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Ford Ranger Raptor review

Is the maddest version of the Ford Ranger pick-up actually the most capable?

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Design
8.0
Comfort
7.0
Driving experience
7.0
Value for money
7.0
Safety
8.0

Summary

The Ford Ranger Raptor is the most in-your-face pick-up on the market, but it's more than just looks. It simply leaves every other pick-up in its wake.

Summary

The Ford Ranger Raptor is the most in-your-face pick-up on the market, but it's more than just looks. It simply leaves every other pick-up in its wake.

60-second summary

What is it?
The Ford Ranger Raptor is a range-topping version of the pick-up with significant off-road upgrades.

Key features
Body styling, suspension upgrade, off-road electronic aids, ten-speed gearbox

Our view
The Ford Ranger Raptor is the most visually in-your-face pick-up on the market but is about a lot more than looks.

It’s the best-riding Ranger on the road, thanks to greatly upgraded suspension, and off-road it has the ability to leave not only other Rangers but every other pick-up in its wake.

Similar vehicles
There aren’t any!

Ford Ranger Raptor review 2019 - wallpaper | The Van Expert

Full review

Introduction

The Ford Ranger Raptor might just be the most misunderstood pick-up on the market. For a start it is not the Raptor that Ford sells in America – that is a version of the gargantuan F-150, with the 3.5-litre V6 engine from the Ford GT pumping out some 450 hp.

The UK Raptor has merely a 2.0-litre diesel engine, with 213 hp. So less than half the grunt of its US cousin, but 13 horses more than the most powerful 3.2-litre engine version of the existing, very successful Ranger – Ford’s pickup has topped the UK market for the last three years.

Some who have studied pictures of the new model have dismissively dubbed it a Ranger with a body kit, aimed firmly at those who want a pick-up to look good in rather than to use as a workhorse.

They could not be more wrong – underneath that body styling, the Ranger Raptor hides a number of significant secrets. these include a beefed-up chassis, a completely different rear suspension, and a ‘Terrain Management’ set of software with six driving modes – including one recreating the high-speed off-road action of Baja rally entrants.

This fact that this Ranger has a wading depth of 85cm – a full 5cm more than the standard version – will give you the idea that it is the most off-road capable Ranger around. And thanks to the suspension upgrades, it’s likely the most capable on-road too – especially if you are travelling in the back of its double cab…  

Yes, it does have a more in-your-face look – provided by a bespoke grille directly inspired by that of the American F-150, bulging wheel arches (to cope with a track extended by 15 cm) and a bright aluminium skid plate.

These are mere dressing, however, – this Ranger, like its US cousin, has been developed by Ford Performance, an arm of the blue oval that specialises not in styling kits but top-level competition, such as in NASCAR, and the Le Mans 24 Hours…

Buying and owning a Ford Ranger Raptor

There is only one form of Ford Ranger Raptor – it’s based on the double-cab model, and as well as the body styling already mentioned it gets a range of technologies also being added to the mainstream Ranger as part of a refresh.

Notably, these include a host of active safety electronics – autonomous emergency braking, a lane-keeping aid, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition are all part of the specification, while other new tech includes keyless entry and start, bi-xenon headlamps and a wi-fi-hotspot capability.

The really significant stuff, however, is under the skin. The Raptor’s setup is based on creating a vehicle that can endure the punishment meted out in high-speed off-road races such as the Baja 1000 – it’s as much about hard landings from huge jumps with the throttle buried as it is about negotiating rocky mountain tracks.

So the chassis is seriously strengthened over the standard Ranger, with a great deal of high-strength steel employed. That bright aluminium skid plate is also accompanied by a ‘bash plate’, made of 2.3mm high-strength steel.

The suspension is all-new too – out go the rear leaf springs, replaced by a coil setup, and all four springs and dampers are performance items supplied by Fox, a noted producer of off-road suspension, and with bespoke aluminium control arms. It’s all designed to offer maximum damping at speed off-road, but also to calm things down when tackling typical UK tarmac.

The brakes are bigger and more effective, and they sit behind bigger wheels and tyres – the latter are gargantuan all-terrain items produced by BF Goodrich, almost 84cm tall and more than 28cm wide, filling those flared-out arches. The reason the Raptor can tackle 5cm deeper water is that you sit 5cm further up when in it…

Inside the Ford Ranger Raptor

Functional is the word when talking about the Ranger Raptor’s interior. Yes, there are some extras, a bit more leather, blue stitching, and big titanium paddle shifters to make it feel a bit race car.

