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► The Ford Ranger Raptor is back!
► And it now has a 288bhp twin-turbo V6
► Drives like a trophy truck off-road
What’s that? The first-generation Ford Ranger Raptor wasn’t mad enough for you? You want more power, more comfort, more technology and a suspension system lifted straight out of a Dakar racer? Well, have we got some good news for you. Ford has let its designers off their leashes – and they’ve worked wonders with the Ranger platform.
Don’t be fooled by the Raptor’s appearance. It might look similar to the standard Ranger pick-up in profile, but there are more changes lurking under the body than you can shake a muddy stick at, all of which are designed to allow the truck to batter even the toughest off-road course into a soggy pulp.
Headline upgrades include a 288bhp twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, clever FOX off-road dampers, two locking differentials and seven different drive modes with specific parameters for everything from muddy ruts to sand dunes. And, like the old Raptor, the new one is perfectly comfortable on the road. We love it. Read on to find out how much.
What’s the Ford Ranger Raptor like to drive?
Absolutely brilliant, both on and off the road. We’ll start with the on-road experience, though, because that’s what impresses the most. Remember, this is a commercial vehicle at heart, but it rides better than most family SUVs – and its easily the most refined pick-up on sale.
The Raptor’s suspension plays a big part in this on-road competence. It’s way overly engineered for road use, which means it shrugs off potholes and expansion joints with spectacular ease, even when you’re belting down the motorway. It’s light years ahead of rivals like the SsangYong Musso and Isuzu D-Max.
It’s great fun to drive, too. Like all Fords, the steering is direct and well-weighted and, because of its slightly agricultural underpinnings, you get plenty of feedback through the wheel. It doesn’t even roll that much considering it weighs almost 2.5 tonnes. The dampers keep the body in check on windy, yumpy backroads, which gives you plenty of opportunity to enjoy that V6 engine.
Speaking of which, what’s that engine like?
It’s a good laugh. You get 288bhp and 362lb/ft of torque, which Ford says is enough to shove the Raptor from 0–62mph in 7.9 seconds. That’s hot hatchback territory in a vehicle that was originally designed for carrying lumber. If you haven’t already cottoned on, that’s nuts.
It feels quick, too, although that’s partly down to Ford’s 10-speed automatic gearbox, which is all too happy to drop down a few cogs if you so much as look at the throttle pedal. Unlike most pick-ups, you have enough power in reserve from a cruise to consider overtaking – and if you do unleash the engine’s full potential, it’ll snarl and whistle like a rally car.
However, you get the feeling that the engine has more to give. And it does. Australian-delivered versions of the Raptor produce a whopping 392bhp and 430lb/ft of torque. For some reason, UK buyers get a strangled version of the engine – but if you’re hungry for some more poke (and you don’t mind voiding your warranty) the aftermarket scene has already unlocked the Raptor’s ECU.
If you’re the sensible type, you can also opt for the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine used by the previous-generation Raptor. But we wouldn’t bother because you’ll sacrifice all the fancy off-road suspension technology for only very marginal fuel economy gains. It isn’t worth it.
Come on then. Tell us about those off-road bits
Here’s where the Raptor starts to flex its muscles. There are four off-road drive modes to choose from called Mud/Ruts, Sand, Rock Crawl and (the very appropriately named) Baja mode which, when paired with the arsenal of mechanical off-road kit on the chassis, allows the Raptor to tackle any terrain you can throw at it at preposterous speeds.
Nothing can stop it. Do you need to pass through a muddy bog? Just stick the chassis in Mud mode, engage low range and simply watch in awe as the Raptor wades through it. Rocky slopes won’t stop it, either. There’s a crawl function and hill descent mode which will stop the truck running away from you.
In fact, the only thing that can stop the Raptor off-road is its size. It’s a big old brute – and it simply can’t fit through gaps that bantamweight off-roaders like the Suzuki Jimny and Dacia Duster can. But there’s plenty of space in the load tray for a chainsaw to hack back the undergrowth and continue your charge. You can even specify a roll-top tonneau cover, so your power tools won’t fall out when you launch over a jump.
How about that for a segue. I guess it jumps well, too?
Oh yes. Engage Baja mode and whip your frequent flyer card out, because if you spend a day razzing the Raptor around, you’ll have earned enough air miles for a flight to Japan.
The Raptor’s party trick has always been its ability to get all four wheels off the ground without breaking you or itself when it lands. And we’re happy to report that Ford’s engineers have made this new model even better.
Those new FOX dampers can sense when the suspension is unloaded and they brace for impact before the truck hits the ground. That means there’s barely a jolt when it touches back down. It doesn’t even squirm around or hunt for grip. It’s so effortless.
Once you’re back on terra firma, you can start to explore the limits of Baja mode. It gives you an indication of what it’s like to drive one of those daft trophy trucks. For our drive, Ford carved out a fast off-road circuit, full of yumps and dents – and we found that the Raptor became more comfortable and more controllable the faster we went. Instead of dropping into the craters, it skimmed over the top like a speedboat on a plane.
It’s surprisingly controllable, too. We forced the chassis to run in two-wheel drive mode for a few laps for maximum hilarity and, even with our foot nailed to the firewall and the rear wheels flinging muck into the stratosphere, we could keep the rear end from overtaking the front with only minimal steering correction. It allows even the most ham-fisted drivers to feel like a hero.
The Raptor has one last party trick to trot out. Anti-lag. Yes, really. Just like a rally car, the engine will fire a bit of fuel down the exhaust manifold when you lift off the throttle to keep the turbos spinning so, when you get back on the gas, the power’s already waiting to launch you at the next turn. As an off-road toy, we don’t think there’s anything better. At least not with seat belts.
What else do I need to know?
There are downsides to the Raptor – and they are, in one way or another, financial ones. First off, there’s the fuel economy. It’s a big truck powered by a thirsty V6 petrol engine so, by the time we’d finished bashing it around Ford’s off-road course, the trip computer told us we’d averaged just 15mpg.
Then there’s the purchase price. If you want the V6 (and, of course, you do), you’ll need to shell out almost £57,000. And, because the Raptor only has a payload of 652kg, you can’t claim the VAT back from the government if you’re going to use it for your business. To qualify for that tax break, vans and pick-ups need to be able to carry 1000kg.
However, you do get an awful lot of equipment for your money. The Raptor gets electrically adjustable and heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, a digital dashboard, a wireless smartphone charger and a sharp 12-inch infotainment system running on the same Sync 4A software as the Mustang Mach-E. There are SUVs that struggle to offer the same level of kit for the cash, let alone work-hardened pick-ups.
The Ford Ranger Raptor is a vehicle you buy with your heart rather than your head – and you should look at it in the same way as a flash sports car. It’s an entertaining toy that you’re unlikely to use to its full potential, but it’s a great laugh to drive at even a tenth of its maximum capability.
It might just be the best pick-up on sale now. There are certainly better value propositions out there, but none can match the Raptor for its breadth of ability. It rides well on the road, it’s fast, it sounds great and it can plough through anything the wilderness can throw at it. What more do you want?
|Price when new:||£58,900|
|On sale in the UK:||Now|
|Engine:||2596cc twin-turbo petrol 6-cyl, 288bhp @ 5500rpm, 362lb ft @ 2300rpm|
|Transmission:||10-speed automatic, part-time four-wheel drive with low range setting|
|Performance:||7.9sec 0-62mph, 111mph top speed, 20.4mpg, 315g/km CO2|
|Weight / material:||2454kg/composite and steel|
|Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):||5360/2208/1926|