► New high-performance pickup driven
► 207bhp, 369lb ft, immense suspension mods
► Incredibly capable, but does it need more go?
Well, here’s a thing: the Ford Ranger Raptor is the first true off-road performance pickup to be made available to UK (and European) buyers.
Junior sibling to the established Ford F-150 Raptor – which proved hilarious but basically totally inappropriate for UK roads when one snuck into the country for us to test in 2018 – the Ranger Raptor follows the same formula, but in a manner that’s sanity checked for our slightly more restrained sensibilities.
Meaning you get a similar degree of bespoke chassis and suspension hardware, engineered with the genuine expectation that buyers will give it an extreme beating away from the Queen’s highways, and the same 10-speed automatic gearbox. Just in not quite such a super-sized package.
And under the bonnet there’s a 210bhp four-cylinder diesel engine, rather than a brutal 450hp V6 petrol from the same family as the one in the back of the Ford GT.
Can such a thing possibly be worth near-as-dammit £50k when you include the VAT? We’ve been giving it that exact extreme beating – albeit in Morocco – to try and find out.
The Raptor is just a Ranger with a bodykit and lifted suspension, right?
Cripes, don’t let the engineers hear you say that. The Raptor is like the Ranger equivalent of the Six Million Dollar Man – Ford has the technology, and it has most certainly rebuilt it.
Let’s start with the bodywork. Check out the headlights, and their relationship to the panels that surround them. Exactly. Those flared front wings are made from composite material, and house a track width that’s 150mm greater than the regular Ranger – that’s 15 whole centimetres. Those wheelarches don’t just look massive, they are massive.
That silver section beneath the front bumper? That’s a functional bash panel, made from 2.3mm high strength steel. The bumper itself has been raised and mounted directly to the frame, improving the off-road approach angle. The towing eyes you can see poking out of it are fixed in place, and strong enough to handle 4,635kg – not because the Raptor might need them should it get stuck, but so that they can be used to engage in a ‘kinetic recovery’ on other stranded vehicles without failure.
(A kinectic recovery involves attaching a stuck vehicle to a mobile one, and then using the mobile one like a high-powered bungee device to catapult the stuck vehicle free. The survival of the stuck vehicle may vary, but the Raptor apparently won’t be breaking a sweat…)
There are more recovery hooks at the rear – rated to a mere 3,863kg – where you’ll also find an integrated tow bar that can haul 2,500kg, more flared arches, and bodywork that’s cleverly blistered lower down with a plastic part that’s designed to reduce flying stone damage.
The Ranger is body-on-frame like an old-school 4×4, but the Raptor’s frame is heavily reinforced with high-strength steel, especially around the suspension mounts, and completely re-engineered at the back to accommodate the Raptor’s unique rear suspension design – which comprises coil-over springs and dampers (in place of the regular leaf springs) and a Watt’s linkage to eliminate lateral skate.
The rear dampers have remote reservoirs for additional volume, while the fronts are simply substantially extended, and surrounded by new aluminium suspension arms in place of the standard steel items. The dampers are supplied by off-road racing specialists Fox, and together with a 51mm increase in ride height, give 32% more suspension travel at the front and 18% more at the rear.
Total ground clearance is 283mm, and the Raptor can wade water up to 850mm deep.
Even the rear mounting for the spare wheel had to be upgraded for the Raptor, thanks to the extra weight of its chunky 33-inch BF Goodrich tyres (standard Ranger has 31-inch tyres). Naturally the brakes are mightier, too, with a 20% increase in the size of the pistons in the front calipers and the adoption of ventilated discs at the rear in place of the usual drum set-up.
We’re getting carried away here. But it’s probably important to understand just how extensively modified the Raptor is, as it goes a long way towards explaining the price.
About the only performance area that isn’t upgraded over an ordinary Ranger is the 210bhp bi-turbo 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine, which is also available in lesser models.
That’s a lot of effort to go to, just to give it the same engine…
To be fair, it is a brand new engine for 2019, and it does have sequential turbocharging, not to mention 369lb ft of torque – which is more muscle than the old 3.2-litre five-pot that’s still soldiering on as an option in the Ranger Wildtrak.
But, it’s true. And this is probably the least convincing aspect of the entire exercise, especially since the Ranger Wildtrak is around £10k cheaper.
Is the Ranger Raptor good to drive?
This is going to partly depend on your definition of ‘good’, but it is most certainly enormously impressive – both off-road and on.