The steering wheel is unique to the model and includes a big red mark at the top of its circumference, so when charging down an off-road track one can tell when the wheels are pointing straight ahead…

Generally, however, the look is not that different from the inside of the standard Ranger. There are plastics, hard plastics, indicative of the tough conditions this vehicle is expected to operate in.

There is also Ford’s latest Sync3 infotainment system, which is user-friendly and reasonably impressive in operation, though not up to the standards of some rivals. It uses an eight-inch touchscreen and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, as well as a number of Ford’s own apps.

This is a double cab, of course. Such designs are always a compromise between adding a second row of seats and not losing too much capacity from the load bay.

As a result, this reviewer found sitting in the rear a cosy experience, and some taller occupants might not feel that comfortable. Headroom is nearly 4cm less than in the front, and legroom equally restricted.

As for the load bay, you get just over 157cm of cargo space, into which can be loaded up to 620kg of payload, significantly less than the tonne you can load into its standard sister. The Raptor will also tow a 2,500kg braked trailer, which is 1,000kg less than stock Ranger.

This is a major disadvantage because, as a result, the Raptor cannot be registered as a commercial vehicle, which means business users can’t claim the VAT back on it – on a £50K pick-up, that’s a significant amount of money…      

Driving the Ford Ranger Raptor

The Raptor may be aimed at high-speed off-roading, but how does it handle on the road? Very well actually. While the engine spec doesn’t sound as potent as the image of the vehicle it’s installed in, it’s actually as much as one needs for adequate progress – 0-62mph is dispatched in 10.5 seconds which is perfectly fine in a vehicle on stilts such as this.

Remarkably this bold pick-up boasts a ten-speed auto transmission. In theory, this should mean the ratios are always in their perfect sweet spot, and most of the time they do a pretty good job. But at times you feel the ‘box is running through speeds desperately trying to find one to suit the conditions, and as for trying to shift ten speeds manually, very confusing…

  • Ford Ranger Raptor road test 2019 - front view | The Van Expert
  • Ford Ranger Raptor road test 2019 - rear view | The Van Expert
  • Ford Ranger Raptor road test 2019 - side profile | The Van Expert

It certainly feels that you are driving something high up – but not unnervingly high up. Much of the credit for this must be levelled at the suspension, as it soaks up the road bumps without occupants noticing, and keeps things surprisingly, well level, when cornering.

You will feel the biggest difference in ride comfort by not driving the Raptor. Travelling in the back, the improvement compared to the leaf-spring setup of the standard Ranger is palpable – definitely a much more relaxing experience.

Those coils become very welcome companions if you are in the back when your driver wants to explore off-roading at speed, as we discovered. This is where the Raptor comes into its own, soaking up any punishment directed at it.

This is a very capable off-roader, both in terms of its muscular chassis and the technology. The Terrain Management system sets all the hardware to cope with the surface being traversed, and it offers six modes – Normal, Sport, Grass/Gravel, Snow, Rock – and Baja. This last is the mode for off-roading at speed – basically, the Raptor will do anything any other off-roader will do, but at twice the speed…    

Summary

Precious few buyers will actually need all the capabilities the Ford Ranger Raptor offers, and at a shade under £40,000 it’s an expensive pick-up.

We reckon, however, that plenty of people will buy it. Some will want it because it boasts the most mutant-like appearance of any pick-up out there. Others will want it not for its looks but what it can do – leaving the pick-up crowd far behind with both its pace and go-anywhere ability.

Good points

  • Visually impressive
  • Off-road ability to beat all comers
  • Coil suspension means much more ride comfort

Bad points

  • Payload too small for CV tax breaks
  • Ten-speed transmission a cog or three too far
  • Infotainment system not up to others in market

Key specifications

Model: Ford Ranger Raptor
Price (on-road): £39,895
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Gearbox: Ten-speed automatic
Power: 213 hp
Torque: 500 Nm
Top speed: 170 mph
0-60mph: 10.5 seconds
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars (2012)

Design
8.0
Comfort
7.0
Driving experience
7.0
Value for money
7.0
Safety
8.0

Summary

The Ford Ranger Raptor is the most in-your-face pick-up on the market, but it's more than just looks. It simply leaves every other pick-up in its wake.
Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Van Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars and vans for more than 20 years, and attends many new model launches each year.

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