F off: No reciprocal rights to ute push

Ford is thinking big with its traydeck plans – but it’s a one-way street. Ranger is going to America, but despite now being in a worldly state, F-150 isn’t likely to come here.


WE like trucks. Americans like trucks. America has a truck we like, and we have one they’re getting, so …..

….so, sorry to ruin a good story, but it doesn’t seem likely to happen.

Ford North America’s determination to create their own Ranger off the rig that has just achieved as New Zealand’s top-selling new vehicle won’t have a reciprocal rights’ twist.

They’ll get ours – probably around 2019 and with styling re-tweaked specifically for their tastes, but we won’t get their favourite traydeck, the new generation of the next-size up (and then some) F-150, in return.

That, at least, is how Ford New Zealand sees the scenario as playing out.

The One Ford process that allowed the Mustang to come over to our side of the road, albeit after 50 years’ purely left-hook production, does not automatically apply to all America-first product, the distributor has suggested.

That’s not to say the local office doesn’t wish it couldn’t happen.

“I doubt if there has been a week go by when someone doesn’t get in touch to ask about the potential of a right-hand drive F-150,” spokesman Tom Clancy says.

“It’s a cool truck. It’d be great, right? But we have not heard anything, ever, to suggest it is being considered for right-hand drive.”

Ford’s determination to return the Ranger – and a Bronco that might yet become a version of the ute-derived Everest seven-seater – to the US was announced in the lead-up to the just-ended Detroit motor show, where the latest updates to the F-150 debuted.

Ranger has not been available in North America since 2011, when it was pulled when the mid-sized truck market went into a dive. But it has since picked up again, and Ford – and its fans – there really like the look of the model that we very much enjoy.

The Bronco has been absent for a lot longer; the last one went out to pasture in 1996. Again, though, even though most buyers there (and here) prefer to fulfil their SUV ambitions with car-based crossovers, interest in tougher ute-derived wagons has re-emerged. So that programme has also been reactivated.

Ironically, the current F-150 is probably the most suited to a global assault because it has broken away from the gargantuan gas-guzzler image. Sort of.

It’s still a very large vehicle, but with an alloy body, EcoBoost engines and extensive tech options, it’s no longer such a dumb thing to own.

The big draw for markets such as own would be that the latest edition, which goes on sale in the US in about two months, now has something never seen before in this model: A diesel engine.

The 3.0-litre ‘PowerStroke’ unit is a sop to increasingly important environmental and emissions targets that have also driven Ford to replace the mainstay 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 with a 3.3-litre that has more power and burns less fuel. It is also offering a 2.7-litre four-cylinder and is continuing with a 5.0-litre V8.

The diesel is not related to the Ranger’s – for a start, it’s a six-cylinder, not a five-pot – but we do have some experience of it, with Jaguar and Land Rover. Yup, it’s the twin turbo unit that is now the mainstay of the Range Rover and Land Rover Discovery lines - and also makes the Jaguar F-Pace SUV plus its XF car here. Ford US will source it from the UK. The engine comes in different of tune and while Ford has yet to release details on the output, but it’s probable it will go for a higher-output version, so maybe as seen in the F-Pace, where it delivers an impressive 221kW and 700Nm.

There’s more: The F-150 is the first model to start using the new 10-speed automatic (that we know now was co-developed with General Motors) that is coming to the Mustang facelift, also just revealed though not expected to be here until late 2018.

All 2018 F-150 powertrains also get engine stop/start as standard. An F-150 hybrid is currently under development, one of 13 new electrified vehicles Ford plans to launch over the next few years.

Being seen to be more Green was also the motivation, of course, for Ford making extensive use of aluminium in the model’s construction. While it maintains a steel frame, the cab, tray bed, bonnet and some other panels are alloy.

Aside from a different grille, new tailgate and tail-lights, the F-150 looks the same as previously.

Like many Ranger owners here, the F-150 buyer set tends to use their trucks as an SUV alternate, often for around town. Bearing this in mind, the new model also picks up the adaptive cruise control system that now goes into the Ranger Wildtrak, with pre-collision and pedestrian warning.

It also gets an optional 4G LTE modem, with a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot that can handle up to 10 devices.