HEAVY LIFTING

FORD

ALEX RAE

REPORT SIX

EXIT

FORD RANGER RAPTOR

Price as tested: $76,790

This month: 1969km @ 9.6L/100km

I MUST CONFESS Iíve cheated a little this past month, and I havenít been completely faithful to the Raptor I fell in love with. Iíve been seeing Andyís orange Renault Megane for a bit of a fling, which has given me a broader perspective on what the Ranger-on-steroids is really like.

As a car to drive every day, the Raptor is just so easy to get along with. Everything is in the right place, the controls all work without fuss, and it feels as solid as the work truck it is. Itís not jerky or awkward to drive either, despite measuring over 5.5m long and weighing more than two tonnes. Itís easy to park, vision is good, and the steering feels tuned for city driving.

As for family transport, thereís plenty of room for my young son to kick about Ė literally Ė and the dirt cleans easily from the seat trim. For big kids and adults the rear is not as inviting, though, with the low seat-to-floor height not suited to long legs. But as a car to travel in with kids? Itís great.

Weíve already tested that heading up to the snow, hauling my small family of three plus luggage and all the gear for the slopes. The only problem was a lack of covered storage areas due to the exposed tray. Editor Inwood already pondered a practical solution during his handling of a giant TV: sure a cover would be useful some of the time, but equally, itíd have to be removed some of the time to haul awkward-size loads. Iíd keep the tray clear myself, and think about a larger canopy to only use occasionally on big trips away, because there are plenty of opportunities to use the ute how it was intended once itís sitting in the driveway.

Inspired to an early spring clean, I took to the yard to get things looking sharp while I still had the pick-up. The penny pincher I am, I wasnít taking two level tubloads of rubbish to the dump. Thatíd cost me twice as much as piling everything into one trip. After that, I picked up a load (according to the mulch man, it was a bit over 500kg) of decomposing garden litter.

While such tasks might seem menial for a Ranger, it should be noted that the mulch brought the Raptorís unique Wattís link rear-end suspension toward its 758kg maximum payload. Thatís a lot less than the normal Ranger 4x4 dual-cabís proper one-tonne rating. This may be a turn-off for some, though the impressive ride quality on and off-road is some compensation. However, the Raptorís 2500kg towing capacity Ė a hefty 1000kg deficit to some other 4x4 models Ė put me off trailering an old car I needed to pick up. Still, it hardly felt the half-tonne mulch load, either in stability or grunt.

That said, if the Raptor could receive just one improvement, itíd be more poke. Iíve been left in the dust of German V6 foes the VW Amarok and Mercedes-Benz X-Class when getting onto the freeway, and, more importantly, been left with waning confidence on the wrong side of the road while trying to overtake a slow-moving caravan. Pep at the crucial 80-120km/h sprint really is lacking. Iím not asking for a twin-turbo V6 F-150 Raptor-matching 0-100km/h sprint of 5.0sec, but somewhere between that and our Raptorís 10sec stroll would be very welcome.

Is that enough to discourage from recommending the Raptor? Not at all, because everything else it does is blended so well with utility. It juxtaposes Andyís Megane, which provides a narrow performance focus in the right circumstances. As a bit of a Ďlifestyleí car, the Raptor might suggest itís somewhat form over function, but in reality it accomplishes both.

ALEX RAE