Sit down, strap in, hold on! SA’s bakkie makers are arming for war.

South Africa is on the brink of perhaps its biggest bakkie war yet. With Ford ready to release Raptor and then New Ranger, Toyota preparing to defend its Hilux crown and Volkswagen set to release new Amarok, top end bakkie buyers have never had it so good. Best of all, all of them will be built right here in sunny South Africa.


Ford GT biturbo V6 Ranger Raptor leads the charge

Leading the charge is perhaps the most exciting new bakkie to hit South Africa in a decade at least. Ford’s second-generation Ranger Raptor is what the whole world has been waiting for. Substantially more powerful than before. It now packs a ‘rowdy’ 295 kW 583 Nm 3-litre biturbo petrol V6 nicked from Ford’s Le Mans GT. Never mind, an even better chassis and beefed-up New Ranger looks.

Ford’s ultimate sports bakkie gets a race-bred anti-lag system to blast it out of a corner and the full Monty Raptor reinforced lower friction extended-travel suspension. It gets 5.5 cm live-valve Fox dampers, special mounts and a 2.3 mm-thick steel bash plate. And a new electronically controlled two-speed transfer case and locking differentials front and rear. Add seven driving modes, three for the road and four for dirt. Never mind the Raptor look. Wild!


Not to be outdone, here comes the new Hilux!

Not to be outdone, Toyota had planned to release its new 165 kW 550 Nm Hilux GR Sport midyear, but that flood fiasco has delayed it. Now expected within weeks of the Raptor and its more common Ranger kin too, you may still be able to order yours in time for your holiday. Set to be SA’s strongest four-cylinder turbodiesel bakkie, there’s more to Hilux GR-S than just more grunt and twist. Expect enhanced monotube dampers and stiffer front coil suspension for sharper, response, handling, and grip over and above its regular LS diff, Active Traction Control and more.

GR-Sport will get black Gazoo treatment from the wing mirrors to side steps and flared arches. Add a fat TOYOTA gong across the grille, darker wheels, grippy all-terrain tyres, GR trim and badges and LED headlights. We expect to see red stitched black leather and synthetic suede sports seats and aluminium sports pedals too. Add paddle shifters for that leather multifunction centre lined GR steering wheel, JBL sound and all the bells and whistles. Will it reset Auto’s hallowed quarter-century old diesel four-pot double-cab Bakkie drag strip record? Time will tell!


Reworked Ranger much better. Adds a V6 too

So that Raptor’s too much for you? Unusually, you must wait a month or so longer for the regular Rangers, but if you talk nice to your local Ford dealer, he may even be able to have yours ready for your December trek. Ford calls it Ranger 6.2, but it may as well be gen 7. New Ranger rides on a 50 mm longer wheelbase and 50 mm wider track. It makes for more space in the bay for its new 185 kW and 600 Nm turbodiesel V6. And to future-proof Ranger for tomorrow’s propulsion technologies.

Improved 132 kW 420 Nm 2 litre single and 150 kW 500 Nm biturbo diesels will continue in SA, while US Rangers carry on with the A 210 kW 415 Nm 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol four. It could come here too. More workhorse-oriented local models will likely include 2.2 4-cylinder turbo diesels and maybe even Ford’s old 3.2-litre turbodiesel 5-pot. A tech revolution inside, rest assured on improved dynamics from the reworked suspension, while a 50mm broader load box packs in a wider variety of cargo, including a full-size pallet


But what about new Amarok?

You won’t get your new Amarok for Christmas, but it shouldn’t take much longer for VW to release it. Far bigger, Amarok dresses those 96 mm longer Ranger bones on a 173 mm longer wheelbase for a far bigger cabin. They tell us blending the best of both old bakkies has improved the shared new one in every way. Being Ford based, it’s identical under the frills. Like Ford’s workhorse, 132 kW 420 Nm 2 litre single and 150 kW 500 Nm biturbo diesel four pots. And that new 185 kW 600 Nm V6. A new Ford lump, not VW’s old one.

Like Ranger, Amarok gets a choice of five and six-speed manuals, or six or 10-speed auto boxes. It will come in 4×2 and switchable, rather than permanent four-wheel drive. That 2.3-litre turbo petrol may come later. Ditto for Amarok’s Ranger-like up to 1.2 tonne payload and 3.5 tonne braked lugging capacity. The cabin may look different, but it has Rangers giant screens, digital dials, and Ford SYNC 4 software lurking in the black box. Amarok won’t look like Ranger. It will come in a double cab, a returning single cab, and likely cab and a half too.


Wait! Is Toyota sharpening the Legend?

Toyota’s 165 kW 550 Nm Hilux GR-S is only a niche model, so what about other models? Well Australia has just launched a new flagship 2023 Hilux, so it seems logical those upgrades will come here too. So being, not to be outdone by Ranger, the Hilux Legend will get a wider body to fit a 140 mm wider track and 20 mm taller ride height among its suspension tweaks to benefit both on and off-road ability. Like Ranger and Amarok, its dampers move inboard. To fit a Euro pallet in the bak? That remains to be seen.

The 2023 Hilux Legend’s rear live axle will also be broader, and like New Ranger and Amarok. Legend will not only get 17-inch front disc brakes, but also ventilated rear disc brakes. Clearly to match Ranger and Amarok there. Also expect titivations across the range, but we must wait and see if Legend also gets that new 165 kW 550 Nm GR-S turbodiesel coming anon in that new GR-S.

So, there you have it. There will be much ado about bakkies over the coming months as SA’s leading pickup trucks all come under some significant knives. It may be a very good time to go shopping for one then. Rest assured, they all want your business. Just play one off the other to be sure you get your best possible deal. Let the games begin!

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