Ford Ranger Tech: Reaching New Heights With Icon Vehicle Dynamics
As the off-road industry grows and changes, with OEMs now offering “off-road ready” trim levels of existing models, one thing will always remain true. People will always modify their suspension. For companies like Icon Vehicle Dynamics in Corona, California, this premise has been a basis for their existence since day one. Unlike many off-road suspension manufacturers, Icon does it all. From control arms, to leaf springs, shocks and bump stops, Icon produces nearly every part needed to beef up the suspension components of your modern truck or SUV. So it came as little surprise to us at King of the Hammers this year when we found out they had their hands on a 2019 Ford Ranger and had already developed a suspension system around it.
The Ford Ranger was once considered the workhorse of the domestic mid-size market. Running on a mostly unchanged platform, with a few facelifts, the model had fallen behind its Japanese competition like the Toyota Tacoma that, unlike the Ranger, is offered in a crew cab configuration. Ford took the Ranger out of the U.S. market in 2012 for seven years, enjoying success in international markets on the Ranger’s new platform. In 2019, Ford introduced an all-new, redesigned Ranger, targeting consumers who are in the market for a crew cab, short bed mid-sized truck. The aftermarket quickly reacted to the new offering from Ford, as product development began as soon it was available to the public.
In just a matter of weeks, Icon Vehicle Dynamics began test fitting and designing suspension components for the all-new Ranger. Dylan Evans, Design Engineer at Icon, told us how they started designing their kits for the 2019 Ranger. “When we heard the Ranger was coming back to the U.S., we ordered one as soon as we could. We then worked with LGE and Custom Truck Shop on their SEMA truck, which they received just three weeks before the SEMA show. Working with SEMA, we were able to get all the CAD data from the Ranger to build prototypes of our products before we ever even saw the truck. This was a huge leg up, and the parts bolted right on when we finally had the truck in our hands.”
Since the SEMA show, Evans and the rest of the Icon team have spent their time further developing their products on their own Ranger. We were able to get a close-up look at the new truck and Icon’s products on it at KOH this year. This particular truck has an Icon Vehicle Dynamics Stage 2 suspension system, which includes 2.5-inch adjustable coilovers with internal reservoirs, a billet upper control arm that is adjustable for precise alignment and 2.0-inch rear shocks with internal reservoirs. The front suspension was adjusted to be leveled with the rear of the truck. As with many of Icon’s other vehicle specific kits, the 2019 and up Ranger kits will be tiered in stages, from mild to wild. Some of the next stages they are developing will include larger rear shocks, rear leaf springs, remote reservoir shocks and coilovers, tubular steel upper control arms and Icon’s compression dampening control (CDC) valves.
When asked about any design difficulties or quirks around the new Ranger chassis, Evans explained some of the similarities and differences between the current truck market and Ford’s new platform. “While the Ranger’s front suspension architecture is very analogous to the Tacoma, consisting of a tall spindle with upper and lower control arms, front mounted tie rods ends and a frame mounted coil bucket, certain elements to the Ranger make it very different,” Evans explained. “Ford designed this truck with a very high offset factory wheel. There’s barely enough room for your pinky finger between the spindle and stock tire. This, combined with factory bolt-in crash impact horns in front and behind the tire limit the size to about a 265.” Evans told us they removed these bolt-in impact horns on their vehicle in order to fit a 285/70/17 Nitto Ridge Grappler in the wheel well, which is paired well with the leveled suspension of the truck.
While Icon is known for their suspension systems, they also offer their own line of aftermarket wheels, called Icon Alloys, which were featured on this Ranger. “Although Ford adopted the international 6x5.5 bolt-pattern, the new Ranger calls for such a high offset wheel that we had to make our own prototype wheel to fit on the truck. Most wheels that would fit a Toyota or Chevy with the same bolt pattern would not fit on the Ranger, due to the need for a high-offset,” Evans said. Icon is in the process of producing wheels specifically for the 2019 Ford Ranger offset, which will pair well with their suspension systems.
We asked Evans about his personal impression of the all-new Ford Ranger, and if he thinks the truck lends itself to an enthusiast based market who will modify it much like the Toyota Tacoma. “I’m very impressed with this new Ranger. The 2.3L Ecoboost provides plenty of power, the 10-speed transmission shifts smooth and doesn’t hunt for gears like the newer Tacoma, the suspension lends itself to modification and it’s a comfortable vehicle both on and off-road,” said Evans.
With the ever-growing popularity of off-road recreation, and a market that’s hungry for more mid-size truck competition, the Ford Ranger finds itself situated in a pivotal place and time. With little threat of big changes from Toyota, Ford is positioned to rival the long-time mid-size king. Surely, it’s no secret that Icon Vehicle Dynamics is among the top-tier of suspension companies, and we’re excited to see the full spread of components they’re developing for the 2019 Ford Ranger.