A Ford-approved performance kit from Roush and styling upgrade for your Ranger – what’s not to like?

It's a great time to be a bakkie lover. Over the past few years, the market has grown in leaps and bounds, with a plethora of new additions from Volkswagen, Fiat and Mercedes-Benz. We’ve also seen the rise of the luxury bakkie, with the Amarok V6 and the X-Class vying for the attentions of traditionally SUV shoppers.

Together with this newfound prevalence of premium fare, companies offering aftermarket accessories and tuning options have sprung up across the country. And no bakkie has been subject to more tweaking and enhancing than Ford’s Ranger, which in its standard form is our reigning Top 12 Best Buys champion. Just drive round the country and the number of individualised Rangers you spot is astounding.

Accredited Ford tuner, Roush, has obviously paid attention to this demand and recently released three states of tune, all warranty-compliant, for any
3,2-litre, five-cylinder Ford Ranger derivative. The company also offers high-performance Mustangs, of which one took part in our Performance Shootout 2017.

Stage 1 (RS1) of the Roush Ranger kit comprises only exterior changes and some interior upgrades, and costs R145 000. RS2 (R210 000) adds performance upgrades pushing engine outputs up from 147 kW/470 N.m to 170 kW/550 N.m, plus exterior additions such as side stripes and a Roush grille.
Roush Ford Ranger

However, the RS3 tested here (R265 000) is where it gets really interesting, harnessing even more power (with a little help from an upgraded turbo impeller, amongst other things) for a total of 190 kW/650 N.m, as well as uprated springs and shocks, and new discs and pads on the front brakes. Inside, Roush adds revised leather seats that look different to the standard units thanks to a honeycomb-like stitching pattern.

There is no denying the Roush Ranger RS3 appears imposing and demands attention on the road (especially when it’s painted black and you spot those additional LED elements in your rear-view mirror). It stands 35 mm higher, too, thanks to new springs at the front and revised dampers all-round.

Apart from our standard road-test procedure, we completed more than a thousand kilometres in the Roush through the Karoo on a variety of tarmac and gravel roads. To make it more interesting, we took along our Amarok V6 long-termer as a point of comparison (as we did when we tested the Mercedes-Benz X250d).
Roush Ford Ranger

One thing immediately stood out: the new dampers and springs afford the Ranger a more planted feel, both in a straight line and while cornering, where the body rolls noticeably less than is the case with the standard Ranger. It doesn’t come at the expense of ride comfort, either; while the RS3 can’t match the Amarok for overall comfort, it’s still one of the more comfortable leisure bakkies out there. Fortunately, despite the upgrades, the Roush RS3 can still carry a 938 kg payload.

Some of the additions are a little less successful. While the large exhaust tips are neatly integrated into the bumper and look purposeful, the sound they emit is no more than a slight amplification of the standard Ranger’s exhaust note.

On our test strip, it was clear the Roush is a faster bakkie than the Ranger 3,2, but the difference in performance may not be quite as pronounced as some buyers would hope. Whereas the standard bakkie hits 100 km/h in 11,52 seconds, the Roush manages 9,84 seconds. By comparison, the Amarok V6 is two seconds quicker. In terms of in-gear acceleration, the Roush is between 0,2 and 0,8 seconds swifter than the standard Ranger across the various 20 km/h increments.

Interestingly, the upgraded brakes made no difference during braking and our recorded times were actually worse than on the Wildtrak – a 3,21-second average versus 3,55 seconds for the Roush. The latter is 85 kg heavier but that difference should have been negated by the uprated brakes. We can only assume this test vehicle had a hard 8 000 km under its belt…



TEST SUMMARY

At R265 000 for the RS3 kit, buyers will end up paying between R809 600 and R898 500 for a full RS3 specification Roush if they choose anything from an entry-level double-cab 3,2-litre AT Ranger to a Wildtrak. This makes the RS3 an expensive proposition compared with the Amarok V6, which is both more rounded and substantially quicker.

Those are practical considerations, however. Add emotional draw and the Roush Ranger RS3's over-the-top looks play a large part in boosting its appeal. To that end - and to keep the price at more palatable levels - we'd opt only for the aggressive body kit on the RS1.

*From the July 2018 issue of CAR magazine