Ford by name, ford by nature. We pushed this mud-plugging pick-up to its very limits over three months

Why we ran it: To discover if it’s as capable as we think it is – or if it’s just silly.

Month 3 Month 2Month 1 - Prices and specs

11 Ford ranger raptor 2019 lt articulation

Life with a Ranger Raptor: Month 3

The big pick-up doesn’t really suit UK daily life. But that didn’t stop us falling in love - 19th February 2020

I know it’s ridiculous, but I’ve enjoyed it, okay? The Ford Ranger Raptor is based on a commercial vehicle but no longer tows or holds enough to be classed as one. It’s an off-roader developed in Australia, tested in the outback and modelled on recce trucks used on the Dakar Rally, but I work in Twickenham.

It’s a slightly ludicrous machine, then, to have enjoyed thoroughly, but here we are. It helps, of course, that it’s a large family car, capable of towing 2.7 tonnes of caravan/ horsebox/trailer, and returns nearly 30mpg, which is still a perfectly acceptable set of abilities and statistics, even without it looking like it can go places you can’t really walk. Which, of course, it can.

I’ve done exactly that several times while the Raptor has been with us. We’d had it less than a week when it acted both as a support car during our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car shootout and as a video foil for the Bowler Bulldog on a desolate Welsh mountainside – my first experience of the Raptor’s wet-rock skipping skills and 283mm ground clearance.

That’s just one of a set of fairly impressive numbers. Its approach angle is 32.5deg, and wade depth some 850mm – which I came a bit closer than expected to testing in a ‘how to off-road’ video yet to air. The other numbers – breakover and departure angles of 24deg – are less impressive, but that’s because this car is 5398mm long on account of it having a pick-up load bed.

2a ford ranger raptor 2019 lt nose

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These are a mixed blessing on a car that has crossover appeal in the traditional, not jacked-up-hatchback, sense of the word. Tax advantages mean double-cab pick-ups cross from being weekday commercial vehicles to weekend family cars much more easily than vans. Being able to sling whatever work kit you want into the back – dirty tools, building materials or, in our case, videographers – and hosing out what’s left when the work’s finished is really handy.

But it is not like having a car with a big boot. Whatever family gear you place in the back will still slide around and, if the bay is wet or muddy, in short order so too is whatever else you put in there. It’s not a car that makes the weekly shop easier, unless you want to churn your own butter on the way home. So it pays to have – I hesitate to use the words – an active lifestyle, and use the bay for outdoorsy kit. Everything else has to go in the cabin.

From when the car arrived with 5000 miles on it until it returned to Ford with 15,000, I’ve quite enjoyed the Raptor’s cabin. It’s a tall leap into it but there’s a beefy step each side, and Ford has retrimmed the cockpit so that it feels, just about, fitting of a £50,000 vehicle. The seats move electrically and are heated, there’s full climate control, phone mirroring and a heated windscreen. You can’t ask for more than that, can you?

Ford ranger heated seats

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Well, apparently you can, in the ‘shove’ department. The Raptor comes with a 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel engine that, some say quite loudly on social media, isn’t fitting for a car with the Raptor badge, because in the US the F-150 Raptor has a big, vee-shaped petrol engine. Well. It turns out that the Ford Mustang’s V8 does fit in a Ranger and a version is in development. In Australia. But given how hard Ford will find it to meet European overall fleet emissions limits anyway, I’d say there’s an approximately 0% chance of it officially arriving in the UK.

So a 2.0-litre diesel it is, making 210bhp and 369lb ft, which – usually quietly – drives through a 10-speed automatic gearbox, mostly smoothly. Only when cold and accelerating onto a quick road does it ever feel jerky. For the most part you’ll leave it in two-wheel drive, but there are four high and four low ratios, too. In mostly 2WD driving, with a bit of low-ratio hoonage now and again, the Raptor has returned 28mpg in my hands. And given it’s based on a commercial vehicle, service costs are reasonable – it wants an inspection every year (£105) or a service at 12,500 miles/ two years, at £255, which is what ours needed during its time with us.

