First drive: is 2.0-litres enough for the Ford Ranger Raptor?
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When it was revealed that Ford would be bringing the Raptor nameplate to Australasia via the selling-like-hot-cakes Ranger platform in February, there was wide celebration ... followed by an undercurrent of cynicism.
The Raptor name is best known down under as Ford Performance's off-roading jewel, through big, hearty, V8– and V6–powered F-150s that are left-hand drive forbidden fruit to most Kiwis.
And, with our Ranger Raptor (pricing set to start at $84,990 when it lands in New Zealand) being powered by a humble 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, it didn't take long for doubt to settle in on whether our first foray into Raptor-dom was a watered down one. Social media in particular has been a vicious place, naturally.
So, is that the case?
Well, we're currently in Darwin, Australia, stumbling and bumbling to recover from a near 12-hour drive day with the Ranger Raptor.
We were among the first journos in the world to be offered a sample of the sports pick-up. This involved a motorway run south past the Adelaide River and to Tipperary Station — an enormous 200,000+ hectare property outfitted with its own school, general store, and plenty of red-dusted off-road courses for the Ranger Raptor to play on.
The Ranger Raptor's 2.0-litre engine is a four cylinder bi-turbo diesel unit, churning out 157kW of power and 500Nm of torque. It's smaller than the five cylinder 3.2-litre out of the Wildtrak, but it's got more power, more torque, and is quicker to 100km/h with claimed figures of 10.5 seconds.
Behind the numbers is an engine that's been refined for durability and performance with upgraded pistons and an improved temperature range. And in theory, the bi-turbo set-up means accessible performance and limited lag.
There are some admittedly obvious downsides to the 2.0-litre engine straight off the bat. It's not necessarily the best piece when it comes to overtaking on the motorway. A Colorado or V6-equipped Amarok is far more up to the task when it comes to chewing up miles.
It's also not wildly better on fuel than its five-cylinder Wildtrak cousin. Ford claims a fuel-consumption figure of 8.2L/100km through the 2.0-litre when connected to the Raptor, which is only marginally better than the 8.7L/100km claimed for the 3.2-litre. We managed to dip into the 10.0L/100km bracket on the motorway trip home, though naturally that number grew significantly in the heat of our off-road hoonery.
One might also assume that the Raptor's depleted towing capacity and pay load — from the 3,500kg braked capacity and 950kg of the Wildtrak to just 2,500kg and 700kg respectively — is engine related too. I might have made that false connection myself, but truth be told the numbers difference is all down to the new damping set-up in the rear end.
But, the engine has its positives too.
For one, it's one of the best sounding and most rev-happy diesels on the market. You get the traditional diesel clatter when it vibrates into life, but when it's pinned it lets out a nice gruff thrum that fills the cabin — like a weird hybrid between an off-beat three-pot and a neutered Harley Davidson.
It's also very sharp to drive. Response to throttle inputs is near instant — certainly showcasing more get-up-and-go than a lot of its turbo-lag hobbled brethren. Torque comes in a linear fashion and, combined with a re-calibrated version of Ford's new 10-speed automatic (yep, the one from the Mustang), it's a power-train that is predictable and rather fun to toy with on road.
And all of those things count for double off-road. The predictability and sharp on-road throttle response becomes a golden commodity on gravel.
Over the course of the day, there were plenty of queries about this engine and whether Ford would be offering it to other markets or whether something bigger was in the works. By and large, Ford remained tight lipped on the matter.
But as the day progressed through the different off-road testing modules, the amount of focus on the engine's ability seemed to drop off. Chatter shifted to everything else that makes up the Ranger Raptor; the altered the chassis, the Fox shocks, the distinct differences between the different drive modes, the highly versatile all-terrain BF Goodrich shoes.
Yes, Ford's 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 EcoBoost petrol engine would've been nice (likewise the Mustang's 2.3-litre EcoBoost). But when push comes to shove, those who show concern for the Raptor's lack of towing capacity or lack of straight-line ability are perhaps the wrong crowd for this truck in the first place.
Our full debrief of the Ranger Raptor is coming soon in a future print edition of Driven, but for now we'll just say this; it is unsurpassed when it comes to off-road capability. The work under the skin is vast and comprehensive, and on the dirty stuff very little is anywhere near as confidence inspiring.
There is much more to talk about with this Raptor. And ironically, very little of it has to do with that engine.