PRETORIA, Gauteng – We sample US tuner Roush’s take on the popular 3,2-litre turbodiesel Ford Ranger...
So, another day, another Ford Ranger aftermarket body kit…
Funny. But no. Well, yes, but also no.
I’m all ears.
Let’s start with Roush. You may have heard of these Americans, but if not, here’s a brief rundown of the firm's pedigree: Jack Roush started the company back in the 1970s and since then it’s been deeply involved in the US racing scene, both as a team in drag racing, IMSA, SCCA and Nascar formulas, but also using its expertise to design and manufacturer upgrades for many of Ford's road cars.
Roush upgrades for the Mustang are sold here in South Africa by Ford Performance Centre in Centurion and now, in a world first, the centre will also be selling and fitting upgrades to the popular Ranger bakkie.
Still sounds like an aftermarket kit to me...
Technically it is, but you need to understand what Roush is about to grasp that this goes way beyond that.
Again. All ears.
Roush isn’t an aftermarket kit manufacturer, it’s an engineering company. And that means the level of expertise applied to these upgrades is like nothing else available. Every part is designed, fitted, tested and certified to match specific engineering standards and every part is designed to be within Ford’s performance tolerances for the Ranger. In other words, the drivetrain will not find itself overly stressed – no other Ranger aftermarket manufacturer can say that – and that's why the Roush Ranger comes with a Ford and Roush three-year/60 000 km drivetrain warranty.
The head of Ford Motor Company of SA, Casper Kruger, and several members of his team were present at the launch event and that speaks volumes to the levels of local co-operation between Roush and Ford.
Okay. I get it and, dare I say, am impressed. Let’s hear about the actual vehicle now.
There are three of them. The upgrade kits come in stages 1, 2 and 3, which means a range in power outputs, suspension/braking upgrades and trim levels. This is the basic rundown:
Roush Ranger RS1 – exterior kit (bumpers, extended wheel arches, 18-inch alloys, alloy sports bar and side-steps, a deck-lid cover, tonneau cover, dual-pipe exhausts and stickers) and some interior trim (embroidered headrests and car mats).
Roush Ranger RS2 – all of the above, plus a performance upgrade that boosts outputs from the standard 147 kW and 470 N.m to around 170 kW and 550 N.m (five-map chip, an uprated intercooler and a high-flow exhaust system) and some assorted trim (such as side stripes and a Roush grille).
Roush Ranger RS3 – all of the above, plus more performance upgrades upping power to around 190 kW and torque to about 650 N.m (thanks to tweaks such as the addition of an uprated turbo impeller), a handling pack (uprated springs and shocks as well as uprated front discs and ceramic pads) and interior improvements (full Roush leather interior and tinted windows).
And what will this cost me?
The following figures, before you start sprinting to Ford Performance Centre waving your wallet, are over and above the price of your standard Ranger 3,2 double-cab: RS1 for R130 000, RS2 for R170 000 and RS3 for R240 000.
Sure, there are cheaper Ranger upgrades out there, but I doubt anything comes close to this stuff in terms of engineering quality. Those side-steps, for example, are designed to withstand side impacts and do not compromise the Ranger’s crash safety rating.
So what are these beefy bakkies like to drive, then?
I can tell you more about what they’re like on a skidpan than on the road as we spent most of the morning having a whole bunch of fun at the Gerotek facility. But even that was enough to clearly highlight the mechanical changes.
The suspension set-up is the most noticeable alteration and it has significantly improved the Ranger’s ride quality. That’s thanks to Aussie specialists Pedders, who have worked with Ford to develop suitably engineered and certified components. Much of the improved ride quality has to do with redesigned leaf springs and new shocks at the rear. Although the Roush Ranger retains the standard bakkie's 938 kg payload, the suspension is set up to be more car-like and thus softer and less choppy than your typical bakkie.
Adding to the far more progressive and supple ride are new, slightly raised front springs (by 35 mm) with an increased damping rate of 20% over the OE unit. The shocks are units that allow more oil flow through a bigger bore, which ostensibly improves control.
The overall result is without doubt the best ride quality I’ve experienced in a bakkie. It has the comfort of a Volkswagen Amarok and superb body control that combine to lend it a dynamic quality the German can’t quite match.
As mentioned, the front brakes have been upgraded too, but we'd have to put the bakkie through our usual road-test braking evaluation to tell just how much better they are than the Ranger’s standard set-up. Chatting to the guys from Pedders, I did learn that they have already developed a disc brake arrangement to replace the rear drums, but that is still undergoing final certification and will likely be available as an option further down the line.
And the power upgrades?
The differences here are far more subtle. Our road-test protocols will reveal more (and we will be getting one to assess in the next couple of months), but during this relatively limited drive it was difficult to quantify the increased power. It’s certainly not kick-in-the-small-of-your-back-stuff, but far more progressive. The Roush chip doesn’t replace the Ranger’s ECU, but is a slave unit that is also constantly making sure the extra power isn’t exceeding any drivetrain tolerances. I could certainly feel the extra grunt and given Roush’s commitment to the highest engineering standards, I wouldn’t doubt the output claims.
Well, that all sounds pretty positive. I’m looking forward to reading that road test.
Indeed. I’m looking forward to driving it properly for a couple of weeks to really get a feel for the performance upgrades, but so far I really like this double-cab. Looks-wise, the body kit is more subtle than some of those over-the-top "Tupperware" add-ons you see applied to some Rangers. And, particularly in that deep blue, it looks a lot like the much-anticipated Ford Ranger Raptor that launches here some time in 2019 (Ford SA is unable to confirm exactly when).
That, along with the peace of mind Roush’s reputation and warranty offers, makes the Roush Ford Ranger RS3 something well worth considering if you’re interested in a performance bakkie and don’t want to wait for the Raptor. I’d just be guessing here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Roush Ranger RS3’s total price of R842 000 (using a R602 000 Ranger 3,2 Double Cab XLT auto as a base) would be in the same ballpark as that of the Raptor.
Wait, that sparks one last question: are these Roush upgrades for any 3,2 Ranger, or just the double-cabs?
They’re available for single-cabs, supercabs and double-cabs. The performance upgrades are available for the Ford Everest too, and Ford Performance Centre is working on an Everest body kit, but that will be available a little further down the line...