Otherwise, occasional AdBlue (a litre at just under 300 miles and a 20-litre tank) and a faulty air temperature sensor (replaced under warranty) was its only outside attention needed.

The modest engine means the Raptor is a 10.5sec car over the 0-62mph dash, which sounds quite leisurely but honestly is fine. And Ford has done what it can to make the Raptor more capable and enjoyable to drive both on and off road. The load and towing capacity are reduced from the standard Ranger because of a mammoth amount of work that has gone into the chassis. Rear coil springs replace the rear leaf springs that are so common on pick-ups, while it has trick Fox dampers, with bypass valves that give a soft middle phase, firming up at each end to maintain initial control and stop them harshly bottoming. It’s a spectacular trick that gets better as you go faster, and never gets old.

The only problem is that, living in the UK, you have to search hard to find the places to experience the best of this car. But the same is true of a supercar – an off-road equivalent of which is, in a way, just what this car represents. I’ve loved it.

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Second Opinion

The Raptor is hard to resist. It looks extraordinary and it’s a hoot to drive. It’s well made, comfortable and quiet, and some of its more extreme hardware works amazingly well. The super-aggressive tyres are quiet, the off-road dampers give great on-road body control and the steering is nicely weighted and pretty accurate. For the first half-hour, you convince yourself it could fit into your life. But it never would. It’s far too long, far too expensive and, well, far too diesely. Shame, though…

Steve Cropley

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Love it:

Grippy tyres Highly rated BF Goodrich tyres lived up to expectations, helping the car find grip in poor conditions.

headed seats and screen A great winter car given how quickly the seats heat and the windscreen clears even the thickest frost.

those suggest looks Call me a redneck but I love its pumped appearance – down to the skid plate and thick towing eyes.

Loathe it:

Size matters The 2180mm width and length are problems in car parks. Makes the Volkswagen Touareg feel wieldy.

Tricky cross rails Cross rails over the load bed need a key to unlock them and a spanner to move them.  They’ve stayed put.

Final mileage: 15018

13 Ford ranger raptor 2019 lt beach

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We release our two very different long-term off-roaders into the wild - 5th February 2020

How do you off-road? That’s a question we wanted answering on video recently, and when you ask a question like that in this office, there’s only one choice of hardware to help find the answer, and it’s called the Ford Ranger Raptor. Kinda. We also took a Suzuki Jimny along. But the Raptor is the Raptor.

So we rocked up (no pun intended) to our favourite disused quarry, near Corby, to answer the question, if not quite comprehensively then at least as a good beginner’s guide.

What makes the Raptor easy to go off-roading in is that it’s hard to get into trouble. It has huge ground clearance, a terrific approach angle and wade depth, good axle articulation and a locking rear differential. Add a set of BF Goodrich KO2 tyres, which, I’m told, are considered some of the most senior boots you can buy for an off-roader and you have a 4x4 that is, if not second to none, then only second or third to one or two standard off-roaders in the world.

One of those isn’t the Jimny, although there are places the little Suzuki will go that the Raptor won’t – because there are places it’ll fit that the Ranger won’t. That’s the thing about making a rugged pick-up into a trail-pummelling off-roader: it’s still a 5.5m-long pick-up with a vast turning circle. I suppose you can push most obstacles out of the way, but there are still gaps or tight turns through which a Jimny will scrabble and the Raptor can’t bludgeon.

But the Ranger is the more serious piece of kit – though I gave myself a fright fording a pool that turned out to be deeper than I remembered, and which would probably have submerged the Jimny up to its roof.

Ford ranger raptor longterm 4

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When it came to getting one of them stuck and tasking the other one with towing it out for visuals, there was only one choice. Though the Suzuki really, really didn’t want to be stuck itself. What a tremendous giggle. The nice thing about the Raptor, of course, is that it’s respectably refined on the way home, too, which can’t be said for the Jimny.

