Ford's new Ranger Raptor won't just be sporty, it will also boast more off-road capability than any previous model offered in Australia.
The high-performance version of Ford's best-selling ute is claimed to be a genuine Ford Performance product in line with the highly-regarded Ford Focus RS along with America's F-150 Raptor, Mustang GT350 and Ford GT trio.
Unlike the recent Toyota HiLux TRD, which featured little more than a red skid plate and black wheels to seperate it from regular models, the Ranger Raptor will benefit from significant upgrades to its engine and suspension hardware to earn its place in the Ford Performance lineup.
Ford spokesman Damion Smy says the upcoming model will earn its place in the brand's performance line-up.
"There is an ability and capability and a product identity that has to fit with the Ford Performance brand," Smy said.
"Because this is a Ford Performance product it has to meet that standard."
The Australian-led Ranger Raptor development team must meet performance goals set by the Blue Oval's Detroit headquarters.
Ford has not confirmed engine specifications for the model, which, as revealed exclusively by Drive, is expected to feature more power than the regular model's 147kW output from a smaller 2.0-litre twin-turbo four cylinder turbo diesel.
A revised automatic transmission may also arrive, with Ford USA's 10-speed torque converter auto likely to be high on the Australian arm's wishlist.
No cars in the existing Ford Performance range offer a choice of transmission, suggesting the ultimate Ranger may only be available as an automatic proposition proving more popular with high-end ute customers.
The machine will also be the first car sold in Australia that meets Ford's internal "Level Four" class for off-road ability, elevating it well beyond existing models such as the Ranger Wildtrak and Everest.
Speaking with Drive on a Tasmanian test of the latest Ford Everest, senior engineer Richard Woolley says the high-performance Raptor's off-road chops reach beyond high-speed rally-style running.
"I've spent about 45,000 kms behind the wheel in low-speed off-road conditions and it's very capable," he says.
"It will be more capable in terms of [suspension] articulation - it will lend itself to being more capable off road.
"That vehicle also has a different footprint in terms of the tyres that are on it."
The Raptor is expected to use a more sophisticated suspension system than regular Ranger models, potentially building on the coil-sprung rear end of the locally-developed Everest wagon.
Following the emotional closure of Ford's local manufacturing plant in 2016, Woolley says the Raptor project is a significant source of pride for engineering staff who remain with the company.
"Everyone is pumped," he says.
"It's a lift. When I look around you can tell who is connected to Ranger - everyone has a walk about them.
"We are doing so many exciting things with it."