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Can four play six? Can the Ford Ranger Raptor hold its own against its V6 rivals?

2018-07-25 08:00

Lance Branquinho

Image: Sergio Davids / Wheels24

To underscore just how much 2018 has been 'year-of-the-bakkie', Ford’s Ranger Raptor is being experienced by the international media at its global launch this week, as you read this.

Ford fans haven’t had the easiest July, with confirmation that fourth-generation Fiesta ST will not become available locally due to fuel quality concerns.

Softening the ST blow

That means Ranger Raptor has an even greater burden of expectation, as it attempts to soften the blow of disappointment in the wake of Ford’s Fiesta ST announcement.

READ: Ford's new Ranger Raptor: Performance bakkie to be built in SA

The bakkie market is especially competitive in South Africa and Ford requires no tutoring on the realties of it, as they are the near most important participant.

With Ranger Raptor, Ford will be marketing at a very limited portion of the double-cab market, one where buyers are willing to pay handsomely for a favoured combination of performance and image. It’s also a part the bakkie market where German V6 diesel double-cabs appear to have an unassailable advantage. 

What do you think of the new Ford Ranger Raptor? Will you be buying one when it becomes available locally in 2019? Email us

Can four play six?

When Ranger Raptor eventually goes on sale in South Africa next year, VW’s upgraded Amarok V6 and Mercedes-Benz’s X350d will be well entrenched. Both bakkies offer image appeal far superior to most rivals and unapparelled performance.

With power outputs just shy of 200kW and 0-100kph times both below 8 seconds, the V6 double-cabs from VW and Mercedes appear unbeatable as a first choice for those buyers who desire the utility of a bakkie with the acceleration of a junior hot hatch.

In view of Amarok and X350d’s performance numbers, it’s difficult to appreciate how Ford imagines Ranger Raptor will fulfil a destiny of becoming the double-cab of choice for South African bakkie fans who don’t like surrendering their position in the far righthand lane. Not only is the engine 30% smaller than either of its German V6 bakkie rivals, but power figures are notably humbler too.

                                                                            Image: Sergio Davids / Wheels24

Has Ford misread the market completely? Or is there a dilution of perspective by most bakkie enthusiasts and the media, obsessing about statistics instead of considering what Ranger Raptor presents as a holistic driving experience?

It’s true that the engine is not impressive when viewed in isolation, yet with a spread of ten-gears it should feel greatly quicker than a peak power output 157kW implies. 

Power is nothing without control

What distinguishes Ford’s performance double-cab from its German rivals are components hidden from view, obscured by its wheels. Renowned off-road racing and motorcycle suspension specialist, California’s Fox Racing Shox, has assisted in developing a custom coilover damper set for Ranger Raptor.

Unfortunately, suspension is considered boring by most, as it doesn’t have a specific power output or impact on 0-100km/h acceleration times. 

                                                                         Image: Sergio Davids / Wheels24

Perhaps the most important influence on a vehicle’s harmonisation of performance, is the quality and sophistication of its suspension.

The ability to ride out bumps or road surface imperfections, without a vehicle being deflected off its intended steering line, is the reason why certain cars, with less power, are quicker than high-output rivals at the Nürburgring.

                                                                      Image: Sergio Davids / Wheels24

In an off-road environment it becomes an even greater conduit to delivering a rewarding driving experience. An apt analogy is Porsche’s 911 GT3 RS, which has a lot less power than a 911 Turbo S, but is more revered as a driver’s car, due to its advanced suspension and structural chassis upgrades.

How many bakkie enthusiasts will value Ranger Raptor’s revolutionary Fox suspension technology, is uncertain. But in any analysis between the status of Amarok V6, X350d or Ranger Raptor being South Africa’s ultimate performance bakkie, an argument founded purely on engine output or acceleration numbers is unsound.

Critics of Ranger Raptor will question the benefit of its Fox suspension bits being of no use in ordinary driving conditions, whereas the surge of performance from an Amarok or X350d’s V6 engine is.

That might be true, but when you do happen upon a dune field or specifically challenging terrain, a Ranger Raptor will embarrass any other bakkie by the margin of superiority in its overall turn of speed.

                                                                      Image: Sergio Davids / Wheels24

Ranger Raptor might not be the most powerful double-cab available, but it can use nearly all its engine output in terrain that bakkies are designed to conquer, whereas more powerful rivals have to be shepherded at quarter throttle, unless you really enjoy riding rodeo in your seat and blowing suspension seals every few hundred metres.

Read more on:    ford  |  lance branquinho  |  south africa  |  new models

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