup in the U.S. back in 2011, partly out of concerns that it would take sales from its F-150 pickup (which at the time was more profitable). At around the same time, Ford launched an all-new Ranger, designed in Australia, in many other markets around the world. Early this year, Ford announced that it will build a revamped version of that Ranger for the U.S. market in a factory in Michigan late next year. That Ranger is expected to go on sale late next year as a 2019 model, to compete directly with midsize pickups like General Motors' (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota's (NYSE:TM) popular Tacoma.
I expect that the U.S. Ranger will be mechanically very similar to the current Australia-designed. But it's likely to have new front and rear styling, a revamped interior, and a different set of engine options. (Ford offers the Ranger with a standard 3.2 liter five-cylinder diesel engine in many markets now, but I expect U.S.-market Rangers to be offered with a four-cylinder gasoline EcoBoost engine standard, possibly with a V6 as an optional upgrade.)
I also expect that the Ranger Raptor will join the U.S. lineup a year or two after the new-to-the-U.S. Ranger is launched. It's a no-brainer for Ford: The F-150 Raptor is both hugely profitable and a great brand builder. Ford said last year that it plans to create and sell more performance vehicles. Why wouldn't it offer the Ranger Raptor here?
In fact, I'll go a step further: An all-new Ranger-based SUV called the Bronco is set to go on sale in the U.S. about a year after the Ranger debuts here. I'll bet there's a Bronco Raptor on the drawing boards, too.
Don't expect Ford to confirm any of that officially for at least a year, maybe longer. But if and when it does, you heard it here first.
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