Otherwise, life with the Raptor continues largely without drama. I say largely. The heated seat setting number three is too hot and number two is not warm enough. Setting one is good for no bum. But as drama goes, that’s about the end of it. It’s also a car that’s largely without peer. Although recently I did drive a Jeep Gladiator, a longer, pick-up version of the Jeep Wrangler that seems out to remove the Raptor’s market uniqueness. Or maybe the Raptor is out to eliminate the Gladiator’s? I’m not sure.

Anyway, like the Raptor it can hold a little over 600kg in its load bed (class norm for mid-size pick-ups is 3500kg) and can tow around 2.7 tonnes (class norm is 3.5 tonnes). Both specifications are spookily similar to the Ford’s, and it seems to have arrived in some markets at more or less the same time. It’s almost as if two massive US car companies with headquarters in the same town might have an idea of what the other is up to.

I loved the Gladiator and I love the Raptor, because both appeal to my sense of ridiculousness, even though I live in the wrong country to get the most out of either of them: my home county has so few open byways that it would be all but impossible to get into the Ranger’s clever Fox dampers’ zone of operation. But still. I’m living in hope that Jeep will confirm Gladiator sales for the UK, so we can revisit our quarry and settle the argument.

Love it:

Nods to Mustang The heated seat lights look like the tail-lights of a Mustang. Not sure if it’s intentional, but it’s quite cool.

Loathe it:

Crummy camera The rear-view camera stays clean all day off-road, but a single journey on the road obscures it entirely

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Mileage: 14,200

Ford ranger raptor longterm 3

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Life with a Ranger Raptor: Month 2

Riding the rails - 22nd January 2020

Novices to pick-up bed rails (me) might think that to slide them you merely need to spin these locks (pictured). But that just unlocks the rail cap, exposing the bolts that you then actually loosen before you can slide the rails back and forth along the bed. Which, when you consider the loads you might secure against them, makes much more sense.

Mileage: 13,400

Ford ranger raptor rails

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Fuel fixer-upper - 15th January 2020

The outer filler neck on the Ranger Raptor broke. It disassembled itself right at the top. You could still fill the big truck up, and it has been fixed properly at the car’s first service, which Rangers need at 12,000 miles. For boring logistical reasons, Ford did this itself, but if you went to a dealer, you’d pay around £245 for the 12,000 mile/annual service.

Mileage: 12,340

Ford ranger raptor fuel filler

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Filming a tractor at 100mph? All in a day’s work for this pick-up - 1st January 2019

Following an initial flurry of off-road activity, the Ford Ranger Raptor has been pressed back into more mundane service during the past couple of weeks. Which will not be uncommon for owners. The Raptor might be a rough-trail sports car but, like on-road sports cars, it’ll spend most of its time doing the daily grind, with sporadic moments of showing off. Customers will expect it to be adept at both.

And it is good at the boring stuff, which is unsurprising and why double-cab pick-ups became so popular in the first place, I suppose. Owing to being bigger, the Raptor isn’t quite as easy to rub along with as the Toyota Land Cruiser I was running previously because it’s harder to park. I’m always seeking out a bay at the end of a row so I can squeeze as far out of other people’s way as possible, and one shop local to me with a poor car park hasn’t seen me for a while, but otherwise it’s fine.

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There’s plenty of room in the cabin, both front and rear, with big cubbies for drinks and oddments. I haven’t carried more than two people in the back so I’m not sure how tight three would find the cabin over distance, but this is a broad car. I like the supportive front seats, too, and the uprated interior trim with fancy contrast stitching and what looks like leather if you squint a bit, as Ford has tried to make the Raptor not just behave like it’s worth fifty grand, but feel like it, too. It has succeeded well enough for me. It’s winter and the Ranger has a quick-clear windscreen, after all – those feel worth fifty grand on their own on the right morning.

