With technology that, until recently, was only available in premium brand vehicles, the new Ranger's specification boost is driven largely by demand for the higher trim level vehicles in all markets.
Features like Lane Keeping Assistant, Adaptive Cruise Control, Driver Impairment Monitor and Ford's voice-activated Sync 2 infotainment system, push the once humble ute well into the territory of premium passenger vehicles.
Speaking with CarAdvice in Bangkok, Ford chief SUV program engineer Ian Foston said the company's research showed that customers wanted more comfort and more features in their vehicles, while keeping the robust and capable underpinning that the body-on-frame ute provides.
"For the new Ranger, we looked at buyer trends and where the market was heading, and aimed to exceed expectations that we knew both existing and new customers would have," Foston said.
Foston noted that Ford's research backed CarAdvice's own observations that many buyers were migrating from traditional SUVs and wagons to high-specification dual-cab 4x4 utes, like the Ford Ranger XLT and Wildtrak variants.
More than 40 per cent of all Australian Ranger sales are the top-level XLT and Wildtrack models.
Small business owners can also see considerable tax benefits of buying a ute over a wagon, where 100 per cent of GST, finance interest and depreciation may be claimable.
"With this new level of equipment, Ranger will clearly be the most technologically advanced vehicle in the segment," Foston said. "It will help us not only support existing Ranger buyers but also help attract new buyers to this segment."
Foston noted that while a higher-than-Wildtrack-spec Ranger isn't on the cards in the short term, Ford wouldn't rule it out if the market demand was there.
Pricing for the new PX MkII Ranger has not yet been announced, but current Ford Ranger XLT 4x4 dual-cabs start from $51,890 (plus on-road costs).
The new Ford Ranger is expected to go on sale in Australia in the third quarter of this year.