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First Drive

Ford Ranger Raptor review: baby pick-up truck tested

Published: 03 May 2019

Raptor? Isn’t that just a ma-hoosive American pickup?

Well it was, and still is. That’s the F-150 SVT Raptor, built as a manufacturer take on a desert pre-runner, it captured the imagination of those who needed - or thought they needed - a fully warrantied off-road V8 monster complete with semi-race suspension, big tyres and an extra ego of attitude. It was a revelation when it came out in 2010, the best version complete with a 411bhp, 6.2-litre V8 and a load of slashy decals up the sides. Latterly in 2017, the car has lost weight and gained a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, but it now puts out 450bhp and loses nothing in attitude. If you really need to pretend to be a Baja racer and live somewhere big enough to play in deserts, then it’s a solid choice.

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Sounds awesome. But they’re big. And the UK road network isn’t.

Exactly. Where an F-150 works in the wide-open USA, it definitely doesn’t really work in a rural village in Berkshire. Or commuting through the medieval meander of London streets. Or with UK petrol prices, for that matter. In fact, it’s pretty much an amusing but hard-to-park aside anywhere in Europe. The solution, according to Ford, is to apply the Raptor brand and attitude to a vehicle with a more Euro-compliant silhouette. And ta-daa, we have the Ranger Raptor.

So we’ve got a 450bhp, petrol Ranger? Holy sh… cow.

Ah. Um. Not so much. If you were expecting a twin-turbo V6 under the bonnet like the US-spec Raptor, then you’ll be disappointed. EuroRaptor gets a 2.0-litre diesel with a pair of small turbos, just over 200bhp and 369lb ft of torque. That’s not a huge amount for a pickup weighing in at over 2.5 tonnes, and 62mph comes up in a leisurely ten and a half seconds. It does drive through a ten-speed auto shared with the US F-150 Raptor though, and features a similar six modes from its ‘Terrain Management System’: Normal, Sport, Grass/gravel/snow, mud/sand, rock and Baja. Cheat code pre-sets for the AWD, traction and stability controls depending on terrain. So ‘Baja’ you can have any-wheel-drive, but the traction control has specific programming and the ESC is switched off. Similarly, if you select ‘rock’, then the AWD system locks down in 4x4 low-ratio and switches off all the electronic minders. Sport does away with any pretence to AWD and just motivates the rear wheels for ‘spirited on-road driving’. The rest are variations on the theme of best practice for the selected terrain, modulating engine response, traction and stability controls, that sort of thing.

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That sounds... rational.

It’s adequate more than exciting. Over 30mpg is really very reasonable, but the engine never really sparkles, and the 10-spd ‘box has some odd habits, getting strangely fond of certain ratios for some reason. There are override paddles if you feel the need, but it’s not the most intuitive of automatics. It all works, but it doesn’t exactly make your pulse spike.

That’s a shame. It looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Ah, but it is, if you have the space and terrain to exploit it. There’s a reinforced chassis, uprated Fox Racing suspension, BF Goodrich K02 33-inch all-terrain tyres and a series of body mods and underbody protection, though wise to note that the bash plates aren’t just shiny jewellery but 2.3mm steel. Enough to ward off smaller rocks at least. There are new bumpers - shaved to provide better approach and departure angles - standard running boards that should do a passable impression of rock-bouncers, flared wheelarches and a big ‘FORD’ grille re-sized from the full-house F-150.

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It’s wider (by 168mm with a 150mm broader track), longer and taller than standard, with 30-percent more ride height and 51mm more ground clearance. Front damper travel has increased by 32-percent over the standard Ranger XLT, and the rears will boing some 18-per cent more. That’s mainly due to that set of Fox Racing dampers and off-road springs, and the rear suspension now features similar coilovers and a Watt’s linkage instead of leaf springs. Good for off-road punishment in terms of location and ride, less good for carrying heavy, workhorsey loads. It’s a pickup for lifestyle loads (think mountain/dirt bikes/canoes/yoga mats etc) rather than pallets of bricks.

Better than that, this really is a thorough engineering job: reinforced suspension towers, a chassis that looks like it’s been seam-welded, some really heavy-duty additions. It shows. This is a car that has a suspension and chassis set-up that outstrips its engine - you can max-attack pretty much anything and the shocks/damping/tyres just soak it up. Expensive and semi-race suspension for the win. And yes, the systems really do help you maintain traction on everything from rocks to deep sand. It really does do quite a good impression of a 2/3rds scale F-150 Raptor in terms of ability.

Also, it flies quite well. Just be sure to warn your passengers.

What’s it like on-road?

Despite being awesome fun when being battered around at speed off-road, the Raptor actually manages quite well on it. There’s an element of big-tyre bobble from the big 33-inch tyres, but that’s to be expected. And there’s enough grip, although it’s never going to feel like a sportscar. Ranger Raptor gets better brakes - discs all-round - as well, so it stops with more authority than the stock pickup, and there’s some clever sound manipulation to make it sound pleasantly grumbly in the cabin. Not so much outside it, though. Inside it’s nicely premium, but the level of luxe in a pickup isn’t quite as startling as it once was, and there’s a generous amount of kit, from CarPlay to electric everything, embroidered seats and a decent stereo. It also just looks great, utterly faithful to the heritage, bulky and butch without looking like a mobile accessory catalogue.

So. Any major downsides apart from the engine?

It’s a difficult one, this. One the one hand, there’s probably not a small pickup this capable off-road as standard, although it does its best work on desert-y type terrain. But that coilover/Watts linkage rear suspension that makes such a difference to the way the car handles also means that it can’t carry the requisite payload to be registered as a commercial vehicle in the UK. So no tax breaks for this pickup. That’s quite the hit on a car that’s not far off £50k, no matter how you look at it.

So what’s the verdict?

Tough one. One the one hand, this is actually a brilliant vehicle, and if you’re into a beefed-up Ranger, it’s a very well-executed addition. It looks excellent, is tough as nails, and can be a right old laugh in the right situation. Those that say you don’t need it are probably correct, but nobody needs a supercar either. Yes, it’s a £49k Ranger, and no, you can’t claim back anything by registering it as a commercial, but think of it more as a pre-done fun thing. The biggest issue really is that a Raptor probably needs to feel slightly more mental when you’re not hooning about off-road, and the motor is a bit too rational. This engine would be fine for the grind, but something with a bit more edge would have pushed the Ranger Raptor up the scale from good to great. Maybe not a 450bhp V6 petrol, but 275bhp and 450lb ft would have edged it.

Solid effort, needs more V8 conversion.

Price: £48,784
Engine: 1,996cc biturbo 4-cyl
Transmission: 10-spd auto, front-engined, AWD
Power: 211bhp @ 3,750rpm, 369lb ft @ 1,750- 2,000rpm
Performance: 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds, 106mph top speed
Efficiency: 233g/km C02, 31.7mpg (combined)
Kerb weight: 2,510kg

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