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2018-07-27 15:00

Sergio Davids

Image: Sergio Davids/Wheels24

The Ford Ranger Raptor is the most powerful, most radical factory-built Ranger double-cab bakkie yet and its headed for South Africa. We drive the new performance bakkie in Australia.

It’s been a busy year for Ford SA with two new cars (the Fiesta and Figo) being launched locally, with a third on the way – the next-generation EcoSport. Despite the keen interest in its latest offerings, one Ford product has remained firmly in the spotlight since its official reveal earlier in 2018 – the Ranger Raptor bakkie.

SEE: 10 things to know about the new SA-bound, locally-built Ford Ranger Raptor bakkie

The response, mostly positive, has been enormous, with pick-up enthusiasts eagerly awaiting Ford’s performance-tuned bakkie. In July 2018, Ford has unleashed its Ranger Raptor in Australia’s rugged Outback, a fitting environment to test the capability of the new bakkie.

Sure, it looks menacing with its assertive, rugged facade but is it any good off-road? We drive the new Ranger Raptor in Darwin.

Design - a literal Ford stamp of approval

One of the key elements in the design of the Ranger Raptor is its sheer road presence. Ford’s design team has given the performance bakkie some serious clout with the grille sporting the automaker’s moniker in huge lettering, akin to a hot grill pattern seared into the front-end – a literal stamp of approval.

It has an incredibly assertive design, one that’s guaranteed to turn ends and bound to spark a huge aftermarket dilemma as owners of standard Rangers badger Ford dealers with requests for "Raptor body-kit" upgrades…

It has huge 17" black alloys shod with 285/70 BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrain tyres, an aggressive bespoke body kit, high-strength steel base plates, sheet-moulded fenders, black wheel-arches and heavy-duty honeycomb skid plates. 

Compared to the Wildtrak, the Ford Ranger Raptor is 28mm shorter (5.3m), 320mm wider (2m) and 52mm taller (1.8m). The Ford Ranger Raptor’s track width has been increased by a huge 150mm to 1.7m and ground clearance by 50mm to 283mm.

Power

The Raptor derives its power from a 2.0-litre EcoBlue twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, capable of delivering 157kW/500Nm. Power is sent to all four wheels via a dual-range transfer case and a 10-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. 

The Raptor is designed to handle a wide range of terrain with selectable drive modes and uses Fox Racing Internal Bypass twin-tube shock absorbers front and rear.


No replacement for displacement?

While it’s true that the 157kW engine isn't impressive when viewed against its rivals, the magic behind the Ranger Raptor are its components hidden from view as it benefits from Ford’s Performance division, adepts at tuning suspension and handling.
 
An off-road vehicle’s ability to soak up bumps (or as they say in Australian motorsport, the many whoops dotting roadways) and undulations is critical, made even more so if you’re taking on tough terrain at speed. 

While Ranger Raptor might not be the most powerful double-cab on the market it can power through terrain with confidence while keeping its occupants firmly planted in their seats as opposed the rodeo-esque jostling some bakkies produce off-road.

After my stint in the Outback, I was given the opportunity to ride shotgun as a Ford performance driver showcased the bakkie’s capabilities. What  struck me was the quality of its suspension; each time the massive pick-up was launched through the air I was expecting a bone-jarring crunch as it hit terra-firma but instead, the Raptor soaked up impacts that would've crippled lesser vehicles with aplomb. It’s in this environment where a driver can transform the rugged Outback into their own playground that the Ranger Raptor shines.

Hermann Salenbauch, Ford Performance Global director, shares his thoughts on the engine:


                                                               


Driving it

If you’re expecting the Ranger Raptor to rocket off the line when planting the accelerator, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Its 2-litre oil-burner doesn’t provide visceral acceleration from standstill nor is it designed to. On the road, you’ll wish it had more power, however, take it off the beaten path and it comes into its own.

You'll feel as though there's plenty of power available but there's a second or two of turbo lag at the lower revs before the engine truly gets going. Once it does, however, the Raptor feels agile, much more so than a regular Ranger.

The 10-speed automatic transmission shifts consistently even at high speeds though for more control I'd suggest using the paddle shifts. Its steering is light, accurate and responsive. 

The Raptor is an ideal 4x4 for SA customers seeking a vehicle that's practical enough to handle an urban lifestyle yet one's that capable of delivering immense fun off-road on weekends. Not every Raptor buyer will attempt to launch their bakkie through the air, but whether you're tapping into your inner Dakar driver or performing a school-run, its adaptable and comfortable suspension will be a huge benefit to all.

Its massive, off-road tyres offer plenty of grip regardless of the terrain travelled and are surprisingly comfortable and quiet on tarred surfaces. Its on-road performance is great for a bakkie.



Switch it to Sport or Baja mode and its transmission and drivetrain become much more active for maximum response off-road. This allows the driver to shift the Raptor's rear out at high-speed yet remain firmly in control even if you need to carry a slide through corners. Sliding the Raptor around bends or through rutted roads that would destroy the suspension of a normal vehicle is intoxicating yet in the back of your mind you'll be thinking "this is great but I want more power!".

Overall

Ford’s performance team has done a great job transforming the already capable Ranger into a true off-road performance-orientated bakkie. Its suspension is tough enough to handle the rigours of a tough 4x4 trail while remaining supple enough to ensure great driver comfort, behind wheel regardless of the terrain tackled. 

Its design is that of extreme road presence - unmistakable in both its Ranger roots and its intent.

Sure, power is always going to be an issue and many of rivals already have it beat in that department but what the Ranger Raptor might lack (on paper anyway) in displacement it more than makes up for it in off-road prowess. 

The Ranger Raptor has a huge burden placed on it as Ford will be marketing its new bakkie to a limited portion of the local double-cab market. It’s a segment where, it hopes, buyers will be persuaded to part with their hard-earned Rand for a product that has two major disadvantages - power and seriously tough competition. A huge hurdle the Raptor will have to overcome in its segment are German V6 diesel double-cabs, bakkies that have had an unassailable advantage for years. One way Ford can help ensure it's performance bakkie's success is the price; local pricing isn't available yet and anything less than R800 000 (the current Wildtrak auto is priced at R633 700) could see it become a local success.

The trouble with the Ranger Raptor is that in its current guise it's great but with additional power, it could’ve been a game-changer. Hopefully, we’ll see a more powerful version of the bakkie in the near future. 

More from Ford SA

Despite two local cars (Fiesta, Figo) and as many intentional products (new Focus, Ranger Raptor) being launched in 2018, Ford’s final salvo for the year, at least locally, will be its next-generation EcoSport SUV. Look forward to our coverage of the new model later in July 2018.

If you’re looking for something with more presence than the Ranger Raptor, the new Shelby F150 Raptor is set to be available locally in 2019.

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