The Raptor diaries: seven days with Ford's ultimate Ranger
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The Ford Ranger Raptor is a vehicle steeped in expectation. The 'Raptor' name coupled with local hype has meant plenty of pre-orders and plenty of excitement as the first ones hit the road.
Across last week and this week, we were among the early adopters — road testing the blue-oval double cab (a story that will be published this Saturday).
There's a lot that can happen in seven days, especially when you're among the first in the country to play with a vehicle as fun as this one. So, ahead of this weekend's full road test, this is how the week went down.
Thursday, 15th of November
Pick-up day at CTB Performance & Accessories in Manukau, with the inevitable 'there it is' eureka moment as I spot the unmistakable hulk among the Enduras and Mustangs that line the parking lot.
Press cars don't tend to be particularly well looked after at the best of times, but that factor is emphasised for anything with even a slight performance edge. And it's no surprise to hop into the Raptor and drive it down the road to discover that plenty of right-hand-down is required in a straight line.
Driving it 35 minutes or so to the office, I note seven or eight other drivers who stare it down in traffic. All of them are in double-cab utes themselves, most of which sport some kind of mod. In time Raptors will be a relatively common sight on our roads, but for now they're few and far between.
The day ends with a check-in at Big Boys Toys. As I leave I get flagged down in the packing lot.
"Is that the new one? The Raptor?" asks the passerby.
"Yup, this is it. Just got it today actually."
"Looks great. Just wished they put a V6 or V8 in it, eh."
Friday, 16th of November
Today this big silly thing gets its first taste of town.
Up until this point, I had been impressed with how easy it's been to drive. It might look like a big angry beast of a thing, but underneath it's still a cuddly Ranger — a platform commonly known as one of the easiest and most car-like to drive. The 2.0-litre engine helps too; at commuting speeds it's smooth and quiet, including on start-up.
Click here to read more about the Ranger Raptor's 2.0-litre engine
However, we get to the dilemma of parking the Raptor.
Its track is 150mm wider than standard, which makes parking a bit of a nuisance — especially if the only spot left in the work parking lot is next to a pole... On this particular day I thought I'd parked far back enough to hit the rubber bump-stop, only to realise the front left wheel (sporting plenty of lock) was pressed firmly against the pole.
Later in the day while grabbing dinner with a friend, a loud knock erupted as we drove into one of the covered downtown parking lots.
Thankfully, it was just the aerial clipping the height-restriction sign. Nonetheless, it's the first time I've ever had a 'traditional' double-cab ute struggle to fit itself into a fairly typical parking building.
Saturday, 17th of November
Big day, although not necessarily for the Raptor.
Big Boys Toys in the morning functions as the backdrop for a minor highschool reunion with a few highly photogenic mates. I pick them up in the morning, and am surprised to hear are no complaints about the small engine or low rent interior plastics. The size and absurdity of the Ford is the hero of the day.
We also saw Bohemian Rhapsody. It was good. I won't spoil the ending.
Up until this point the Rhaptor (sorry, Raptor) had remained pretty much pristine. The paintwork was perfectly resplendent, the tyre shine perfectly dark ... and I kind of hated it.
Buying a ute like this and not taking it off road feels like going to a posh restaurant and ordering fish and chips, to my mind. I can feel pangs of judgement from off-roaders in traffic, and I'm thankful that Sunday's just around the corner.
We're doing an off-road photoshoot with the Raptor on Sunday and it's going to get absolutely filthy. Nothing can go wrong.
Sunday, 18th of November
Something went wrong. Almost immediately.
I'd picked up my off-roading buddy assistant Curtis in the morning (hi Curtis if you're reading this — get off the internet and do some bloody work) and we headed to Woodhill Forest near Waimauku. Neither of us had been there before, but ... what's the worst that could happen?
Coming off Rimmer Road, we scan the subsequent gravel road for neat angles until we reach the very end, which backs onto Muriwai beach. I hadn't considered shooting on the beach, and thought about simply turning around then and there. Time is money is time, after all.
But, that typically Kiwi 'bah, why not' voice overruled. "I'll grab a couple here before we swing back, eh?" I say.
A beautiful log approaches on the horizon; buried in the beach and shaped by years and years of tides and fatigue. Perfect for briefly perching the Ranger on ... or maybe not.
Instead of driving along the log from its sunken end, like a normal person, I charged at it straight on like a dog chasing a bird. The net result after some wiggling and position was perfectly wedging the right front lower suspension arm on the log before digging a pair of deep trenches with the rear wheels in desperation.
Curtis ran down the beach to summon some local surfers while I dug around the rear wheels. After a cursory inspection, the surfers left to grab some supplies. While away, a pair of other off-roaders stopped and tried their hand at helping, only to have their rope snap.
Eventually the surfers returned; ending the two-and-a-bit-hour ordeal by partially jacking up the front, jacking up the rear and placing large planks under each rear wheel, and towing us out in their Nissan Patrol.
Thankful to be back on gravel, we smashed out the print photoshoot in about 35 minutes. And yes, we circled back to the surfers' address to drop off some beers and sheepish thankyous.
Monday, 19th of November
I was actually starting to get a hang of this parking-a-Raptor-in-the-city stuff. Its turning circle isn't particularly impressive, but going from lock to lock is quite rapid and smooth unlike some other utes.
The new enemy are the scallywags that park over the lines of their urban parking spaces. In a Raptor every millimetre of parking space matters, and even if you're smack bang centred in your space, if the car next to you is fractionally crossing the edge of their boundary, you're stuffed.
I take the Raptor to the local beach at the end of the day for some pictures against the sun-set. The horrid rain on Sunday night washed away almost all the dirt it had accumulated at Woodhill, but no matter.
Tuesday, 20th of November
Home stretch time, now. The fun factor of gravel feels a world away now as I use the Raptor's 2.5-inch Fox Racing shocks and improved suspension travel rate to ... sit motionless in Auckland grid-lock.
The day's laugh comes after I discover the below video online.
It's a promotional bit made on Kiwi soil. The Ranger in the video is the same very vehicle as I've had on test. Perhaps the enormous jump at the end explains that slight wheel alignment issue.
A quick hat-tip to Richard Moore. A handy race driver and extremely patient driver trainer at Downforce Auto Events, he's the one sitting inside the Raptor as it soars through the air.
Wednesday, 21st of November
Job done, pictures processed, and a road test story forming in time for the following day's weekend deadline.
It was good fun this thing. It's one of those vehicles that was going to either be special or disappointing, and I wouldn't call it disappointing.
Check out our full Ford Ranger Raptor road test in this weekend's edition of Driven