Ford Ranger Raptor review - a different, but definite thrill of driving

Some of the most fun you can have in a car - provided you’ve got a suitable playground

Ford’s F-150 Raptor is to pickup trucks as a Porsche 911 GT3 RS is to sports cars – if not honed for actual competition, then as close as you’re likely to get in a vehicle with central locking and climate control.

The trouble is, the F-150 is a little too large for most markets, and Ford’s global pickup, the Ranger, has lacked an equivalent variant – until now. The Ford Ranger Raptor is an attempt to capture some of the F-150 Raptor’s spirit (think road-legal Baja racer) in a package better suited to markets such as the UK.

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Engine, performance and 0-60 time

Larger engines are available in the Ranger chassis, but Ford’s engineers have chosen a 2-litre biturbo diesel for the Raptor. Modest in capacity, its maximum power figure of 210bhp at 3750rpm also sounds relatively tame for a car with a 2510kg kerb weight, but 369lb ft of torque from 1750 to 2000rpm is more indicative of the engine’s nature.

Attached to a ten-speed automatic gearbox co-developed with General Motors, its on-paper performance figures nevertheless fail to impress: a 0-62mph time of 10.5sec means the Raptor is no sprinter (for reference, America’s F-150 Raptor can reach 60mph in little more than half the time), while the 106mph top speed would be more impressive on loose surfaces than on the autobahn.

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As you’d expect from a dedicated off-road vehicle, there’s plenty of configurability in the four-wheel-drive system, with a high-range two-wheel-drive option and both high- and low-range four-wheel-drive settings. There’s also a rear differential lock.

Technical highlights

Ford has gone to surprising lengths with the Raptor’s underpinnings, with some comprehensive changes from the standard Ranger. That starts with the ladder chassis, which in addition to reinforcement in key areas, has had its rear leaf springs replaced with coil springs.

Heavy-duty, internal bypass dampers by Fox – boasting 30 per cent extra travel over the standard Ranger items – are then fitted at all four corners, and the rear axle additionally benefits from a pair of disc brakes rather than the standard drums. The track is wider than standard (complemented visually with extended arches, as well as an F-150 Raptor-style grille) and new 17-inch wheels wear a set of 33-inch BF Goodrich tyres.

Electronically the Raptor features similar terrain modes to those of the standard Ranger, but adds a new Baja mode which knocks off the stability control and reconfigures the traction control for ‘high-speed off-road performance’. It’s possible to turn off the traction control completely, though it’ll switch itself back on again if you select another driving mode or change between four-wheel-drive modes.

What’s it like to drive?

One of the problems with high-performance road cars is the infrequency with which you can enjoy their potential, legally, on the road. While the Raptor doesn’t suffer from excess performance – quite the opposite – it’s still a real shame how little you’ll be able to explore its capabilities in the UK.

You’ll have little hints as to its ability here and there, just as you would with a supercar. Potholes, for example, are no longer something to be dodged, and kerbside parking worries dissipate entirely. While we’d not condone such behaviour, there’s little point in backing off for speed bumps either.

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There’ll certainly be no mistaking its other behaviour for anything other than that of an old-school body-on-frame pickup. There’s simply not the steering precision, body control or levels of grip you’d find in even fairly modest conventional SUVs. That may bother some. Others probably won’t care – it doesn’t seem to have harmed pickup sales so far.

The tradeoff is how the Raptor behaves in its intended, off-piste environment. The new suspension steamrollers over the kind of bumps that would have you headbutting the headlining in most SUVs. This in turn encourages the kind of cross-country pace you’d ordinarily avoid for fear of sending top-mounts through the bonnet. You’ll be jostled around of course, but the Raptor positively encourages you to attack the world in front of you quicker and quicker, and it only seems to get better when you oblige.

Even the steering makes more sense off-road. It’s all about reasonable compromise: if it was honed for asphalt you’d have your thumbs wrenched off on the first misjudged boulder. On sand, gravel and over rocks the feedback seems amplified and the rate of response is more than suitable, though when arsing around for the camera quite a lot of wheel-twirling was needed to keep those enormous Ford letters pointing the right way. The brakes, a little too soft in road driving, feel progressive and powerful on loose surfaces.

Unfortunately, the engine feels a little under-nourished wherever you are. The ten-speed transmission is swift and smooth enough and keeps the engine stirring along in the meat of the torque (enough so that using the paddles for manual operation tends to be unnecessary), but with 2.5 tons to hustle along the engine always feels just a little strained, using a few more revs than you’d expect and, off-road, more commotion still. We’re aware high-speed off-road driving requires its own, unique driving style and that high revs are a part of that, but we’ve a sneaking suspicion that a V6-engined VW Amarok would make lighter work of some sections on equivalent tyres, simply due to its extra capacity.

However, it’s hard to imagine any other pickup sold in the UK making such light work of so many off-road environments, and on the off-chance you do have somewhere appropriate to enjoy what the Raptor offers, we can’t think of another vehicle more suitable or more fun – unless, of course, you were to import Ford’s own F-150 Raptor for yourself.

Price and rivals

This kind of ability doesn’t come cheap. Including VAT – as you’ll have to do since the Raptor’s 620kg payload excludes it from the same benefits as a regular commercial vehicle – the Ranger Raptor comes in at £48,785, or more than £10,000 above the current Ranger Wildtrack range-topper.

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In fairness to Ford, that £10k is getting you an awful lot – visual changes, significant suspension and braking improvements, some interior niceties – but you are also losing that car’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder engine and, if it interests you, the availability of a manual gearbox.

All Ranger Raptors are double-cab only and the model is available in two colours, the Ford Performance Blue pictured, and Conquer Grey. Standard kit is admirably high, with an eight-inch touchscreen with Sync 3, a rear-view camera, keyless start, heated windscreen, climate control and eight-way adjustable leather and Alcantara sports seats.

Highly customised pickups seem to have taken off in the UK recently – Isuzu has been selling an ‘Arctic Trucks AT35’ D-Max with wide arches and large tyres for some time, and recently announced the dramatic-looking (and surely Raptor-inspired) XTR. Toyota also offers an AT35 variant of its Hilux by Arctic Trucks. Both AT35s are the best part of £50k themselves, while the XTR is nearer £41k, all including VAT.

In terms of more conventional trucks, the aforementioned V6 Amarok is probably top of the pile, variants of which begin at around £37,000. It’s more of a sprinter than the Raptor (the quickest versions get to 62mph in eight seconds) but unlikely to match its off-road performance, or fun, without a few choice modifications.

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