Ford Ranger Raptor

Brilliant shock treatment overcomes an engine thatís less than electrifying

ANDY ENRIGHT

BY NOW, youíll probably know all the basics of Fordís Ranger Raptor, so we donít need to go over them in too much detail. In summary, you get a Ranger thatís been substantially re-engineered with Baja-style Fox long-travel suspension, a toughened chassis, a ten-speed automatic and, up front, a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel lump good for 157kW and 500Nm. Read the marketing spiel and youíd be forgiven for thinking that this is the most hairy-chested thing to sport a four-pot this side of a Porsche 919.

As intrigued as we were at the prospect of this vehicle, it raised three fairly fundamental issues. Does it have enough engine, can it live up to its hype off-road and, finally, is it worth the $75,000 asking price? We took the opportunity to give the Raptor a fairly unrestricted leathering in a 4000km2 cattle station in the Northern Territory in order to answer these questions.

The easiest to answer is whether it can cut the mustard off-road. The key to its competence is the combination of the Fox dampers and the 285/70R17 BF Goodrich KO2 tyres which, in concert, deliver a long-travel plushness to the ride and decent lateral grip on loose surfaces. The tyre is particularly interesting, having been developed specifically for the car with an S (180km/h) rating and the ability to find purchase on the loose without imposing too much of a noise penalty on bitumen. The pillow-top ride quality on road is teamed with relaxed but welljudged pitch and roll resistance.

Off-road, the rebound damping is particularly impressive, the Raptor able to be launched over small yumps, whoops and dropoffs without the suspension crashing. Even when driven hard into compressions that would fold a garden-variety Ranger in half, the Raptor swallows horrific hits without troubling its bump stops. Itís uncanny. ďThe shocks act much like a soft-close drawer,Ē says Simon Johnson, vehicle dynamics lead on the Raptor program. ďNo matter how hard you slam the drawer, itíll always slow and catch it.Ē

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

MERCEDES-BENZ C200 42

HYUNDAI SANTA FE

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO

Model Ford Ranger Raptor

Engine 1996cc 4cyl, 16v, dohc, t/d

Max power 157kW @ 3750rpm

Max torque 500Nm @ 1750-2000rpm

Transmission 10-speed automatic

Weight 2404kg

0-100km/h 10.5sec (claimed)

Fuel economy 8.2L/100km (combined)

Price $74,990

On sale September

Other off-road features include hill-descent control that is tuneable for speed either by the cruise-control buttons or via the throttle or brake pedal. The raised ride height of 283mm Ė up 50mm on the standard Ranger Ė and a track widened by 150mm give the Raptor a beefy, foursquare stance with approach, breakover and departure angles of 32.5, 24 and 24 degrees respectively. A lowrange transfer case and a centre diff lock means youíll have to try pretty hard to get one of these stuck. Should you excel yourself, 3.8-tonne rated tow hooks front and rear should help you out of a spot.

Whatís perhaps most impressive about the Raptorís off-road chops is the Terrain Management Systemís Baja mode, which allows 20 degrees or so of yaw with ESC on, giving the off-road driver the option of oversteering the Ranger into a corner on the brakes to get the nose pointed in vaguely the right direction whilst still retaining the safety net of some stability control should you really get a bit ambitious. Available in both all- and rear-drive settings, Baja mode does particularly interesting things to the electrically assisted steering, damping the response slightly which would be undesirable on bitumen, but on the loose allows you to wind on lock without making the front end nervous or pointy-feeling. Likewise, it softens the throttle pedal mapping slightly so as not to tip the vehicle into unwanted traction control interventions.

So while the Raptor lives up to its engineering claims off-road, on blacktop itís not quite such an unblemished scorecard. Thereís no real way of sugar-coating the fact that this is a $75K Ford Performance product that has a power to weight ratio of 65kW per tonne. Thatís only a gnatís better than an entry-level VW Polo 70TSI. Little wonder that accelerating from rest to 100km/h takes a stately 10.5 seconds. In other words, donít try to challenge a V6 Amarok or X-Class away from the lights. Drive it solely off-road and youíll find it more than adequate.

On road, it can feel a little anaemic, although the 10-speed automatic transmission does try to wring the best of it out. The fact that peak torque is maintained across a mere 250rpm between 1750 and 2000rpm coupled with shift paddles that seem to deny downshifts a little too censoriously means that the íbox is best left in ĎDí to get on with things.

And therein lies the Raptorís rub. Viewed through the narrow lens of pure function, the engine is fine for its high-speed, off-road remit. Itís gutsy enough, wields a 900km+ theoretical range and weighs around 70kg less than the doughty 3.2-litre five.

But in focusing almost exclusively on fitness for a largely esoteric purpose, Fordís engineers have compromised the Raptor for what it will actually be used for. Most Aussie buyers will never experience their vehicle at high speed on dirt or sand, much less launch it off a yump. Those filling Fordís order bank will get a greatlooking, sweet-riding and benignhandling dual-cab thatís one of a kind, but which can appear skewed on the mouth/trousers ratio. Vacation on a cattle station and itíll all make sense.

ANDY ENRIGHT

Naked Gun

A naked Raptor chassis buck clearly demonstrated commonality with the Everest SUV front end, the Raptor sharing that vehicleís rails from front to B-pillar. The lengthened T6 ladder frame comprises three conjoined sections, with the rear-end custom built to accommodate the wider track and Raptorspecific modified Watts link rear suspension.

Raptor comes out of the same Thai plant as Everest, and, despite popularity, will continue to adhere to Fordís 10-year product lifecycle for commercials. And yes, the Raptor does have the same tail lights as a 2011 MY Ranger.

Class-leading suspension; clever off-road electronics; decent transmission

PLUS & MINUS

Not particularly quick; peaky torque delivery; no AEB

Viewed through the narrow lens of pure function, the engine is fine for its high-speed, off-road remit

01 DUE DAMPER DILIGENCE

Raptor went through 42 shock prototypes at the front and 74 at the rear before the final combo was decided upon. F150 Raptor lookalike 17-inch alloys hide vented discs all íround.

02 SCARING THE DOGS

Pre-production car had a glitch with its active noise cancellation which manifested as an ultra-high-pitched tone in the cabin at a certain throttle opening.

03 SCHOOL OF HARD NOX

Aussie Raptors are Euro 5 compliant rather than the 6.1-spec cars that Euro markets get. At least that means we donít have to bother with AdBlue top-ups.

Braking Bad Itís hard to believe that Ford has omitted autonomous emergency braking (AEB) from the Raptor given that itís available on other cheaper Ranger versions and is a feature commonly found on $15K light cars. When asked why, VP of Asia Pacific Product Development Trevor Worthington said that there had been issues with sensor positioning and inappropriate interventions when using existing Ranger AEB tech. ďWe didnít want to bring a half-arsed solution to market,Ē he said. ďWe had to take into account the usage profile of the Raptor and the feasibility of fitting it [AEB] to Job 1 [early tranche] vehicles.Ē

He also stated that a nextgen AEB pack suitable for off-road use will appear on Aussie Raptors at some point in 2019.

OR TRY THESE...

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Mercedes-Benz X350d $75,000 (estimated)

With 190kW and 550Nm to call upon and a three-pointed badge up front, the X350dís attractions arenít hard to grasp. But the crude rear suspension makes the Raptor seem a generation ahead.