These days, Fake Ford Ranger Raptor kits are as popular as political scandals. But there are exceptions to the rule. . . like this 200kW Ford Ranger MS-RT. This one is the real McCoy, all the way from M-Sport – the same company that builds Ford’s world rally championship Fiesta. We took the MS-RT, which is now on sale in SA, for a spin.
The company M-Sport may not be familiar to readers who are not into the World Rally and circuit racing scenes. So some background first. Malcolm Wilson’s motorsport career started more than 20 years ago; he’s a former British rally champion and a World Rally Championship driver. He’s spent the majority of his rally days in Fords, and was the company’s official test and development driver. He was instrumental in creating the (short-lived) Group B Ford RS200, for one. After he retired from competitive driving duties, he went on to manage the Ford World Rally team through his M-Sport company, based in Britain. Over the years, the company has been one of the most successful on the World Rally scene, bagging numerous wins and titles. M-Sport has been involved in other forms of motorsport, too. Notable is their current partner-ship with Bentley, with a fleet of Continental GT3 V8s competing in no less than 90 GT races across the globe last year. This includes both factory and privateer teams.
The company also builds 600 horsepower Ford Fiestas for teams in the Global RallyCross (GRC) Championship. Clients include the infamously sideways Ken Block. That’s just some perspective behind M-Sport, and the company’s chief, Malcolm Wilson. What on earth does this rally legend have to do with the Ford Ranger you see on these pages? Well, it seems that Mr Wilson realised the potential of the aftermarket Ford accessory and go-faster market, and he’s expanded his operations to cover this, too. M-Sport, in collaboration with vehicle styling specialists Van-Sport, offers aftermarket packages on the Ranger, as well as the Transit Custom and Transit Connect vans. Here in South Africa, Centurion-based Laz Performance has secured the local franchise for the M-Sport Ranger package called M-Sport Road Technology, or MS-RT for short. The upgrade is currently pending Ford Motor Company South Africa sanction. We’ll get to pricing a bit later. Let’s first look at what the MS-RT package is all about.
Now you see it. Now you don’t
Clearly there are some cosmetic upgrades fitted. The front bumper is replaced with a rather expansive version with built-in, vertical daytime running light strips that have a bit of a “you want to dance with me, punk?” look and feel about it. In fact, from the side it looks a bit like a storm trooper helmet (from Star Wars). It really transforms the front-end of the Ranger and it certainly earned a lot of attention on the road as other motorists craned their necks to try and make out why on earth this Ranger looks the way it does. There is also a bonnet-lip pack fitted. At the front, the new look is rounded off with a special aluminium bash plate. There are the obligatory side arch extensions that house special MS-RT 18-inch rims shod with Pirelli Scorpion ATR 275/65 R18 all-terrain tyres. The rear bumper is also unique, and comes with a two huge exhaust pipes peering through the bumper (the exhaust is a custom unit).
A black tailgate spoiler and light guards round off the unique look for the tail. Black side-steps, black roll-over bar, black… well, everything on this bakkie is black, really, in a comprehensive de-chroming exercise. The cabin gets some unique treatment. The standard steering wheel is comprehensively remodelled and features a flat-bottom, thick-rimmed design, covered in luxurious leather with blue stitching. The same goes for the seat design… it’s classy, upmarket and a very exclusive affair. Even the gear lever cover is decked out in the good stuff with the blue stitching. The Ranger’s floors are rounded off with MS-RT rubber mats, also with a blue finish. However, it’s what happens under the bespoke skin that will matter more to the purists, and the motorsport fans. M-Sport has added a 45mm suspension lift with an Aussie Pedders suspension upgrade. This includes Pedders Sports-Ryder coil-over shocks in the front, and Pedders TrakRyder shocks in the back.
In European markets, the M-Sport Ranger 4×4 is sold with the stock 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel engine. So it has 147kW and 470Nm of torque. Local customers have this option, too. How-ever, Laz Performance has a remedy for customers who want to take their Ranger MS-RT’s performance to the next level. For an additional R70 000, they will add an uprated performance intercooler, performance exhaust, a Unichip with five driving modes, and a hybrid turbocharger upgrade. These modifications raise the power to a massive 200kW, and the torque to 650Nm. Blimey! Because the drivetrain upgrade falls outside Ford’s official parameters, Laz Performance throws in a three-year/60 000km comprehensive drivetrain warranty as part of the deal. The test unit you see on these pages is fitted with the upgraded engine.
