A brief Raptor history lesson: Way back in 2010 in the US, the Ford Special Vehicle Team debuted the Raptor nameplate on the F-150, the smallest Ford “truck” you could get in that country at the time. Nowadays, the Raptor continues under the Ford Performance division, but back then, in the “bigger is better” era, the standard engine was a 231 kW, 5.4-litre V8 with the optional 302 kW, 6.2-litre V8 becoming the only choice later in its life cycle.
The second generation F-150 Raptor dumped the much-loved V8s in a greener world and now runs the 336 kW, 3.5-litre EcoBoost petrol V6. Developed as a road-legal version of an off-road race bakkie, the Raptor version of the F-150 featured four-wheel drive, specific all-terrain tyres, a proper trick suspension system, widened fenders and Ford lettering emblazoned on the front grille. But most owners drive their bakkies on road, so dumb idea, right? Wrong!
Until the end of 2018, the F-Series was the best-selling vehicle in the US for the 42nd consecutive year, and 909 330 of them were sold in that year alone. I have no doubt that 2019 made it year 43. It was said somewhere that the F-Series is the best-selling nameplate in the world. And that means there are plenty potential owners who wanted a special off-road F-150, even if they never went near any dirt.
For the 2019 model year, Ford introduced the Ranger into the States, but this is a US-only developed “truck” that runs the, familiar to South Africa, 200 kW, 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol – but with no Raptor option because that is reserved for the F-150 only over there. On this side of the Atlantic you get don’t get the bigger F-150. Instead, you have the locally produced Ranger and with the range comes a Raptor for the first time. The Ranger is probably the most accessorised bakkie in the country.
Every spares shop and flea market outlet has a host of add-on products and most dealers dress them up, too. The accessories of choice centre around Raptor-ising the Ranger – and by this I mean you add a bunch of stickers and some body trim. But they are not Ford Raptors. A proper Ranger Raptor, like the one we took on holiday down to the South Coast, is nothing like a standard Ranger.
The Ranger Raptor is taller by 51 mm, has a 283 mm ground clearance and a 850 mm wading depth and is also 150 mm wider at the front and rear. This is not just because of the composite-material based, more durable flared front fenders. The extra width and size comes courtesy of a unique off-road chassis.
Hiding under those fenders are Fox Position Sensitive Damping shock absorbers that offer higher damping forces for extreme off-road driving and lower damping forces for more moderate on-road driving, while also offering substantially increased front and rear-wheel travel. As a result of this, it would be unfair to expect the Raptor to be as smooth on road as the run-of-the-mill Ranger. But with the state of our roads and the rain we experienced on our brief break at the coast, I was thankful for its sure-footedness.
The specially developed BF Goodrich 285/70 R17 all-terrain tyres offer a tougher side wall for serious off-roading and meant potholes on the crumbling road infrastructure of KwaZulu-Natal’s rural roads were not a problem, either. What was also appreciated was the new and bespoke high-performance braking system. One, to stop the extra weight of the bakkie and two, to avoid all the stupid stuff drivers manage to get up to when the weather gets bad.
Staying with stupid drivers, the Raptor is loaded with safety and convenience features, such as Ford stability control, incorporating roll stability control that was specifically adapted for this vehicle. By using sensors to anticipate and minimise oversteer, understeer and rollover incidents, you always feel like you are in absolute control in any situation.
Inside, the Ford performance touch continues. You get suede sports seats, blue stitching, a sporty instrument cluster with red needles for the dials, leather section sports steering wheel, with motorsports-inspired on-centre marker, and paddle shifters for those who want to shift to any of the 10 gears manually.
Where this mean and aggressive package is a let-down is with the new 2.0-litre, 157 kW/500Nm bi-turbodiesel engine. While off-road, you won’t get around the Raptor with your normal bakkie, on road this engine falls a little short in the urge department. And because of having to use more of the available power and torque than you would normally want to get the Raptor going, fuel consumption suffers. Going down we averaged 9.0l/100km and climbing back home, this went up to 10.5l/100km, while the average sits at 12.4l/100km during the month we have had the bakkie.
I am not the first to question why we don’t at least get the 2.3-litre EcoBoost that is running in the Ranger in the US. But, as said, their Ranger is their Ranger and our model and engine derivatives are mostly decided upon in Australia. And the 2.0-litre bi-turbo is the choice for now.
The latest news out of the land down under is that we might see the Mustang 5.0-litre V8 doing duty in the Raptor before the end of this Ranger’s life cycle. Then you will get a Raptor that will drive over everything on the road, too. I can’t wait.
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