- Limited edition Valentino Rossi pickup tested
- Bespoke design, created by MS-RT Van-Sport
- MotoGP world champion seal of approval
There are plenty of limited edition pickups with bespoke looks doing the rounds just at the moment – see the Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian SVP and Nissan Navara Trek-1° – but if you’re after something really out of the ordinary, you may be better going a little further off the beaten track.
Van-Sport is the firm behind the Ford M-Sport and MS-RT vans and pickups. Though not official Ford products, they are sold through Ford dealer groups – Hartwell in particular.
You could already buy a Ranger MS-RT (for a review or the earlier M-Sport branded version click here), but the VR46 is something even more special.
What’s the VR46 part of this Ford Ranger’s name all about?
VR46 is multiple MotoGP motorbike racing world champion Valentino Rossi’s official brand, and this Ranger – alongside the companion Transit/Tourneo Custom VR46 – has been tailored to Rossi’s own exacting specifications.
You might think this sounds unlikely, but as an example of Rossi’s personal oversight, the staff at Van-Sport were at pains to point out that they have to change the colour of all of the lower dash plastics in the Custom. Rossi really has given these vehicles his seal of approval.
The VR in the name obviously stands for his initials, while the 46 is his racing number – as we’re sure many of you will already know.
What’s special about the VR46 Ford Ranger?
It starts life as a Ranger Limited with the big 3.2-litre five-cylinder engine. Van-Sport then replaces the bumpers, swaps the suspension for heavy-duty off-road gear, dechromes the exterior, and goes to town with the accessories.
The new front bumper is painted in two stages, and incorporates Lazer LED driving lights for improved high-beam performance. The added aggression here blends seamlessly into the wheelarch extensions, beneath which you’ll find a set of bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels wearing BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres.
There’s also a unique dual-exit exhaust at the rear (actually quite tricky to do on the Euro 6 Ranger due to the position of the AdBlue tank), plus a full external rollcage, and in this case optional rocksliders.
These last (above) are a set of triangulated metal side bars that are actually designed to protect the truck during more extreme off-road manoeuvres – the clue is in the name. The rollcage is a proper job, too, and actually requires each example built to be individually type approved.
All of which goes some way to explaining the cost of the VR46 Ranger – which at £41,995 ex-VAT for the automatic is quite a bit higher even than £35,995 Ranger MS-RT Van-Sport also builds.
What about the interior of the Ranger VR46 – what’s that like?
This is also suitably made up, with intricate new nappa leather seat covers and a stylish black and yellow theme throughout. This extends to the custom steering wheel, the door cards, armrests and even the gearlever gaitor.
There’s also a special edition plaque and graphics – matching the exterior decals – plus off-road spec floor mats and tinted rear windows. We particularly like the subtle graphics on the dashboard trim ahead of the front passenger.
Buyers also get a gift pack with Valentino Rossi baseball cap, and VR46-branded key is presented in a box. Small touches, but nonetheless nice ones, that add to the sense you’re getting a product that’s beyond the norm.
As ever with Van-Sport, the quality of the finish inside is very high, lifting the otherwise quite ordinary Ranger cab considerably. The effort and attention to detail that goes into these vehicles should not be underestimated.
You also get a number of Ford factory optional extras as standard on the VR46, including the Sync 3 infotainment system with sat-nav, rear-view camera and front parking sensors, plus a tow bar – recognising this is likely to be a lifestyle purchase that may be used to tow a boat, bike trailer or similar.
What’s the Ranger VR46 like to drive?
Speaking of attention to detail, rather than simply fit the lifted suspension kit exactly as offered on other Ranger MS-RTs, for the VR46 the dampers are broken down and repainted in yellow to match all the other highlights on the truck.
Given you have to make an effort to see them once fitted, this seems quite extreme – but again adds to the sense you’re getting something special for your money. This isn't a cheap process.
The suspension kit itself is made by Australian off-road specialists Pedders, and raises the Ranger approximately 1.75 inches.
The off-road pack that includes the suspension, underbody protection and roof-mounted Lazer LED lightbar costs £1,399 extra on the regular Ranger MS-RT (we're told most customers opt for it), but is fitted as standard on the VR46.
The striking thing about this suspension upgrade is that it seems to actually improve the Ford’s somewhat jiggly standard ride quality – without going all soft and wobbly in the corners.
There is a little extra movement and squish from the off-road tyres than you might get with a regular Ranger, but this pickup is hardly the last word in precision anyway, and the upgrades maintain Ford’s otherwise engaging on-road driving experience.
Any performance upgrades for the Ranger VR46?
The VR46 uses the standard Ford 3.2-litre turbodiesel engine. With 200hp and 470Nm, this is one of the more powerful motors available in the UK pickup truck sector, so staying stock shouldn’t come as too much of a disappointment.
Combined with the optional six-speed automatic transmission here, the 3.2 will haul the VR46 along with brisk determination, if not mind-blowing speed. As ever with the Ranger, refinement isn’t especially high, but the engine doesn’t make an unpleasant sound when accelerating, so we wouldn’t be too bothered; plus it’s quiet enough at a cruise.
For those craving more power, Van-Sport is working on engine upgrade packages for the Ranger, and we hope to bring you further details in due course.
Is the Ranger VR46 still practical?
Despite the mods, the VR46 maintains the standard Ranger double cab load capability. These are the dimensions and payload details:
- Maximum load length: 1,549mm
- Maximum load width: 1,560mm
- Width between the rear wheel arches: 1,139mm
- Sidewall height: 511mm
- Payload: 1,107kg manual / 1,088kg auto
Keep in mind that the VR46 add-ons will eat into the legal payload amount (which is based on the Ranger Limited’s), and that the standard load liner will reduce the ultimate dimensions slightly.
Useful features include a three-pin socket in the load area, and the addition of a tow bar.
You'll seat four adults in relative comfort, and five if the three in the back are friendly.
It’s not cheap – but as ever with Van-Sport, the Ranger VR46 still feels like good value for money. A lot of effort has gone into making this pickup what it is, and if you’re a bike-racing fan you’ll no doubt get a kick out of knowing that Valetino Rossi has personally approved the design.
The looks perhaps aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But the truck’s striking appearance will also serve as a good attention-grabber for your business if you intend to use this Ranger for trade work, too.
Like the idea of a biker-influenced commercial vehicle, but can’t quite justify the cost of a VR46? Don’t fret – there’s always the Guy Martin Proper Edition Ford Transit conversion also by Van-Sport, which is available right across the large van’s engine and trim range.
On the other hand, if you’re simply looking for the ultimate lifestyle pickup, you might also want to consider the forthcoming Mercedes X-Class, which takes image to an even higher level.