Coming to a fast lane near you
By Mike Duff / Tuesday, 15 November 2022 / Loading comments
It wasn’t hard to see the appeal of the outgoing Ranger Raptor, but it was always hard to make a compelling case for it in the UK. Behind its butched-up styling the Raptor always seemed a bit weedy thanks to a four-cylinder diesel engine which couldn’t get it through the 0-60mph benchmark in less than ten seconds. A bigger problem for many potential pickup customers was the fact it lacked the one tonne payload that would allow business users to reclaim the VAT on it. The good news is that the new one answers one of those biting questions.
The 2.0-litre diesel hasn’t been ditched entirely, with a version using it set to join the range later. But the new Raptor will be launching in Blighty with the much more attractive option of a twin turbo 3.0-litre EcoBoost petrol V6 producing 288hp. The official 0-62mph dash has been cut to 7.9 seconds, which is more than a second slower than the Australian-market version, but that’s because European emissions standards mean the new motor has been turned down to make 100hp less. Welcome to the future, everyone. Drive passes through the same 10-speed auto of the old Raptor and an electronically controlled four-wheel drive system and two-speed transfer case. It also has locking differentials front and rear.
But no, it still doesn’t have the payload to be a commercial for tax reasons. Which is why it is better thought of as being a lifestyle vehicle first and a load-lugger second – that pretty much summing up the driving experience, too.
Beneath the shiny new metalwork the new Raptor sits on the same T6 platform as the outgoing one, with a strengthened version of its ladder frame chassis. Visual aggression has been turned up by a couple of notches, this Raptor keeping the flared wheelarches and huge F-O-R-D brand, but gaining compact LED headlights that have been pushed to the very edge of the bodywork to make the grille look even bigger. For any speakers of cod Latin this is Raptor resartus rather than Raptor renatus. Development took place in Australia, a place that takes its trucks very seriously indeed, and although the forthcoming Volkswagen Amarok will share its underpinnings (and Ford engines) with the basic Ranger, we’re assured that there will never be a direct VW equivalent to the Raptor.
The cabin is similarly new, although its combination of tough, scratchy plastics lifted by some classier Alcantara panels follows a similar approach to the last one. The most obvious difference is the arrival of digital instruments and a sizeable 12-inch portrait orientated touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard, this running the latest version of Ford’s SYNC 4 Infotainment system. A stubby new gear selector has helped free up some space on the lower centre console, with this also incorporating a wireless charging pad and a strangely shaped stowage pocket that – to get the stereotypical jokes all ticked off – really does seem perfectly sized for an XL vape pipe.
Another neat detail is a row of rocker switches on the Raptor’s roof panel, these controlling pre-wired circuits that can be accessed at the front or back of the truck, or through the roof, to make it easier to plug in powered accessories. The drivetrain selector has also gained a new mode in addition to Four Low, Four High and Two High – a 4A or ‘four automatic’ setting that will engage or disengage drive to the front according to conditions without further intervention.
But you’re not here for accessory switches or gearbox modes, are you? You’re here for confirmation that this Raptor can match its predecessor’s ability to eat bumps, devour humps and digest the sort of ‘hold my beer’ jumps that would punch the struts through the suspension turrets of lesser trucks.
New Raptor continues to use dampers from U.S. off-road race specialist Fox, although these are now more able to vary their force in both compression and rebound. Initial damping is gentle, to help on-road compliance, but force grows as travel increases. The effect can also be managed by a needle valve controlled by a chassis ECU which takes inputs from wheel travel sensors at each corner. The Raptor knows when it is off the ground and will stiffen its shocks to brace for impact so it can better defuse the energy as its two and a half tonne mass tries to dig a furrow. Suspension travel between wheels-hanging droop and full compression is 256mm at the front and 290mm at the back; although substantial, that is considerably less than in the F150 Raptor. Which is why the Ranger engineering team say that this Raptor’s dampers have to work considerably harder.
Putting that into practice comes later, because first I get to drive the new Raptor on road – although not for very far. Initial impressions stay true to the last version, the combination of commanding height and an eyeline that makes most SUVs look titchy, but also width that is going to deny passage between standard-size restrictors: the Raptor is a huge 2208mm wide. Small wonder so many of its predecessor seemed to get parked across multiple car park bays.
