Review: why the Ford Ranger Raptor still ravages its rivals
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Ford Ranger Raptor
- Looks and feels special
- Great to drive on-road as well as off
- Official Ford Performance cred
- No adaptive cruise
- Width can be an issue in town
- Down on payload/towing
Double cab utes are so very popular in New Zealand and there are so very many to choose from, that a lot of the choice comes down to personal brand preference (pickup people are a passionate bunch for sure), or the fine detail in performance and specification.
That makes sense, because the basics are so similar. Utes are pretty much all ladder-chassis machines with torquey diesel engines and part-time 4WD systems; yes, we know there are a couple of full-time AWDers, but let’s not get bogged down in that.
Point is, choosing between them is going to come down to sheer emotion or a carefully thought-out pick list of equipment. All balanced against price of course.
I certainly have my own preferences, which may or not may be based on entirely rational thought. I won’t get into that because it’s not relevant here.
Oh okay, I’m a bit of a Hilux fan. I said it. But I can see the arguments from all sides for most double-cab utes.
However, from a showroom-ready speciality/adventure/lifestyle point of view, I can’t see any argument against the Ford Ranger Raptor being top of the heap. There’s really nothing else that comes close. A refresher course in the high(er) riding Raptor has only made me more sure of it.
It’s a really special machine. It’s been engineered to be the ultimate yump-tastic plaything, but the surprise-and-delight bit is that all the Fox Racing suspension and chunky footwear also makes it a brilliant on-road Ranger.
It doesn’t hurt that it has Ford’s energetic 2.0-litre biturbo-diesel engine and 10-speed automatic, but it can’t simply rest on that: you can have the same powertrain in a Wildtrak, a number of special editions (so very many) and even the mid-range XLT from this year. And Raptor is 100kg heavier than a biturbo Wildtrak.
The smooth, eager performance is one thing, but the smooth ride and predictable handling you get from the dune-hopping chassis setup is what makes the Raptor great. It’s soft, but still beautifully controlled and those BF Goodrich All-Terrain tyres are impressively quiet on tarmac.
It’s no Mustang in the turns, but the chassis compliance and predictability of the handling make the Raptor a real pleasure to drive on the open road. At least in the dry; I’ll admit you have to be more cautious when the going gets slippery.
Most of all, in a market where so many seem obsessed with accessorising double-cab utes, the Raptor doesn’t really need any. It looks markedly different to any other Ranger because it has bespoke frontal styling (including guards and grille). It’s 25mm taller, which may not be seen as a good thing, but you get double that back in an extra 50mm of wading ability (850mm total). Much better approach and departure angles, too: 32/24 degrees versus 29/21 for the Wildtrak.
Raptor has real status in the Ranger world and it’s a credible machine to wear the Ford Performance brand.
It’s not perfect. While it has autonomous braking now (it didn’t originally), you still don’t get adaptive cruise control like you do on a Ranger Wildtrak (or every Hilux or Isuzu D-Max or Mazda BT-50). There’s an extra 168mm width compared with a normal Ranger that can be an issue in parking and of course the Raptor famously cannot carry or tow as much as other Rangers, thanks to that trick suspension: payload just 758kg and tow rating 2500kg.
But it’s not supposed to be a work truck. How much do a couple of mountain bikes weigh anyway?
The Raptor is special in NZ because it’s pretty much unique. Toyota NZ has had a crack at creating a rival with the locally developed Hilux Mako, which is a brilliantly executed machine in itself.
But there’s still a difference: the Toyota looks and feels a little like a really comprehensive makeover. The Raptor looks and feels completely resolved and that’s because it’s a Ford factory job. It’s proper.
FORD RANGER RAPTOR
ENGINE: 2.0-litre biturbo diesel
GEARBOX: 10-speed automatic, part-time 4WD