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Fast utes: the rise of the performance 4x4 utility

By Tony O'Kane, 05 Oct 2016 Car Style

Fast utes: the rise of the performance 4x4 utility

Tickford is back to transform utes into hotrods – but are performance 4x4 utes set to become ‘a thing’?

Remember Tickford? The company that made its name tuning Ford Falcons is set to make a comeback by tuning fast utes, with a new range of Tickford-developed power-ups announced for the Ford Ranger this week.

For $7,995 Tickford will add 15 percent more power and 20 percent more torque, bringing total output for the Ranger’s 3.2-litre turbo diesel inline-five to 169kW and 564Nm.

For $1,285 more Tickford will equip a performance suspension package with Bilstein dampers, while an extra $560 will add a two-inch lift to the springs for extra ground clearance. Fancy some big wheels to go with that suspension? $4,530 will net you a set of 20-inch alloys and tyres.

Big guards, side skirts and interior trim packages are also available, and Tickford is betting big on the success of its Ford Ranger upgrade menu – which will also be supplemented by similar power-ups for the Mustang later this year.

Ford Ranger Tickford

Up until now, few manufacturers have dabbled with performance-oriented 4x4 utes – at least in Australia. Toyota is the primary exception, launching its locally-developed TRD Hilux in 2008 with a supercharged 225kW 4.0-litre petrol V6 engine. It was short-lived in the marketplace, lasting just two years before being quietly dropped.

But with large 4x4 dual-cab utes now selling in massive numbers and traditional car-based performance utes from Ford and Holden on the way out, are high-output 4x4 utilities set to become the next big thing?

Possibly, but don’t expect any V8-powered fire breathers just yet.

Ford Ranger Tickford

While the pickup-mad US market currently enjoys the 330kW F-150 Raptor, that model and its twin-turbo V6 won’t be straying from American soil anytime soon. Instead, the Blue Oval is expected to roll out the ‘Ranger Raptor’ across the globe – including Australia – in the near future.

Details are scant, but expect more power and even more torque for its 3.2-litre diesel five-pot, plus a muscular bodykit to differentiate the Ranger Raptor from regular models in the range.

Another performance ute may be offered by an unlikely entrant – Mercedes-Benz. The German luxury automaker is set to introduce its first 4x4 utility later this year in the form of the Nissan Navara-based, GLT, and AMG boss Tobias Moers hasn’t ruled out a performance-tuned version – albeit one that won’t be a full-fledged AMG variant.

A turbodiesel V6 would be the most likely powerplant for that model – if it eventuates.

Holden Colorado performance ute

Holden’s Colorado may also get a tune-up. HSV boss Tim Jackson has stated that the Clayton-based company – which normally concentrates on V8-powered Commodore derivatives – is keeping a keen eye on developments in the performance ute segment, but doesn’t have any immediate plans.

Holden may beat them to the punch, however. A 227kW/364Nm petrol V6 is presently available in the US market Chevrolet Colorado, and could be an easy fit for locally-delivered models if Holden wants to take its load-lugger down the performance path.

But while there’s plenty of potential for quicker, sportier utes, nothing has been officially announced. If the appetite is there – and the response to Tickford’s Ranger upgrades will indicate whether there is any – we can bet the world’s ute-makers will follow suit.