Silverton, Gauteng - Ford’s Ranger Raptor is only due to go on sale in South Africa during the first half of 2019, but preparation for its production at the Silverton plant outside Pretoria is already at an advanced stage, with the first 10 trial units having rolled off the assembly line recently.

These first units form part of the “Tooling Trials” build-up phase, which follows 18 months of extensive upgrades and modifications to the local plant in preparation for the upgraded Ranger and Everest models that will be launched next year.

At the heart of the Raptor is a brand new 2-litre twin-turbodiesel engine that kicks out 157kW and 500Nm, and which is mated to a 10-speed automatic gearbox.

Although many fans have cried out for a bigger and more powerful engine, Ford insists that the Raptor is more about going fast off the beaten track than simply dominating on tarmac.

To that end, the Raptor rides 45mm higher than regular 4x4 Rangers, with a ground clearance of 283mm, and hits the trail running with Fox off-road shock absorbers, featuring Position Sensitive Damping, as well as a Terrain Management System, bespoke BF Goodrich tyres and an all-disc braking system.

Widened fenders, modified off-road bumpers and a block-letter Ford grille distinguish it from humbler Rangers - or at least those that haven’t swung past the local spares shop.

The new 2-litre twin-turbo diesel - which is built locally - will also find its way into other Ranger models, although the current 2.2 and 3.2 engines will soldier on too.

“We continue to invest in our local operations to meet growing demand for the Ranger, and are currently introducing new equipment on the assembly line to improve the handling of the chassis turn-over, adding incremental buffers in the Trim, Chassis and Final line as well as new shipping conveyors in the Fitment Centre,” said Ford’s Operations VP Ockert Berry.

“This is an additional R160-million investment in readiness for our expanded production capacity, commencing early next year.”

IOL Motoring