As of right now, Ford Ranger buyers can equip their mid-size pickups with any engine they want, so long as it’s the 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline four. No one has really complained about this state of affairs, and why would they? The smaller turbocharged mill that’s part of the Ford EcoBoost family of engines produces a very healthy 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. But in the hyper-competitive world that is the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), competitors need all the power they can get. So The Blue Oval has teamed up with Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) to build the world’s first turbocharged FIA-class Ford Ranger, which is powered by the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6.
Set to make its debut in the second half of the season, the all-new FIA-class Ford Ranger was originally announced back in February. But at that time, we knew little about the cross country racer, including what exactly would power it. It’s also likely that Ford wasn’t quite sure either. But after the FIA changed their regulations earlier this year, allowing turbocharged gasoline engines in the competition, that decision was likely a very easy one to make.
Of course, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost in the new FIA-class Ford Ranger is, at its heart, the same engine that powers both the Raptor and Ford GT. But in this application, it’s controlled by a fully programmable MOTEC electronic engine management system. The engine also breathes through twin air filters, and utilizes dual intercoolers to keep underhood temperatures down. But perhaps the most unique thing about the boosted six in the cross country racing Ranger is how Ford positioned it in the chassis.
The current FIA-class Ford Ranger utilizes a 5.0L V8 derived from the Mustang’s legendary Coyote engine mounted in a traditional front-mounted layout. The 3.5 EcoBoost V6, on the other hand, is mid-mounted well behind the front axle.
“By moving the engine back, we achieve far better weight distribution, which will dramatically improve the balance and handling of the vehicle, particularly over rough terrain and jumps,” explained NWM team principal Neil Woolridge. “The compact dimensions of the V6 engine has enabled us to optimize the layout even further than what would have been possible with the larger V8, and it’s also lighter, which helps us reduce the overall weight of the new vehicle by 330 pounds.”
Ford stopped short of providing actual power numbers for the racing-spec Ranger’s 3.5, but did note that it produces a “significant increase” in torque over the outgoing, naturally-aspirated V8. To handle that extra power, the new engine is backed up by a SADEV SC924 Evo six-speed sequential gearbox based on the transmission used by many World Rally Championship teams. Additionally, the FIA-class Ford Ranger utilizes permanent four-wheel-drive with newly lightened differentials, as well as a fully-independent suspension.
After eight months of development, the clean-sheet designed FIA-class Ford Ranger is in the process of being built at the NWM team’s workshop in Pietermaritzburg, although the build is currently on hold due to the nationwide coronavirus lockdown. But you can bet that once things get cooking again, this new racer will be a worthy successor to the V8-powered Rangers that won back-to-back SACCS Class T titles in 2018 and 2019.