RANGER RAPTOR REVEALED

OFF-ROAD SPECIAL SET TO SCORCH THE OUTBACK.

FOLLOWING a year of speculation and spy shots, the Ford Ranger Raptor has been revealed, making its debut in Thailand. Aside from the bold, wide-body styling of the bespoke Raptor, the big reveal was the powertrain with a 157kW/500Nm, 2.0-litre, bi-turbo diesel, four-cylinder engine filling the engine bay, backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission adapted from the F-150 Raptor.

There is no petrol engine option for Australia, nor is there a version of the 3.2L diesel that is a favourite with Ranger buyers here. Ford representatives at the reveal fielded numerous versions of the same question regarding a petrol powerplant, but would not be drawn on rumours of a V6 petrol for the North American market, to coincide with the re-launch of Ranger into the USA.

The 2.0L engine makes more power and torque than the five-cylinder 3.2L and, according to Dep Ed Justin Walker, who scored a July 2017 ride in the Raptor during its development phase (see page 28 for the full story), the bi-turbo is more than enough to add excitement to the ute.

Jamal Hameedi, Chief Engineer, Ford Performance, was at the Thailand reveal and said this bi-turbo engine and the 10-speed auto (co-developed between Ford and GM) were the choices from day one.

“There was the bi-turbo, 10-speed, and there was the bi-turbo, 10-speed,” he said. “We wanted the best diesel available that we could get our hands on.”

Hameedi also reckoned once people get a drive in the Raptor, the performance question will become moot.

“You gotta drive it,” he enthused. “It’s quite surprising; you take that [the bi-turbo 2.0L] and you couple it with the 10-speed, which you’re getting a lot of gear multiplication out of... It’s pretty darn impressive.”

The bi-turbo arrangement on the four-cylinder diesel engine uses both a small and large turbocharger working in sequence, depending on engine speed and load.

At lower engine speeds the two turbos work in series for the best torque and responsiveness; at higher engine speeds the small (high pressure) turbo is bypassed and the larger (low pressure) turbo provides maximum boost to deliver more power.

IT’S MORE THAN AN ENGINE

LIKE the F-150 variant that has made the Raptor nameplate legendary, the Ranger Raptor is more than just an engine. It’s the desert racing-inspired chassis and suspension that really dials up the adrenaline levels.

The ladder frame has been strengthened and adapted to take a coil-sprung rear end instead of the tradie-spec leaf springs. This setup is similar to that found under the back of the Everest wagon as it uses a Watts link arrangement, but differs with its coilover Fox shocks that are mounted further outboard for improved stability. The rear wheel track is also wider than that of a standard Ranger to match the 1710mm wide-track front end. The result of all this widening, beefing-up and lifting is a Ranger Raptor that measures 5398mm long, 2180mm wide, 1873mm high, and with a 50mm increase in wading height, up to 850mm.

At the front end, forged aluminium upper and cast aluminium lower arms widen the track with Fox Racing again supplying the coilovers. The 46mm (front and rear) shocks feature Position Sensitive Damping (PSD) technology. This provides higher damping forces at full compression and rebound to enable better performance in high-speed off-road conditions, and lower damping forces in the mid-travel zone for a more comfortable ride on road. Finishing off the chassis and suspension development are those big BFGoodrich KO2 285/70R17LT All Terrain tyres, kept in check by the upgraded braking system, which includes twin-piston callipers on whopping 332 x 32mm ventilated rotors at the front, and 332 x 24mm ventilated rear discs clamped by new 54mm callipers. This suspension and chassis development points at what Ford hopes to get across to the market; the fact ‘Raptor’ means more than just a grunty engine, as Hameedi explained.

“If you’re focusing on the engine you’re missing the whole point,” he said. “The Raptor is about the suspension, it’s about the chassis and about breaking the bank on the chassis. The suspension, the architecture, shocks. Those four shocks cost as much as a small engine – and that’s not an exaggeration.

So that’s how much money we have tied up in those shocks. And that’s what the Raptor is; it’s not about horsepower, it’s not about torque, it’s having enough horsepower and enough torque to do the job, but it’s not the full goal.”