Yet despite its bulk the Raptor is easy to place on the road and doesn’t wander, its turning circle actually being pretty tight for something so large. Low speed ride quality is good and the exhaust’s Quiet mode allows for low-key getaways that neighbours will appreciate. In the most sensible Normal dynamic mode, it cruised down a Spanish motorway at an indicated 75mph remarkably quietly considering its combination of vast Continental General Grabber tyres and outhouse aerodynamics. Size aside, it’s a painless everyday proposition.
While definitely faster than the previous Raptor – no challenge in itself – the new one is still some way short of becoming subjectively fast. That might sound ludicrous when discussing something with the thick end of 300hp, plus 362lb-ft of torque at a modest 2,300rpm, but the physics involved are always going to be Jurassic given an unladen 2454kg kerbweight. For reference that’s only 175kg less than the F150 Raptor on Ford’s numbers thanks to the bigger truck’s aluminium construction. The Ranger Raptor is happy to launch hard, but acceleration tails off quickly as velocity rises; and overtaking confidence was knocked further by the autoboxes limited smarts when left to its own devices. Sport mode sharpens the powertrain response, but also adds artificial-feeling weight to the electrically assisted power steering and – at constant throttle – sets the exhaust note droning.
Beyond the previously mentioned Quiet setting there are no fewer than three other exhaust noise modes, which are switched according to the different dynamic modes or can be toggled separately using a steering wheel button. Normal and Sport are pretty much as expected, with the loudest Baja setting bringing an on-screen admonition that it is for off-road use only. It’s hard to see a world where too many Raptor buyers following that instruction scrupulously, but I also struggled to imagine many of them enjoying the resulting cacophony too much on the grounds of anything except volume and abilities to make windows shake. Imagine listening to a Ford GT rev up through a length of sewer piping. Alternatively I might just be turning into a joyless old grump.
The Raptor’s V6 also features what is, somewhat artfully described as an anti-lag system. This doesn’t fire petrol into the hot turbo like a Group A rally car, rather it uses electronically controlled throttle and wastegate to allow the engine to pump air past the turbo to keep the blades spinning when the throttle is lifted, cutting response times when going on and off the throttle rapidly. As I didn’t notice its presence, or any lack of accelerator response, this seemed to work.
The steering delivers accuracy but little feedback, Sport mode just adding weight without any increase in sensation. There’s not much to talk about anyway given the knobbly tyres’ predictable lack of enthusiasm for generating lateral G-forces. The Raptor feels secure when driven at a decent lick, but pushing towards the final tenths brings increasing signs of dynamic distress – the front end running wide, the rear rubber starting to squeal as it searches for traction. It might be a Ford Performance product, but the Raptor is definitely not a performance Ford compared to the rest of the portfolio. Not on road, at least.
Which is doubtless why I got to spend more time playing in the Raptor at a vast off-road experience site near Barcelona. The most exciting part was a dirt loop intended to show off the Baja mode, this being both the Raptor’s loudest and angriest setting. The engineering team say that the stability control system becomes much more permissive in Baja, although on gravel corners it was still intervening hard and denying the Raptor the sort of power-on throttle adjustability promised by the official pictures, a passenger seat chaperone refusing to let me turn the system off. I did get to take the Raptor wheels-off after hitting a carefully chosen bump at speed, and then land with a commendable lack of drama, but this was at a similarly policed pace that was obviously well short of what the truck was capable of.
More impressive was the Raptor’s lower-speed ability, proving impressively adept at conquering both gradients and axle-twisting terrain. Ford claims 265mm of ground clearance, which is superior to a coil-sprung Land Rover Defender 90, and the Ford’s 32-degree approach angle is actually one degree better. Dry Spanish conditions meant I didn’t get the chance to plug any mud, but the Raptor’s new Rock Crawl mode – which maintains a creeping pace without throttle input – got it up a serious climb without any drama. Throw in some smart traction management and the ability to separately lock front and rear differentials, although through too-small icons on a touchscreen, and the Raptor is a very serious bit of off-road kit.
The pricetag will be equally serious: a very chunky £57,340 including the VAT that can’t be knocked off. But although that’s an increase of just over £4000 over the outgoing diesel version, the supplement doesn’t seem outrageous given the new Raptor’s extra standard kit and significant improvements in power and performance. If you hated the old one you’re going to hate this one just as much, but if you were already a Raptor fan you’re definitely going to want this one even more.
SPECIFICATION | 2022 FORD RANGER RAPTOR
Engine: 2956cc V6, twin-turbocharged
Transmission: 10-speed auto, switchable four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 288@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 362@2,300rpm
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 111mph
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