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’?

Tickford Ford Ranger Front Side Jpg
Gallery4

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
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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
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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
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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.

 

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