Motoring

Ford Ranger Raptor drive review – The best handling ute around.

High-end, feature laden and very expensive Utes are filling driveways across the country. While the cheaper, simpler 4×2 and single cab examples still exist for trade and farm work, the top-end of the segment is brimming with impressive hero models. Toyota, Holden, Nissan and Mitsubishi all offer factory fitted accessories, cosmetic enhancements and other bling to make your ute the hottest in the hood. But the Ford Ranger Raptor is a different equation entirely. Chris Bowen reports.

Rising Above the Crowd.

The Raptor variant sits above the Wildtrack but not just because of a few decals and extended mudguards. Once Ford Performance Australia got its hands on the Ranger platform it really took to it with an eye firmly trained on serious off-road ability.

If you see a Raptor parked next to a standard Ranger, the key exterior differences are as plain as the nose on your face. It has 283mm of extra ground clearance plus a 150mm wider front and rear track. So many Ranger owners opt for the aftermarket “FORD” emblazoned grille, the Raptor’s is factory fitted.

The fenders are flared for the extra suspension travel and off-road tyres, while there are new LED fog lamps and front air intakes. It looks the part and turns the heads of standard Ranger owners. Just be careful with underground carparks, there’s a good chance you’ll regularly slap the roof mounted aerial along the ceiling.

But it’s what’s deep under the skin that transforms an otherwise capable light truck into a desert racing inspired beast. All four wheels are supported by performance shock absorbers made by FOX. To put it simply this setup allows you to jump the Raptor and land without a mammoth jolt.

Launching any car skyward is highly unlikely for most owners but it does show just how performance skewed the Raptor is. Due to the excellent dampening and body control the Raptor drives better on any surface than all other stock utes. These vehicles with workhorse underpinnings always have some level of jitteriness, roughness and harsher levels of ride comfort than soft off-roader SUV’s. The Raptor is sure footed around town but can glide over dirt track corrugations with a monumental sense of ease.

There’s a stack of underbody 2.3mm steel protection plates and even the exhaust has been relocated for better protection. The 17-inch rims are fitted with BF Goodrich All-Terrain 285/70 R17 KO2 tyres that add to the rugged look. Although they don’t produce a semi-trailer type roar like some heavily grooved tread patterned aftermarket tyres can.

Engine and Drivetrain.

This is where the Ranger Raptor attacks critics like moths to a flame. Gone is the five-cylinder 3.2-litre turbo-diesel, in is a 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo four-cylinder diesel unit. The 2019 Ford Ranger XLT and Wildtrak can option this engine if you desire. On paper it out does the larger engine with 157kW / 500N combined with a 10-speed transmission.

When I drove this unit in the 2019 Ford Everest, my first preference was to stick with the larger capacity engine. But I’ve been swayed back to an extent for the far more sophisticated diesel powerplant. There’s enough punch to generate real-wheel spin when you’re too throttle happy and I also don’t mind the engine note. It sounds a tad tougher than the 3.2-litre and acceleration is brisker. However, during my test I never carried a load or passengers. There’s no doubt that under higher levels of duress it should be a case of the larger engine being more durable than a mere 2.0-litre unit.

The 10-speed transmission is as smooth as they come, almost making a mockery of the magnesium paddle shifters. I just can’t see when they would ever come into play. There are various driving modes that use the Ranger Raptor’s Terrain Management System. Normal, Sports, Mud, Sand, Grass, Gravel, Snow and a Baja mode add extra responsiveness tailored throttle and gear calibration. The Baja mode is inspired by the Baja 1000 Desert Rally in Mexico. It allows for reduced traction control, sharper gear changes and the ability to hold on to the right cog up or down more intelligently at higher off-road speeds.

I engaged Baja mode on a short stint off-road near my home, it really does transform the overall driving traits of the car. While I live nowhere near a desert, you can just feel the inherent capability the whole setup has.

Given the performance claims, the brakes needed to be updated, so Ford added larger front twin-piston callipers (up 9.56mm) and ventilated rotors measuring 332 x 32mm in size. The rear anchors are disc brakes with a booster to add extra stopping power, they’re also ventilated with 332 x 24mm rotors and new 54mm calliper.

Interior.

Getting up and into the Ranger Raptor does require the huge side steps and grab handles, it’s a bit of a leap. But inside you’ll find some unique Ford Performance inspired interior tweaks.

Sports seats are covered in what they call “Technical Suede”, there’s blue stitching on the seats, centre armrest and across the dash. The instrument cluster has its own Raptor look and the steering wheel features the obligatory red centre line. It’s still all very Wildtrack inside and could do with a bit more bling.

Pricing.

This is a $75,000 ute, big biscuits but so were HSV Maloos and PPV Ford Pursuits once upon a time. Now when the boys want their big toys, this is where the cashed-up ones come to play. The fuel economy is rated at 8.2L/100km, I achieved 8.9L/100km.

EFTM Scoreboard.

I’ve been looking for a dual-cab that drove like a dream instead of a truck. I’ve found it, the Ford Ranger Raptor nails is. It’s an 8.5 out of 10 for me.

Chris is EFTM’s Motoring Editor, driving everything from your entry level hatch to the latest Luxury cars through to the Rolls Royce.

He has been in the media for 20 years, produced three Olympic games broadcasts, attending Beijing 2008 & London 2012.

Strangely he owns a Toyota Camry Hybrid, he defiantly rejects the knockers.

Chris is married to Gillian and resides in Sydney’s North West. They have Sam the English Springer Spaniel and Felix the Burmese cat to keep them company, and recently welcomed baby Henry to the family.

Ford Ranger Raptor drive review – The best handling ute around.
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