Where a pick-up – and not just this one – doesn’t always translate to being a good passenger car is where the boot, such as it is, is massive, hard-lined and more exposed to the elements. The Raptor’s load bay is covered and stays dry, but unless I have a really big bag to carry – or two videographers to perch in it while trying to chase down the world’s fastest tractor at 100mph – I tend to just sling bags or shopping in the rear footwell instead, where things are less likely to slide from edge to edge and spray groceries all over the place.

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If you want to carry four people and your weekly shop, then, it’s worth bearing in mind the advantage of a normal SUV’s boot instead. The load bed feels slightly less secure than a conventional boot too, although that’s probably unfair. Things are out of sight, and if some oik wants to steal your things, they’ll find a way to do it regardless.

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There has been one problem. The capless fuel filler opening has been a bit sticky and awkward to push a filler nozzle into, which I put down to it being high mounted; but as I write, yesterday a colleague pulled a filler hose out and the assembly came with it. No fuel’s leaking and, pushed back together, it should hold until the 12,000-mile service, where I’ll have it checked thoroughly.

Love it:

Big protective boots Massive tyre size makes wheels all but un-kerbable (although I did manage it off road).

Loathe it:

Default choice If I’ve unplugged my phone that I was using for audio, on start-up the stereo defaults to a radio station, and I’d prefer it to be nothing.

Mileage: 11,200

Img 6462

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No rest for our Raptor - 20th November 2019

No sooner had it arrived than we’d put the Raptor to good use. First off was an off-road video to see how it stacked up against a Bowler Bulldog on some of Wales’s harsher, publicly accessible tracks. Then, grit still clinging to its sills, it was pushed into photo and support-car action in our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car feature. A useful animal, this Raptor.

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Mileage: 8032

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Life with a Ford Ranger Raptor: Month 1

Welcoming the Ranger Raptor to the fleet - 13th November 2019

If all the things to like about the Ford Ranger Raptor, it’s the least seen that is the most impressive. So you keep having to explain.

Explain that, yes, this is a Raptor. And no, it’s not that quick in a straight line. And yes, it is expensive. And yes, it does have a 2.0-litre diesel, not a powerful turbocharged petrol V6. But that, honestly, you just need to get it onto the right track and then it’s brilliant.

In its ethos, the Raptor isn’t like other double-cab pick-ups. It’s more like a supercar, in that it has capabilities that you rarely get the chance to fully explore. So over the next few months we’ll try to find its limits. Double-cab pick-ups tend to be versatile, do-everything vehicles that can seat five yet have a one-tonne plus load bay, which, in the UK, gives them van tax status. The Raptor throws some of those do-everything elements out. It was developed by Ford Australia to basically pound rough tracks into submission, and to heck with being a commercial vehicle.

You have to see a Raptor’s bare chassis to fully appreciate just what Ford did to it: how the front end is stiffened to withstand Baja-style rally-raid impacts, while the rear end has been completely redesigned and fabricated to accommodate coil springs that have a lighter unsprung weight and far quicker responses than the leaf springs that Rangers, like most other pick-ups, otherwise come with.

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And then there are the dampers from off-road specialist Fox, which is like “a candy store for dynamics engineers”, says Simon Johnson, the Ranger Raptor’s lead dynamics engineer.

Forgive me if I go off on a dive into these. The most notable part of them, if I understand it right, is bypass valves in the middle of the dampers’ travel. So there’s firm initial damping, then quite a soft phase in which the valves are letting oil bypass the plunger, so it’s riding easily and comfortably, and is apparently a phase you drive in quite often. Then the damping force ramps up again towards the end of travel, after the piston has moved beyond the bypass valves. Ultimately, it’s a bit like a soft-close drawer – easy travelling but shove it as hard as you like and it’ll never slam shut.

