NZ's best ute? Can RTR's locally built Ford Ranger knock the Raptor off its off-road throne?
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Ford Ranger RTR
- Incredible off-road ability
- Retains towing and payload capacity
- Looks great
- Tyres make noise, affect fuel economy
- Harsher ride than a Raptor
The front of this Ford Ranger might remind you of a Mustang, not just because of that blue oval badge, but also because of those lights embedded in the grille. This is because Ford tuner RTR has decided to have a go at making NZ’s most popular ute even more appealing, by jacking it up, and slapping some serious mud tyres on it. While that’s not the entirety of the RTR’s $17,500 kit for the Ranger, it’s the most significant aspect, and the one that will have you neighbours green with envy.
Despite the RTR badges, don’t expect to find a supercharged 5.0 V8 sitting beneath the hood of this beast, those engines are strictly reserved for the higher-spec Mustangs. Offered by CTB here in New Zealand, this kit is designed to improve the off-road performance of the Ranger, and gives Kiwis another option besides the Christmas wish list-worthy Ranger Raptor.
Starting at the business end, it’s powered by the standard 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel lump. Good for 147kW and 470Nm of torque, this engine is more than capable of completely those daily hauling duties. The ute we had on test was fitted with the optional RTR/CTB Engine calibration package that bumps these modest figures up to an impressive 157kW and 560Nm of torque.
While the 10kW power increase doesn’t change much, the extra 90Nm of torque is definitely noticeable, and the Ranger pulls a lot harder through the rev range. What’s more, this upgrade is backed by a driveline warranty that fits with the 5-year/150,000km warranty offered by Ford, which isn’t voided by any RTR additions.
In terms of visual changes, the RTR Ranger benefits from a new blacked-out grille, with those signature LED lights included. Fender flares, running boards, 20-inch wheels wrapped in 285/55R20 A/T tyres, and a graphics pack are the other goodies thrown in. For those that aren’t familiar with the topography of Aoraki/Mt Cook, you’re looking at it across the tray, included as a subtle nod to RTR’s New Zealand heritage.
A set of Fox Performance Series 2 shocks take care of the handling beneath the Ranger, and unlike the Raptor’s suspension system, these don’t affect payload or towing capacity. That’s right, the 1000kg payload and 3500kg braked towing capacity has remained exactly the same, which is one huge benefit over the Raptor’s 758kg and 2500kg capabilities.
So how do RTR’s Ranger upgrades stack up against what Ford offers from the factory? After driving the RTR Ranger for a week, and hitting some pretty serious off-road trails, I learnt that it’s not a black and white comparison, instead, it’s a bit of an apples to oranges situation.
Some have described the Ranger Raptor as off-road sports car, a statement that I agree with, and something that this RTR ute is not.
It’s clear that the Fox suspension systems are very different between the two utes. While the Raptor is a high-flying desert racer that can jump over ditches without issue, the RTR Ranger feels more utilitarian, and drives like you’d expect a jacked-up tradesman’s ute would. A lot of this could also be down to the tyres, as where the Raptor uses smaller wheels to allow for more sidewall, the 20-inch wheels on the RTR leave less tyre room, making for a harsher ride.
Unsurprisingly, these tyres also make a bit of noise on the road, and dull the steering feedback, but not enough to be a deal-breaker. Along the same lines, fuel economy is effected by the meaty rubber, as I struggled to get the combined economy under 10L/100km, which is a bit higher than Ford’s claimed 8.7L/100km.
These differences aren’t just noticeable on the tarmac, either. The meaty mud tyres on the RTR Ranger mean that it’s more of a traditional off-roader that can eat up almost anything at low speed. I found the increased ride height and generous approach and departure angles extremely helpful when getting throw some tough terrain, giving me full confidence in its off-road ability.
If you’re considering an off-road ute such as RTR’s Ranger, there’s pretty stiff competition at the top of the double-cab ute segment. Nissan’s Navara N-Trek Warrior could be a contender, but while it is an extremely cohesive off-road package at $74,990, the suspension tweaks don’t really measure up to the RTR’s Fox system.
That leaves the obvious alternative on the table, in the form of Ford’s factory-built Ranger Raptor, and to find a winner, we’re going to have to crunch some numbers.
This $17,500 RTR package is available on the current-generation PX3 Ranger in XL or XLT form. Meaning that an RTR Ranger’s bottom line can range from $67,990 for a 4WD XL, to upwards of $90K for a Wildtrak.
When you consider that the Raptor starts at $84,990, it becomes clear that paying over $85K for an RTR Ranger isn’t wise, so you’re left with the XL and XLT variants at $76,490 or $82,490 respectively.
So which one should you buy? In my opinion, the extra money that you would spend on a Raptor would only go towards a better on-road ride, and looks. Decking out an XLT in RTR accessories leaves you with an incredibly capable off-road ute that can still be used for regular ute activities come Monday morning, unlike the Raptor with its lower towing capacity and pay load.
Also, the topographical map of Aoraki is a surprisingly great conversation starter if you need to break the ice on site.