Utes are mainstream vehicles nowadays, and so buyers like options that will help their rig stand out in the crowd. Here’s one that’s fit for the All Blacks, with added power to boot.
Utes are big right now. Not only physically but they are selling them faster than politicians are resigning. Already this year there are some 24,000 new utes roaming the streets, highways and back country roads. That’s plenty of trucks, and there’s a generous appetite among buyers for something extra too. There are now all manner of special editions, and you can add to the list this one from CTB Performance.
Along with its blacked out treatment this one also features a tune up for the 3.2-litre inline five, blessing it with even more easy going grunt. A reflash of the PCM (powertrain control module) mixes the ones and zeroes around to unlock more of the engine’s hidden potential. It’s a custom programme from Streetfighter in Australia and the Ranger is then fine-tuned with a dyno run, so it’s more than just a plug-and-play job. This is claimed to liberate a further 20 per cent more power and torque from the five-potter and there’s also the pledge of an improvement in fuel consumption of up to 10 per cent. We guess this works on the theory that with more torque, there’s less need to massage the throttle pedal so vigorously.
The tune-up lifted this particular Ranger with the six-speed auto from 98kW measured at the rear wheels to 119kW, while the standard rear-wheel torque of 450Nm is improved to 550Nm. These are calculated estimates of course given the mind-boggling nature of torque multiplication on the rolling road dyno. The exhaust system is new from the particulate filter back, which doesn’t alter the note of the engine but rather it helps with regulating the boost levels. The only other change is a replacement K&N filter in the standard airbox.
This tune costs $2242 and you can add it to any Ranger, though the older, pre-Euro 5 model doesn’t make quite so much of a gain in the torque stakes.
Our drive of the truck gave the impression that there’s more torque for better in-gear pull, it rolled on nicely in fifth for instance from 80km/h. We performance tested this, but the results were stymied somewhat thanks to the fitment of much larger rolling stock than the standard issue. These massive mud pluggers look the business but also alter the final drive, effectively giving the Ranger taller gearing, while adding to the rolling resistance. So this Ranger was only marginally faster than the last XLT we timed at 10.2sec to 100km/h with the 80-120 taking 7.6sec. It does feel stronger up top though, a little more willing to keep spinning past 3500rpm, but the torque at low to middling revs gives the traction control a harder time. We ended up switching the TC off, which still leaves the ESP on duty but you’re no longer having the electronics thwart progress, especially on gravel.
The 285/50R20 tyres are a sticking point. On a blacked out rig like this they form part of the aesthetic, but they come with a trade-off. There is the aforementioned final drive issue, (this Ranger reading 101km/h at an indicated 100) and also a lack of feel on road. These are wide, and so lend plenty of grip on dry tarmac, and while they don’t move around on those big tread blocks, they rob feel, especially when you’re nearing the grip limits; they hold on well up to a point, and then start to let go quite quickly. They are surprisingly quiet however.
The rest of the truck is all about the look. All the chrome work on this XLT supercab has been painted black, save for the badges. They’ve added a few details like darkened rear tail lights, window tints and the black roof racks, while inside all the silver bits of the interior have been painted black too. The truck now rides a little higher thanks to a new spring which brings the front up by 40mm.
The headlights now feature LED technology to bring brighter illumination. Some folk reckon the Ranger has poor headlight performance for rural driving, and so this upgrade addresses that, swapping the conventional bulbs for Philips LED technology, along with the associated electronics to ensure they don’t throw up a problem code on the dash. The LED package costs $575 and can be purchased separately.
The Armory wheels are exclusive to CTB for this package. The firm admits they are a polarising design but there’s also scope to alter the wheel and tyre package if you’re of the belief that they look like they are off a forklift. And you don’t have to opt for a black ute either; it would look pretty good in white with the all the black details.
The package can be bought in various stages straight from your Ford dealer. The Stage One kit is $8740 for the wheels and 275/50R20 tyres, flares, LED lights, the exterior blackout treatment and graphics, floor mats and a low volume vehicle cert (for the wider wheels). Stage Two adds the engine tune, filter and exhaust, roof racks, tints, and tail lights, the springs, wider 285/50R20 tyres along with the black-out interior treatment and costs a further $5313. The upgrade is available for XL and XLT models. The issue of warranty is always a curly one with these upgrades but CTB Performance says if something goes wrong, the problem will be diagnosed and sorted by either Ford NZ or CTB themselves.
The company is also considering a Stage Three package which would involve upping the cylinder count with the fitment of a V8. Sam Bakalich from CTB Performance says that, in theory at least, it would all fit. “There will be a few little issues that we haven’t thought about, but through our friends at Ford Performance in Detroit, we can buy all the components we need to make it happen.”
Theoretically speaking it would retain the four-wheel drive system and the same auto gearbox, as the transmission in the Ranger is very similar to that used in the Mustang, complete with the same bellhousing, and so it would snuggle up nicely to a Coyote 5.0-litre V8.
Bakalich says they have been gauging people’s interest in such a truck, especially Ford dealers who are rightly apprehensive about the cost. Bakalich suggests it would easily be in the $90,000 range. “If I find someone who says they want it, we’ll dive into it and work it out.” So if anyone’s keen, drop him a line. We’d certainly be interested to follow the progress of that project. And then of course there would have to be a Stage Four supercharged option.