For while the whole purpose of the Raptor is to deliver unequalled off-road speed – its component parts are designed to withstand travelling cross-country (literally) at up to 105mph – it turns out that getting spendy with the suspension also improves on-road capability as well.
Those Fox shocks feature something called Position Sensitive Damping, which means that when you’re in the middle of their movement range – as you generally will be on tarmac – they’re remarkably soft and pillowy. But approach the extreme end of their travel in either compression or droop, and the damping ramps up colossally to smother sudden altercations with the surface.
This isn’t a miracle cure – the Raptor still bobbles and chops on smooth-looking asphalt, and if you hit a big rock when travelling off-piste you’re still categorically going to feel it.
But, compared with a regular Ranger, the chassis has a real appetite for fast corners – where it rolls far less than you’d probably expect – and does an exceptional job of not-quite-but-nearly floating over heavily rutted sand at velocities high enough to be truly focusing the mind.
And is the Ranger Raptor impressive off-road?
The Raptor comes with a six-mode Terrain Management System, switchable part-time four-wheel drive with low range transfer box, and an enhanced suite of stability control systems. In all seriousness, if you get one of these properly stuck, it’s probably your fault.
We got to give the whole set of driving modes a work out during the launch drive, using rear-wheel drive Normal and Sport on the road, crawling along using four-wheel drive low in Rock over – you guessed it – rocks, sliding around over loose stuff in Grass/Gravel/Snow, smashing through sand in Mud/Sand, and finally flinging it along flat-out in Baja. As with all such systems, the TMS modulates the accelerator, stability control and gearing strategies to suit.
We did get stuck, in a sand dune – due entirely to a lack of momentum caused by travelling too close to a vehicle going too slowly in front. But we only stuck temporarily, as with judicial use of the low range setting, the Raptor was able to free itself. It was kind of convincing.
Anyway, turns out sand really wants to be attacked, attacked, attacked – something the Ranger Raptor is more than happy to do.
Up to a point.
Something’s not quite right here, then?
We’re struggling with the engine. The 10-speed gearbox is brilliant – slick and swift when left to its own devices, possessed of beautifully tactile titanium paddleshifters should you want to get involved. But the engine feels just that little bit underwhelming.
It’s not so bad on the road, where this is now such a wide truck that you need plenty of space and visibility to fully let rip anyway, and the torque / gearbox combo delivers surging urge, if not any actual danger of heart palpitations.
But faced with the drag of soft sand, it definitely left us wanting more – a modest Baja-style off-road circuit was foot to the floor for much of the way round, and there were several moments when we weren’t sure if this was going to deliver enough impetus to make the next crest without bogging.
In the engine’s defence, it did survive the course without fail. And Ford makes a good argument that this 2.0-litre diesel’s claimed 31.7mpg delivers a driving range that means you’ll be able to go further into the wilderness than you would with a powerful petrol motor.
Yet in a lifestyle pickup market that contains 255bhp V6-powered VW Amaroks and Mercedes X-Classes that can go 0-62mph in seven seconds, the Raptor’s 10.5-second sprint just doesn’t seem good enough for a range-topping ‘performance’ model, especially one that costs so much money.
Although having said that, we’re pretty sure those rivals would have started shaking themselves to pieces trying to travel as fast as the Ford is able to go off-road.
Any other need-to-know details about the Ranger Raptor?
The interior is pretty nice, with special Raptor seats in a technical suede fabric that stops you slipping around like you would do on leather, lots of standard kit (including a sat-nav system that can lay off-road ‘breadcrumbs’ to prevent you getting hopelessly lost), and a classy Ceramic trim coating in place of the flashy chrome of other Rangers.
We also like the instrument cluster, which has two proper dials instead of the Ranger’s usual variable rev-counter screen.
Less good is the Raptor’s payload rating, which is just 620kg. That might sound a touch too ‘commercial vehicle’ to be of interest to CAR readers, but it means the Raptor exempts itself from fixed-rate commercial vehicle tax, and will instead be taxed like a car – which is far more expensive.
Ford Ranger Raptor: verdict
While we admire the extent of the re-engineering that creates this monster and love the way it looks, the price is eye-watering and to justify that we feel it needs more oomph than you can get elsewhere in the Ranger line-up. And though the off-road performance is undoubtedly impressive, how many potential buyers are really going to be able to make the most of this in the UK?
But perhaps that’s not the point. As a lifestyle tool it will certainly turn heads, and should you ever need to escape from a rolling apocalypse you’ve got a pickup with the hardware to do the job. Just so long as the catastrophe isn’t moving too quickly…