REVIEW | The 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor is a turf-taming toughie
High-flying Ranger Raptor excels on trails less travelled
I was airborne when I realised just what a good off-road vehicle the new Ford Raptor is. Or, more accurately, I was landing.
The driving instructor at the Raptor’s media launch on the Upington salt pan had launched the bakkie off a big bump and, grasping the handhold next to the passenger seat, I winced in anticipation of a hard landing that might rearrange some of my organs and perhaps dislodge a few teeth. But the spine-jarring thump and the loud clunk of bottomed-out suspension never materialised.
The big bakkie touched down softly and continued unruffled through the rally stage that Ford had set up on the pan. Organs and fillings intact, when it was my turn to race the Raptor through the bumpy course I didn’t hold back, having seen what the vehicle was capable of.
It was a joyride that confirmed the Raptor’s credentials as a vehicle for hardcore adventure seekers. With its race-bred suspension and extra-large tyres, the Raptor tends to turn mountains into molehills, allowing it to charge through rough turf with far less circumspection than in a regular double cab.
Turning a standard Ranger into the Raptor involved reworking the chassis by fitting robust shock absorbers from suspension specialist Fox and increasing suspension travel by 32% at the front and 22% at the back.
The rear leaf springs are replaced by coil-over suspension with a Watt’s linkage that allows the axle to move up and down with reduced lateral movement, allowing for superior control and comfort over fast-paced rough turf.
The 283mm ground clearance is a full 51mm higher than a standard Ranger to give the Raptor obstacle-tackling numbers to impress the most jaded weekend warrior: entry angle is improved from 29.4° to 32.5°, departure angle from 21° to 24°, and the ramp-over angle from 22° to 24°, while the wading depth is a very useful 850mm.
Larger front and rear brake callipers deliver improved stopping power over a regular Ranger.
Built to withstand high-impact off-road encounters, the chassis frame comprises various grades of high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) steel, and a thick steel bells pan provides underbody protection.
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The Raptor is all huffing visual aggression with its flared arches, which accommodate the 150mm widened track and the supersized BF Goodrich 285/70 R17 all-terrain tyres, on black wheel rims.
All this hardware, together with four-wheel drive, makes for a bakkie that feels right at home on dunes and dongas.
The Terrain management system has one extra mode over the normal Ranger, a Baja setting named after Mexico’s Baja Desert Rally. This mode delivers the most smiles-per-mile on fast gravel as it decreases the traction control intervention to allow for some power-sliding antics, and also sharpens the steering and optimises the gear-shifting in the new 10-speed auto transmission.
As impressive as 157kW and 500Nm sound, all the Raptor paraphernalia adds weight and drag that muzzles the bite of the new 2.0l turbo diesel engine. For all its aggressive posturing this Ford is brisk rather than brutal in its performance, and an Amarok V6 will eat it for breakfast in a 0-100km/h sprint.
Admittedly straightline performance isn’t the Raptor’s primary raison d’etre, and it’s mostly about being a gravel grinder. But this Ford sometimes leaves you with unsatisfied power cravings and there are times when you’d like it to have just a bit more poke when you prod the throttle.
As focused an adventure vehicle as it is, the Raptor makes a relatively user-friendly commuter.
The mega-sized rubber makes the steering heavier than a regular Ranger’s, but still light enough to be used as an urban runner without requiring gym-enhanced arms.
The wide tyres are quite noisy though, and they tend to squeal when the vehicle is cornered at slightly more than medium pace on tar (and at crawling pace on the smooth concrete of parkades) — earning us a few stink eyes from pedestrians who thought we were being boy racers.
This behemoth isn’t the easiest vehicle to park either, though a reversing camera helps matters. My main qualm about using the Raptor as a daily runner was that it’s so high I struggled to reach down for the security gate button at my office building.
But the good part is that you fear no potholes; those giant tyres just cruise over them, and the same goes for speed humps. For its cushy ride and towering height the Raptor doesn’t feel excessively wallowy in the corners.
It’s less of a workhorse than other Rangers with a 607kg payload compared to 860kg, and towing capacity reduced from 3,500 to 2,500kg.
In summary, the locally-built Raptor is an off-road champion that can be used as a daily runner. It costs a steep R180,200 more than the next-best Ranger, the Wildtrak, but the price tag comes with true rally-bred ability. It’s also decent value by being similarly priced to its only real rival, Isuzu’s considerably less powerful Arctic AT 35 truck.
Type: Four cylinder turbo diesel
Type: 10-speed automatic
Type: Rear wheel drive, with selectable four wheel drive and low range
Top speed: N/A
Fuel Consumption: 11.8l/100km (as tested)
Electronic stability control, hill descent control, ABS brakes, seven airbags, rear view parking camera, park distance sensors, cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep system, hill-launch assist, electrically adjustable driver seat, leather seats, smart keyless entry and push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, electric windows, dual-zone climate control, Ford Sync 3 infotainment system with navigation, electronic shift-on-the-fly 4x4 selector, terrain management system, Fox performance suspension, 283mm ground clearance, tailgate with lift assistance, multifunction steering wheel, 285/70 R17 all-terrain tyres, protective steel belly pan.
Warranty: Four years/120,000km
Service plan: Six years/90,000km
Lease*: R16,803 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Ford Ranger Raptor
We like: Offroad ability, aggressive image
We dislike: Could do with more power
Verdict: The Ranger for true adventurers
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Isuzu Arctic AT 35, 130kW/380Nm — R785,000