Rack ‘em up.
Select 2023 Ford Ranger variants will be available with the Blue Oval’s Flexible Rack System (FRS).
Developed by a team of Ford Australia engineers in collaboration with JAC Products, the set-up – patents pending – can be used to carry everything from timber to surfboards and bicycles.
The FRS consists of a Sliding Load Rack and a Folding Roof Rack, and allows owners to load items to span the length of both the tub and the vehicle’s roof.
The Sliding Load Rack can be operated by one person and slid along a C-shaped channel mounted to the top of the tub sidewalls and locked into one of five preset locations.
Unlocking it on one side automatically releases it on the other side, allowing the hoop to slide easily in the rails.
The feature employs four roller bearings plus retractable stabilisers to ensure it moves easily when unlocked but remains solidly in place when locked in position. Drain holes mean you can wash it clean with a hose.
The static load limit is 250kg, while the dynamic load limit – both on- and off-road – is 80kg.
A pop-up crossbar increases the height of the loading platform to match the Folding Roof Racks, which feature crossbars that can be adjusted into two different positions or stowed away when the roof rails aren’t being used.
Ford hasn’t confirmed which Rangers will offer the FRS or how much it will cost.
“The Flexible Rack System redefines how customers can use their Next-Gen Ranger and is just another example of Ford’s ingenious design features on Next-Gen product,” said senior engineer Nik Tibhuvan of Ford Australia Special Vehicle Engineering.
“Both can be operated easily by one person and have been put through a lot of the same durability testing as Ranger itself.”
Ford identified the need for such an option after conducting customer clinics with ute owners.
“We learned from our customers that they would load things like canoes into the load box and then lean them up against the sports hoop before tying them down. This was awkward and meant the load box couldn’t really be used for storing anything else a customer might want to take with them,” said Ford Ranger application specialist Danny Trentin.
“We also learned of their frustrations when it came to carrying items of longer lengths. With an 80-kilogram dynamic load limit, the Flexible Rack System eliminates those frustrations.”
Ford says it has extensively torture-tested the FRS, subjecting it to many of the same durability tests as the Ranger itself while also testing it with fragile loads across a variety of surfaces.
“We tested the system with bulldust, red dirt, salt and water, to replicate the sort of real-world grit and muck owners will encounter,” said Mr Tribhuvan.
Ford says once it was covered in filth, its engineers cycled the Sliding Load Rack more than 3500 times to replicate approximately 10 years of use.
Earlier this month, Ford released pricing and specifications for the 2023 Ranger line-up.
Pricing has increased by up to $1300, depending on the variant.
The flagship Ranger Raptor now receives a new $3500 power roller shutter option, as well as a plastic drop-in bedliner.
All Ranger XLT and Sport variants now come standard with an integrated trailer brake controller, while XL cab-chassis variants now come standard with a rear-view camera, like the rest of the range.
There’s a new $500 optional wheel pack for the Ranger Wildtrak which adds 20-inch machined-face alloy wheels, wrapped in all-season tyres.
The optional Touring Pack, which is available on XLT pickup and Sport models, is now $395 more expensive at $1295 and includes a cargo management system and auxiliary switch bank.
The XLT cab-chassis variants also receive a standalone option for the auxiliary switch bank which costs $250.
The optional Wildtrak Premium pack is now $350 more expensive at $1850, with no changes in terms of spec, and prestige paint which is $25 more at $700.