You'd be forgiven for mistaking the present U.S. market Ford Ranger for one from the Ronald Reagan era -- which is exactly why the new global version has truck fans crying foul over Ford's decision not to bring the all-new Ranger here.

In a segment accustomed to lengthy product cycles, any major introduction is cause for huzzahs and scrutiny. The 2012 Ranger, designated T6, has sheetmetal completely unlike its predecessor. The smoothed-out, modern exterior styling would undoubtedly be alien in our market, where sharp and boxy designs dominate before they even reach the drawing boards. Ford's contemporary three-bar grille and front fender decoration give the Ranger a distinct presence. It has grown to about 90 percent of the F-150's size, effectively throwing this truck into the midsize classification. In fact, the new Ranger's size is essentially the main reason why Ford has decided not to bring it here.

Inside, the Ranger will accommodate the working crew with a hose-down interior. Lifestyle drivers are presented with more upscale appointments, but all seats, panels, and materials have undergone rigorous testing to ensure durability, according to Ford.

New engines lack the sheer power ratings and cylinder counts of the 2011 F-150 V-6 and V-8 offerings but serve up some grunt of their own. The base engine is a 2.5-liter Duratec inline-four putting out 164 horsepower and capable of running pure ethanol (E100). Two small diesels, another concept foreign in the U.S. truck market, will be available via either a 2.2-liter four-cylinder (148 horsepower, 277 pound-feet of torque) or 3.2-liter straight-five (197 horsepower, 347 pound-feet). Trucks are among the few reliable vehicle classes for those in search of a manual transmission, and the global Ranger has both a five- and six-speed boxes alongside a six-speed automatic.

Following the traditional truck formula is a key selling point for new and returning customers, and the Ranger doesn't deviate. Future Web configurators will have the regular, extended, and crew cabs, plus a selection of rear- and four-wheel drive. The cab and box hides a new chassis frame, steering system, and suspension specially developed and tuned in the noted pickup haven of Australia. Front double A-arms with coils on struts, rear leaf springs, and two ride heights help with wheel travel and articulation, while damper valving and spring rates are finely adjusted per the truck's weight and setup. The braking system utilizes 11.9 x 1.3-inch brake rotors and twin-piston calipers up front; the rears get drums.

Overall efficiency was heavily stressed during development, particularly through the search for better fuel economy. Engineers changed the fuel pump and improved aerodynamics by re-sculpting the front fenders and modifying the front airdam's profile to reduce pressure buildup beneath the truck. The always-important towing and payload ratings haven't been released yet, but Ford claims the new Ranger can carry up to 3300 pounds with its top-spec models. Upcoming gross vehicle weight and gross combined weight ratings will tell the true tale of the truck's performance capabilities.

The new Ranger will be sold in 180 markets around the world, but not in ours. With Ford unwilling to commit its latest workhorse to the U.S., we will never know whether this thorough redesign was truly the key to jump-starting the compact/midsize truck segment's sluggish heartbeat.

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