Ford Motor Co. will debut its redesigned Ranger small truck, which will be sold in more than 100 international markets except North America, at next month’s Geneva auto show.

The global pickup is built at Ford’s AutoAlliance International Inc. plant in Pleukdang, Thailand, which is a joint venture with Mazda Motor Corp.

Ford sources the North American version of the Ranger from its Twin Cities, MN, plant, which was slated for closure this year but has been granted a reprieve through 2011. Once Twin Cities is shuttered, there is speculation Ford will bring the global model to North America, although officials remain mum on future plans. U.S. import tax on light trucks is a steep 25%.

The truck boasts new interior and exterior designs, which Ford says makes it a “credible lifestyle choice.” Available with a choice of 2- or 4-wheel drive, the Ranger gets Ford’s signature 3-bar horizontal grille and large wraparound headlamps. The lower front bumper receives integrated fog lamps.

Designers paid particular attention to the pickup’s aerodynamic properties, conducting extensive wind-tunnel testing. This led to a more tapered front end and a modified shape of the side-view mirrors to reduce air turbulence and wind noise.

The new Ranger comes in three body styles: single cab; double cab; and a rear-access panel (RAP) cab, which is a 4-door system that provides easy access to the cabin via two forward-hinged doors and two rear-hinged access panels. A chassis cab version also is available in single- or RAP-cab configurations.

The truck offers four trim levels, from the base XL to the range-topping Wildtrak, with the XLT and Limited versions slotted in between.

Inside, the Ranger receives extensive upgrades, including ergonomically crafted seats, climate control and an MP3-compatible audio system.

Additionally, the body shell was engineered to isolate road noise from the cabin. “Minimizing NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) in all of our products is a key target for us,” says Henrik Nenzen, Ford of Europe’s director of commercial vehicle marketing and sales. “(The) Ranger is no exception to this, and the new model is more comfortable than ever.”

Two versions of Ford’s Duratorq TDCi turbodiesel inline 4-cyl engines will be offered in the new Ranger. These include a 2.5L and 3.0L., which make 145 hp and 243 lb.-ft. (330 Nm) of torque, and 156 hp and 280 lb.-ft. (380 Nm), respectively.

The diesels can be mated to either a 5-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. Both engines boast a towing capacity of 6,614 lbs. (3,000 kg).

Joining the Ranger in Geneva is the final version of the high-performance Focus RS, the fastest production car ever built by Ford of Europe. Marking the return of the RS nameplate after a 6-year hiatus, Ford says the Focus RS combines “bespoke engineering, design and aerodynamics with the inherent practicality of the (base) Focus.”

The Focus RS is powered by a 2.5L turbocharged Duratec 4-cyl. engine producing 296 hp and 325 lb.-ft. (440 Nm) of torque and mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. To differentiate the mill from the less-powerful Focus ST, the RS powertrain boasts a new intake and exhaust system and a larger turbocharger that produces 35% more power than the ST, Ford says.

“We’ve cut no corners in the development of the Focus RS engine,” says Len Urwin, powertrain manager. Ford says the Focus RS can sprint to 62 mph (100 km/h) in a scant 5.9 seconds and has a top speed of 163 mph (263 km/h).

The Focus RS during testing posted the fastest speed ever at Ford of Europe’s handling circuit at Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium, besting even the Ford GT supercar, the auto maker says.

To enhance driving dynamics, the RS features a new suspension technology dubbed “RevoKnuckle.” In place of the of the normal 1-piece suspension knuckle, RevoKnuckle has two separate pieces – one part fixed to the strut and another that rotates with the steering line of the car.

Ford says RevoKnuckle afforded engineers greater flexibility to tune the car’s suspension geometry to minimize torque steer, a problem commonly associated with high-powered front-wheel-drive vehicles.

The car’s exterior builds on the standard Focus shape, which is based on Ford of Europe’s kinetic design language, but adds a front air splitter and rear spoiler to moderate front- and rear- end lift. During wind-tunnel testing, the RS generated more than 26% more down-force than the Focus ST, yet retained a drag coefficient of just 0.38.

The interior of the RS features Recaro high-performance front seats and sculpted rear seats, making it a “genuine” 4-seat vehicle, Ford says.

The auto maker further accentuates the car’s sportiness with a 3-spoke steering wheel, short-throw gear shifter, aluminum foot pedals and three additional gauges, including turbo pressure, that sit atop the center console and are angled toward the driver.

“(The) Focus RS was an opportunity to take kinetic design into a new, ultra-performance area, where form is much more dependent on function,” says Martin Smith, executive design director for Ford of Europe, Asia/Pacific and Africa. “To me, this RS maximizes the potential of (the) Focus and defines a new generation of the iconic RS brand.”

The Focus RS will be built at Ford’s Saarlouis, Germany, assembly plant.

bpope@wardsauto.com