Silly pick-ups, they appeal to the child inside us all. So when Ford wondered what they could do next with their ultra-popular Ranger there was only one answer: make it bigger, meatier and faster. Meet the new Ranger Raptor.
In the US the Raptor name is far from brand new, with blisteringly-fast pick-ups having been around for some time now in the form of the F150 Raptor, which launched in 2009. Now Ford has decided it’s time for the smaller Euro-brother to get the same treatment.
That means Baja-inspired upgrades to the standard car and of course more power. The 2.0-litre inline-four diesel now produces 213PS, but a more important 500Nm (370lb ft) of torque from 1,750rpm.
The Raptor will therefore hit 62mph in 10.5 seconds, impressive for a car that weighs 2.5-tonnes. Impressive, but still not as fast as Volkswagen’s slightly barmy 3.0-litre V6 Amarok, but the Raptor has different things on its mind. More off the road than on.
The F150 Raptor was inspired by the barmy Baja 1000 race in Mexico, which sees largely pick-up based vehicles attack the deserts of Baja-California with abandon. On the other side of the pond Ford has even tackled this fearsome challenge with a spec F150 Raptor. So the Ranger Raptor is more about aggressively attacking the rough stuff than standing quarters.
Outside the Ranger gains the giant FORD lettering in its grille from the F150, wheel arches are flared and more muscular bumpers (and some meaty protection) give the Ranger a much more aggressive outfit. That’s helped by the more aggressive stance, including a 30 per cent increase in ride height over the ‘standard’ car. In the flesh it’s a great looking thing, muscular and looking ready for anything. It turns heads.
Under that more muscular body you’ll find independent front suspension, and a rigid rear axle with Watt’s linkage, a system that increases travel up and down while cutting down on lateral movement. All are connected to 2.5-inch FOX dampers. Without going too far into technical specs that brings a 23 per cent increase in damper travel up front and 18 per cent at the rear, and allows the Ranger to absorb the harder hits more easily while also smoothing out on-road performance.
That “race-bred” suspension brings a 150mm wider track than the Ranger XLT and sees the Raptor sit 51mm higher. Harnessing the Raptor’s capabilities are specially-designed BF Goodrich all-terrain rubber, which also helps to add that extra bit of ruggedness.
All together it makes for an inviting proposition off road but Ford are vaunting the changes as allowing it to be ultra-comfortable on the paved stuff too.
As standard the Raptor is equipped with a slightly mind-boggling list of kit. This includes xenon headlights, collision mitigation systems, a reversing camera, DAB radio and sat nav controlled through an 8-inch touchscreen, lane keep assist and a cool box in the centre console as standard… but in Raptor form the Ranger will now set you back £48,700 on the road.
The power is now routed through a ten (count them) speed automatic gearbox, also borrowed from the other side of the Atlantic.
On the road the Raptor’s extended suspension travel and beefed-up damping make it an exceptionally smooth ride. But it could never be described as a hell-raiser on tarmac. The focus is on comfort, with the 10-speed gearbox acting more like a CVT for smooth acceleration, and the massive off-road tyres do cause some vibration, and don’t take too kindly to spirited cornering.
However the raptor wasn’t designed to be a mentalist on the road, instead it’s meant for barrelling around on the rough stuff. To that end Ford reckon the Ranger Raptor is capable of 105mph off road in the right conditions. And we wouldn’t be surprised if it was. We sampled the Raptor in Morocco, where many of the public roads would be classed as green lanes in the UK, and the big pick-up was more than happy to fly down rutted tracks at more than 60mph as if it were nothing. If anything, the ride feels more naturally smooth off road than on, thanks to those big, chunky tyres.
But if you just pootle around on gravel you’ll being doing the Raptor a disservice. The Ranger is now an extraordinary machine in the toughest possible conditions, with six possible settings to allow for different levels of off road nuttery. In rock mode it will traverse the worst of debris-littered tracks, while sand mode is possibly the most extraordinary experience I’ve had in a car. The softest of sand is not a problem for the Raptor – keep your pedal to the very limit of its travel and the car will just dig until it finds traction, chugging along in situations it just shouldn’t.
Baja mode dials everything up, pushing you to attack obstacles that normally would require a major re-route with gusto and more than a dash of aggression. Hurl the Ranger Raptor into a corner in the softest of momentum-murdering sand and rather than bog, it’ll haul you round, juddering but not baulking at the task. The amazing thing is that you can attack obstacles at almost any speed, and in many cases the faster you attack, the better the Raptor will respond, the huge suspension travel soaking up the worst of challenges.
The Raptor must be the most capable car on sale in the UK today, it’s only issue is whether for the price you could buy another pick-up and add enough modifications to bring it up to standard. But for the money you’ll struggle to find anything as capable or able to take you for quite such a spectacular ride. Now you just need to find somewhere to use it properly.