There are other impressive chassis things too. Ground clearance is up 51mm to 283mm. The approach angle is a terrific 32.5deg, the departure angle is 24deg (pickups have long rear ends) and the breakover angle is 24deg. Wade depth is a fairly astonishing 850mm. There are bespoke BF Goodrich KO2 tyres on a much wider track, with a Watt’s linkage at the back to limit sway The result is a car that Johnson says is like a “four-wheeled dirt bike” and two things strike me in my experience of the Raptor so far. For one, Johnson’s not wrong. For two, like trying to use all of a Ferrari 488’s performance, you have to go hunting for the right location to do it.

2b ford ranger raptor 2019 lt tailgate

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Like with supercars, some people understand this, and some don’t. Some of those who don’t get it think that the Raptor should have a more meaty engine than the twin-turbocharged 210bhp diesel that leaves it with a 0-62mph time of 10.5sec.

Actually, some of those who do understand the car think that, too. But the costs are already prohibitive and nobody buys pick-ups, Ford argues, with those kinds of engine in Europe. So there we are.

The other issue is the price. This is a £47,874 offroader and, thanks to coil springs, its load capacity has reduced from over a tonne to just 620kg, which means for tax purposes it should be treated as a car rather than a van. That makes a VAT reclaim harder, while monthly benefit-in-kind for a 20/40% taxpayer is not £57/£114 as it would be on a Ranger Wildtrak but £295/£590. Every month. The towing capacity has dropped from other Rangers too, from 3500kg to 2500kg.

So the Raptor is very expensive as a car and hopeless as a commercial vehicle. Or the other way round. Or both. Other issues? Well, I’m getting 27mpg so far and it doesn’t really fit into parking spaces. The 12.9-metre turning circle is no fun, the whole ‘separate chassis’ thing is still less refined than a monocoque on the road and the interior is a breathed-on pick-up’s cabin, not one befitting a £50k car. The engine, despite some synthesising through the speakers, is grumbly. And I’m sure people look at it like it should have one of those cringeworthy ‘BO55…’ number plates and assume its driver is 90% oaf. It’s such an utterly, utterly stupid car.

3a ford ranger raptor 2019 lt cabin

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And so help me, I love it. I like that Ford’s engineers watched cross-country rally recce vehicles and decided to put one into production. I like that you have to go searching for the right place to use the full limits of its handling. And most of all, I like how much fun it is. That’s entirely what it was meant to be. It is as much a driver’s car as a Caterham or Ferrari or hot hatchback, just designed for a different kind of road.

So even if it makes me look ridiculous, is too big and has limits that are incredibly hard to find, none of that is a problem with the car. I just live in the wrong place.

Second Opinion

We road tested one earlier this year and I loved it. Never has a car felt more at home in the air than the big Ford. But it was the nonchalant manner in which it slipped back into being a surprisingly comfortable road car that sealed the deal for me. It is massive, though, and I reckon that would start to grate if I ran it daily. 

Simon Davis

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Ford Ranger Raptor prices and specification

Prices: List price new £47,874 List price now £49,324 Price as tested £48,594 Dealer value now £42,000 Private value now £40,500 Trade value now £38,500 (part exchange)

Options:Ford performance paint £720

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 26.4mpg Fuel tank 80 litres Test average 28.1mpg Test best 29.6mpg Test worst 26.7mpg Real-world range 495 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 10.5sec Top speed 106mph Engine 4 cyls, 1996cc, twin-turbo, diesel Max power 210bhp at 3750rpm Max torque 369lb ft at 1750-2000rpm Transmission 10-spd automatic Boot capacity na (payload 758kg) Wheels 8.5Jx17in, alloy Tyres 285/70 R17, BF Goodrich K02 all-terrain Kerb weight 2510kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £712 (approx) CO2 233g/km Service costs £255 Other costs AdBlue (40 litres) £30 Fuel costs £2097 Running costs inc fuel £2382 Cost per mile 24.1 pence Depreciation £7374 Cost per mile inc dep’n 72 pence Faults air temperature sensor replaced

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Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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