Is the Ranger Raptor a true Raptor?
Does Ford's junior juiced-up truck have the minerals of its full-fat American sibling?
There was a raucous sea of whoops, hollers and the rogue “yee-haw” when Ford launched the Raptor in 2009. It was the all-conquering, V8-powered desert sled America had been waiting for; a jacked-up F150 with a stonking great V8 and Baja-spec suspension.
Instantly ‘You-Ro-Peens’ got a bit jealous. Being the spoilt brats we are, we wanted a big badass truck to stonk around Shropshire in… even though it’d barely fit on our roads. And would cause a mild fuel crisis.Advertisement - Page continues below
That instinctive feeling of want didn’t wane when the second generation was launched. Even with the thumping V8 binned in favour of a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, our response was simply 'gimme'. Even though it still wouldn’t fit on our roads. And cause a mild fuel crisis.
But earlier this year, the land of Downton Abbey and mushy peas got a Raptor. But we didn’t get the Raptor. Instead, we got a Ranger with some meatier off-roady bits and a steroidal sticker pack similar to its bigger brother. Unsurprisingly, people threw their toys out of their Fox-shocked pram and towards their computer screens. “It’s not a real Raptor!” they screamed until they went blue in the face. I know, I was one of them. But having spent some time with a Ranger Raptor at this year’s TG24, I’m going to defend it. Not to its death. But defend it none-the-less.
Don’t get me wrong, I lurrveee a full-fat Raptor. I’ve been lucky enough to point them at all kinds of awkward geography around the world and simply demolish it. It’s a truck that shouldn’t be able to attack landscapes at speed without some sort of mechanical disembowelled, yet these juiced-up F-150s can simply leapfrog over obstacles with joyful, lollopy abandonment. But I’ve also driven an SVT Raptor in the UK where – newsflash – it just doesn’t work.Advertisement - Page continues below
Yes, the bigger-diameter shocks with crazy long-travel front and rear, special hydraulic bump stops, greater ride height and a 6-inch wider track than a standard truck allow you to straight line to your destination. But it’s too big. Too cumbersome. Too dynamically lackadaisical.
So the fact that the Ranger Raptor actually fits on our anorexic, archaic roads is an instant plus. And it’s not like it’s not been given an extra dose of butch. There’s 150mm track width over a standard Ranger, chunky BF Goodrich tyres (cut out for things a lot more serious than a Travis Perkins car park), and a reinforced chassis with proper uprated Fox Racing suspension. It’s not just shiny kit to show off, either. This thing loves being abused. It’s a sadomasochist that keeps asking for more torture, especially off-road where it makes a lot of sense and really earns its Raptor arse tat that’s on the tailgate.
It has the same ‘Terrain Management System’ as the F-150: Normal, Sport, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Sand, Rock. There’s even the converted Baja mode – which is slightly incongruous considering it’s a long, long way from the 6ft whoops and taco stands of Mexico. But if it’s good enough for Baja, it’s good enough for Beaulieu.
These modes kick the electronics into super brainy mode so they juggle the power, throttle, ECU and all-wheel-drive depending on the scenario. But for maximum fun, we recommend Top Gear Mode: traction control off, permanent two-wheel-drive and a liberal application of the throttle. This gives a lot more room for exuberance and fun… and potentially hitting stuff. That’s where the 2.3mm steel bash plates, bumpers that better the standard approach and departure angles, flared wheelarches and a big ‘FORD’ grille re-sized from the full-house F-150 come in handy.
Even on road the Ranger Raptor feels a lot more exciting than your normal pick-up. It has an inherent playful side, especially with rubber made for loose surfaces and a suspension setup that doesn’t mind a bit of sway. Roundabouts are a right laugh.
But there is one diesel-sipping fly in the ointment: the engine. Our sucky legislation over here denies us a proper rip-snorter of a performance engine, so we have to settle for a far-from gutsy 2.0-litre diesel. It gets assistance from a pair of small turbos, so is good for just over 200bhp and 369lb ft of torque. But to make a 2.5-tonne lump feel quick, you need a bit more than that. And it’s not quick, with 62mph coming up from a standstill in a treacly ten and a half seconds.Advertisement - Page continues below
That doesn’t mean the Ranger isn’t fun, though. You just need to get up to speed and manage momentum. And bravery. Which is entertainment in itself. If not, just close your eyes and let the heavyweight shocks sort it out. Then send it.
What you’re not getting with the Ranger Raptor is a slice of Americana. Which, sometimes, was the overlying allure for a lot of us on these shores. But what you are getting is a hardened, practical pick-up. It’s definitely of the same bloodline as the original, just in a more junior state. It’s the prepubescent teenage Raptor. It’s got the hardware but doesn’t have the heart. And it’s nearly £50k. Which you can’t even ask the tax man for some back by registering it as a commercial vehicle.
The initial question at the top of all this was whether the Ranger Raptor is a true Raptor. Well, yes. Just one in training. And in need of more testosterone. A bit more grrr. But as you’ll soon find out, it can hold its own against a proper weapons-grade off-roader. So stay tuned for more from TG24, and that epic battle...Advertisement - Page continues below