Hold on, and let’s go for a drive
The first thing that gets you when you slide in behind the custom MS-RT steering wheel is the smell of the bespoke leather cabin. It’s a smell of class. Comparing this cabin to that of a standard Ford Ranger with cloth seats would be like comparing a Bentley Continental interior with that of an Audi A1. It’s just a different level of quality and feel. The next thing that makes your heart skip a beat is the touch of that thick-rimmed steering wheel. Again, it feels like it belongs in something like a Ferrari 488 Italia; and not a bakkie made in Silverton, Pretoria. Turn the ignition key and… well, there’s no loud boom from the huge tail pipes. Instead, the 200kW five-cylinder mills ticks over in a surprisingly quiet and subdued fashion. Hook ‘Drive’ and squeeze the accelerator, gently.
Getting off the line without getting the traction control system to activate to prevent wheel spin proves tricky at first (but you get used to modulating the throttle pretty quickly). When you squeeze the accelerator very little, initially happens. Then, suddenly, there’s the shove as the torque arrives. Bucket loads of it. And that’s when the traction control earns its keep. On the road, the sound effects are not dramatic. In the plush cabin, it’s all very smart and refined. Press on though, and the 3.2-litre engine blasts through the revs, seemingly more keen to rev than the standard five-cylinder diesel mill. The torque is really the big game changer. You hardly have to floor the accelerator. Just add a bit more accelerator to the deal, even at very low revs, and the MS-RT shoots forward. Does it feel massively fast in a straight line? Like a sports car?
No, not so much. But where it does feel fast and very much like a sports car is in the corners. With the trick suspension you can throw this Ranger into corners at crazy speeds. It will just stick to the line, with little body roll. That lovely steering wheel feels perfectly weighted when you press on, too. It’s not so much the outright speed of this Ford Ranger MS-RT that is so impressive, but rather the ability of this bakkie to cover terrain (from smooth tar to rough gravel) very rapidly. The handling, the mountains of torque that allow you to blast out of corners as fast as a new VW Golf GTI, and the feel of the thing. It really sets
a new benchmark for dynamics for a double cab bakkie. Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport, in combination with Laz Performance, has created a really eye-catching machine that not only looks the part, but goes the part, too.
Lest it be unclear: this is a pukka 4×4, too. It has a transfer gearbox, rear differential lock and all kinds of off-road driving party tricks. Yes, theoretically you can drive the MS-RT over rocks, through rivers and so on. We stuck to gravel and tar, preferring not to run the risk of damaging those exclusive 18-inch rims. What we did do – and we’ve never done this with a turbodiesel bakkie before – was to take it on a typical breakfast run route. Driving on this route, we
happened upon a Range Rover Sport, powered by a supercharged V8 engine. It was quite obvious the driver was intrigued by the look of our Ranger. When we stopped next to him at a stop street, and with some wide open road ahead, well, we decided to see how fast our Ranger really is. Yes, the Rover, puffs of white smoke billowing from the four exhausts, managed to slowly pull away from us. But not nearly as much as its driver expected it would. In fact, it was quite entertaining observing his nervous peeks in the rear-view mirror, watching the Ford just about keeping up with the supercharged V8 SUV. This Ranger is FUN!
How much? How much?
Okay, so a new Ford Ranger 3.2TDCi XLT 4×4 double cab AT will set you back R588 900. The complete M-Sport MS-RT package costs R235 000. That includes everything: from the bespoke interior to the Pedders suspension to the performance exhaust. The 200kW engine upgrade will set you back a further R70 000. The grand total, for the vehicle as tested here, amounts to R893 900. That’s R900k for a double cab bakkie. Yes, it is a lot of money, but consider the pedigree of the M-Sport upgrade, the impact of 650Nm of torque, the feel of the steering wheel, the smell of the cabin, the exclusivity the MS-RT badge affords. Then a few hundred thousand rand here or there probably won’t bother well-heeled enthusiasts too much. There are some alternatives. You don’t necessarily require a high-end 3.2TDCi 4×4 model: the R235 000 M-Sport package can be fitted to the 2.2TDCi, too. Neither is the R70 000 engine upgrade a must. However, this MS-RT is the real McCoy. The real M-Sport deal. And without that 200kW, we reckon it just wouldn’t be quite as epic as this bakkie proved to be.
Ford Ranger 3.2TDCi 4×4 AT MS-RT
Engine Five-cylinder turbodiesel
Displacement 3 198ccc
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Consumption 11.4 litres/100km
Fuel tank capacity 80 litres
Price (as tested) R893 900
More information: lazperformance.co.za; Tel: 086 115 3927
Photographs: GG van Rooyen