To fully understand the Ford Ranger Raptor you need to start by leaving it in the car park. And while it’s there you should instead go for a spin in a regular Ranger, because only then can you truly appreciate just how much work has gone into this new ‘Bad-Ass’ (Ford’s words, not ours) pick-up truck.
THE MOST POPULAR PICK-UP IN THE UK
As such, let’s begin this Raptor review with a diversion into a different kind of Ranger altogether: the Wildtrak. For the uninitiated, the Wildtrak is the bread and butter of the Ranger line-up. It accounts for around 60% of orders and has helped Ford’s pick-up shoot from an also-ran in the UK sales chart four years ago to top dog with a lead that is stretching year-on-year. So while you might think of the pick-up market as being the preserve of the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara, the reality is that most people ordering this kind of vehicle are doing it via a Ford dealership.
Which, of course, is no reason to rest on your laurels. Hence why Ford has revised the Ranger for 2019, with a slightly posher interior (think new paint finishes and upgraded infotainment), and the option of a 10-speed automatic gearbox. Most significant of all however, is the introduction of a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine that in single turbo form replaces the existing 2.2 Duratorq TDCi (with either 128- or 168bhp), and in biturbo guise takes over from the 3.2-litre, five-cylinder diesel that has served as the most popular Ranger engine to date.
If that makes you wary, rest assured that the biturbo ‘Ecoblue’ engine is not only more efficient than the 3.2, but also more powerful (210bhp versus 197bhp), and gutsier (367lb ft of torque vs 347lb ft). Even so, Ford is being cautious and will keep selling the 3.2 until later in 2019 as customers make the adjustment to the smaller engine.
Body styles will continue to include regular cab, superb cab and double cab (although note that the Raptor is double-cab only), and all models come with four-wheel drive. The payload capacity is up to 1,252kg, and a Ranger can tow up to 3,500kg (for the Raptor these numbers are reduced to 620kg for the payload and 2,500kg for towing). The easy-lift tailgate that comes on Wildtrack and Limited models and is light enough to be closed with just one finger, is another neat touch.
DRIVING THE 2019 FORD RANGER
To drive, the Wildtrack (pictured above alongside the Raptor) is perfectly good within the realms of what you’d expect a pickup to be like. Our test car was fitted with the biturbo engine with the 10-speed gearbox and pulled keenly. The on-road ride is still bouncy, and the steering deliberately slow (the last thing you want in a fully loaded truck is hyperactive handling), but all things considered it is a pick-up that you could quite easily use both as a commercial vehicle and a daily driver.
The spacious rear seats and convenience features such as optional Active Park Assist, and standard fit-autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection mean it could even potentially double up as a family car if needed.
Off-road meanwhile the Raptor is very much the real deal. In addition to having selectable four-wheel-drive, there’s also a low-range transfer ‘box for when the going gets really tough. Throw in (a somewhat noisy) hill descent control system, plenty of low-down torque, 230mm of ground clearance and the ability to wade through water up to 800mm deep, and the Ranger should be able to answer most questions an owner could ask of it.
WHAT THE RAPTOR ADDS
What the Raptor adds to this is not only a whole lot more attitude, but also a lot more metal. It is wider (the track, for example, has been extended by a whopping 150mm), taller and equipped with sturdier underbody protection – so outlandish is its design, in fact, that to see one on the UK road is actually a bit of a shock. And the enormous, matt-black grille with its giant, F-150 Raptor-inspired ‘Ford’ emblem makes even BMW’s latest snouts look restrained by comparison.
Not that the Raptor was designed to blend into the crowd or perform a task as simple as getting into a multi-story car park. No, the reason it exists is to make a statement. And if you think that means it’ll be lacklustre to drive then think again. Because the Ranger Raptor is a seriously capable and genuinely engaging performance vehicle, with a level of polish to the ride and handling that far surpasses a standard Ranger.
You can thank Ford Performance for the transformation. For along with the much tougher bodywork, the Raptor has had a significant mechanical upgrade. There’s race-bred Fox suspension with more travel (as in 32% more at the front and 18% more at the rear, where the mounting has also been reconfigured to increase rigidity), aluminium control arms, performance brakes (the discs measure 332mm and even the pistons within the callipers are 20% larger than a standard Ranger’s), and ultra-chunky BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres sitting on 17-inch alloy wheels.
It’s this rubber that underpins one of the more surprising elements of the Raptor driving experience, for despite its size and a tread pattern heavily geared towards off-road use, it rides quietly on the road and there’s little suggestion that the tread blocks are squirming around when you begin to push the Raptor into corners.
It’s a good job too, because the Raptor feels much keener to change direction than a standard Ranger. Sitting up so high and with such a vast expanse of metalwork around you it is truly bizarre just how much fun this vehicle is to drive.
You can’t quite say the same about the powertrain. It’s the same 2.0-litre biturbo diesel as we’d tested in the Wildtrak, with identical power and torque outputs and a 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds. So it’s certainly not slow for this type of vehicle, but at the same time nor does it offer the extreme performance or extrovert character suggested by the car’s appearance.
In Ford’s defence, while the Raptor doesn’t feel any quicker than a normal Ranger with the same engine, it does at least sound better courtesy of some amplification of the exhaust note. It is also sharper through the gears, particularly when you use the wonderfully tactile paddles behind the steering wheel, which elicit a sporty jolt as you move up and down the ’box (all 10 ratios of it, remember).
The inclusion of a range of six driving modes (selectable via a button on the steering wheel) also gives the Raptor a broad repertoire. For example, in Normal mode it is, if not quite ‘normal’ then certainly not as bonkers as the car’s appearance might suggest, while in Sport or Baja modes it takes on a completely different, more urgent (and certainly more fun) character.
A TRULY COMPELLING VEHICLE
Whatever way you cut it, the Raptor is a truly compelling vehicle. Mind you, it needs to be, not least because the limited payload means it doesn’t qualify for VAT exemption, which in turn makes it hugely expensive by pick-up standards. Thus far that hasn’t been enough to deter the 150 or so buyers who have already placed orders for this £39,895 vehicle, but whether demand will be sustained once this initial enthusiast audience is catered for it is hard to say.
Arguably the real puzzle here is whether people will cross-shop the Raptor with other pick-ups at all, or if instead it’ll be buyers of more conventional performance cars (not least Ford’s own Mustang) who form its biggest audience. Whatever the case, anybody who does take the plunge is going to have a very capable – and seriously attention-grabbing – vehicle at their disposal.
Ford Ranger Raptor
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Top speed: 106mph
Fuel economy: 31.7mpg (WLTP combined)
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