“IF YOU’RE FOCUSING ON THE ENGINE YOU’RE MISSING THE WHOLE POINT”

GETTING POWER DOWN

THE RAPTOR retains a part-time 4x4 system with low range, but now includes the latest version of Ford’s Terrain Management System (TMS), similar to what we see in Everest, but with the latest tweaks including ‘Baja mode’, which was previously only exclusive to the F-150 Raptor.

Baja mode desensitises the chassis electronics, including the traction and stability controls, giving more control back to the driver while at the same time holding gears in the 10-speed auto and sharpening the transmission and throttle response for high performance driving. This is the mode to unleash your inner Robby Gordon aspirations, while the regular On-Road and Sport modes are there for tarmac travel and Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Sand and Rock modes are there for off-road terrain. Further enhancing the Raptor’s off-road chops is a standard rear diff lock.

John Fallu, manager of the transmission and driveline for the Raptor, was at the reveal in Thailand and elaborated on some of the 10-speed auto’s features and how it works so well with the 2.0L engine.

“...This powertrain match [between the 10-speed and the 2.0L bi-turbo] provides optimal performance, fuel economy and efficiency, along with extremely smooth shifting,” he said. “It [the gearbox] has a very wide ratio span in very small gear steps, which provides the smooth shifting... The other benefit of the small gear ratio steps is, whether you are driving in a performance manner, it allows the engine to maintain its peak performance by operating at a peak horsepower point.

The other advantage of the 10-speed transmission and why we’ve made it so specific to the 2BTD is from an efficiency standpoint; just like it can match the peak horsepower of the engine it can also match the peak fuel map of the engine to make sure you’re always operating in that peak fuel efficiency point.”

Fallu went on to discuss the gearbox’s durability, pointing to the fact it is currently used in the F-150 Raptor and has also been subjected to more than six million kilometres of “test miles”, including the Baja 1000 and “2900 kilometres of additional desert testing”. Fallu points to the gearbox’s roller one-way clutch [positioned in the front of the ’box] as another benefit: this “key feature” ensures smooth shifting in low-speed (read: low-range off-road work) conditions, compared to what Fallu describes as “shift jerking” from other transmissions.

“IT REALLY IS LIKE A MOTOCROSS BIKE, SNOWMOBILE AND AN ATV ROLLED UP INTO A PICKUP TRUCK”

STYLIN’ UP

RANGER Raptor’s styling obviously comes from its bigger American cousin, the F-150, with the signature black grille and bold FORD lettering. The front ’guards are made from a composite material and are pumped out to cover the wider wheel track and accommodate the tyres with more suspension compression. The rear cargo tub (1560mm wide; 1743mm long) also gets the pronounced ’guards for tyre clearance, while that new rear bumper features an integrated tow bar to dramatically improve the departure angle. This is now 24-degrees while the approach angle is 32.5-degress and rampover is 24-degrees. Ground clearance is listed at 283mm, while wading depth is now a claimed 850mm. As with the F-150 variant, the towing capacity of the Ranger Raptor is rated lower than the regular Ranger, at 2500kg, due to its drivetrain and suspension package that is more set up for performance than load-hauling.

Inside, the Raptor gets trim unique in the Ranger line-up. The front seats feature heavy bolsters to better hold the occupants in place at high speed off-road, while the full suite of features and equipment are included. Of interest are the magnesium gear-shift paddles behind the Raptor-unique steering wheel, and the use of keyless entry and push-button start; features we hope extend to the updated Ranger and Everest models later this year.

The Raptor will sit at the top of the 2019 Ranger line-up when it arrives in Australia in the third quarter of this year; although, there has been no word on price as yet. Ford tells us this will come closer to the launch date. With the level of bespoke suspension upgrades, modified and reinforced chassis, unique engine and transmission, and the bold exterior design, we’re tipping the Raptor won’t come cheap – nor will it be for everyone.

The Ranger Wildtrak is already more than $60K and we reckon the Raptor will be closer to $85-90K. That is a lot of money for any ute, but the Ranger Raptor won’t be just any ute.

“It is amazing to enable this level of performance and create a vehicle that can provide off-road enthusiasts such an adrenaline rush,” Hameedi said. “It really is like a motocross bike, snowmobile and an ATV rolled up into a pickup truck – it’s an incredible, awesome experience!”