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Ford's new performance pick-up truck, the 210bhp diesel-powered Ranger Raptor, is coming to the UK. We've tested its off-road credentials in the Australian outback

What is it?

Can there really be such a thing as a performance pick-up truck? We’re driving the new Ford Ranger Raptor in the Aussie outback to find out.

It’s not the geographical centre of Australia, but it may as well be, so far away are we from civilisation – about 160 miles south of Darwin, in the Northern Territory. Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is another 1000 miles or so further south.

For this media preview drive, Ford has shacked up at a privately owned cattle station that stretches more than 1500 square miles. It’s so huge it has its own school, while the owner uses a helicopter to round up the 30,000 cattle and occasionally check on the vast perimeter. Clearly, Ford wanted to prove the Ranger Raptor is no pretender, so it ventured into the harshest terrain it could muster.

The US has been toying with performance pick-ups for the past decade, with the F-150 Raptor, inspired by desert racers. After mixed success with the drag strip-focused supercharged F-150 Lightning in the late 1990s, Ford finally found the sweet spot with buyers favouring a high-powered truck with decent off-road ability.

The formula is simple: fit heavy-duty shock absorbers, a wider track and nobbly all-terrain tyres to a pick-up with extra grunt under the bonnet. Customers quickly discovered the same suspension that irons out rough tracks also creates a smoother ride in the concrete jungle – the best of both worlds.

Now, the Raptor formula is being shared around the world, using the Ford Ranger as the donor vehicle – and it’s coming to the UK. The Ranger, for those who don't know, is the smaller sibling to the F-150 and serves as Ford’s rival to the Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok.

The Ranger Raptor’s ingredients are familiar. It gets a bold new grille, tucked front and rear bumpers for better off-road clearance, a 150mm-wider track, bulging front and rear fenders, magnesium side steps, race-bred Fox shocks and gnarly BF Goodrich K02 tyres, which are arguably the best in the business.

Ford says the shocks have been tested to manufacturer standards and should last at least 100,000 miles with normal use. Drive it like they do in the promotional video and you might need to replace them sooner than that.

The Raptor still comes with selectable heavy-duty four-wheel drive hardware with low and high range, so it can only be driven in two-wheel drive mode on Tarmac. In contrast, the four-wheel-drive-only Volkswagen Amarok TDV6 and Mercedes-Benz X-Class TDV6 can handle sealed pavement without dire consequences. 

The Ranger Raptor isn't just a jacked-up pick-up; it has a unique chassis. It’s effectively a stretched Everest SUV four-wheel-drive platform, so the rear end has coil suspension rather than leaf springs. It will be next to impossible for lads to create a cheap copycat.

The interior has been given a lift courtesy of Raptor logos stitched into the suede-and-leather sports seats; a chunky, leather-wrapped steering wheel with magnesium, rather than plastic, paddle shifters; blue stitching on the dashboard; and unique instruments and scuff plates.

Unlike the American F-150 Raptor, which has offered V8 and turbocharged V6 petrol power over its first two generations, the Ranger Raptor is powered exclusively by a 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel unit that has been boosted to pump out 210bhp and 369lb ft. That compares with 197bhp and 347lb ft for the 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel in the regular Ford Ranger.

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With it mated to a 10-speed automatic gearbox (there’s no manual available), you could be forgiven for thinking this engine ought to do to the job. The trouble is the Ranger Raptor weighs in at 2404kg (about 150kg-200kg more than the regular Ranger), which blunts performance.

With a 0-62mph time of 10.5sec, it’s only about half a second quicker than the regular Ranger 3.2 auto, and at least two-and-a-half seconds slower than the Amarok TDV6. That might not sound like much of a deficit, but it’s an eternity in performance terms.

2 Ford ranger raptor 2018 fd hero rear

What's it like?

The Ranger Raptor has enough grunt to comfortably keep with the flow of traffic, but in the eyes of Australian customers, it might not measure up to the complete performance package it purports to be.

Perhaps European buyers will be more forgiving, because they're accustomed to high-powered, small-capacity engines and wary of tax penalties for larger motors. In Australia, there’s no tax incentive to downsize, other than to avoid hefty fuel bills.

However, Ford says anyone focused on the 2.0-litre engine doesn’t really understand the Ranger Raptor. At the preview drive, its experts suggested we use the paddle shifters to tap down through the gears to bring the engine up to the boil, ignoring the fact that flooring the accelerator to the carpet also unleashes all available power. Even overtaking on long stretches of flat outback road required pause for thought and a lot of clear air.

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Ford says it didn’t have a choice when it came to engines for the Ranger Raptor. The mid-size pick-up market outside the US is dominated by diesel power and there were no other options available. So don’t hold your breath for more grunt from this engine (the engineering costs would be prohibitively expensive), a more powerful off-the-shelf alternative (there is none) or the anticipated turbo petrol power from the yet-to-be-confirmed US-spec Ranger Raptor (also too costly to engineer for vehicles outside North America, say insiders).

A towing capacity of 2500kg in a segment where most pick-ups can haul 3500kg might reduce the appeal for some, as might the 758kg payload, when close to 1000kg is the norm. However, these criticisms will likely not be a major concern to European buyers, who tend not to haul such large loads.

If you want to drive the Ranger Raptor as is and don’t need to park in tight spaces or car parks with low roofs, you’re in for a treat.

Its tyres and engine are surprisingly quiet on the highway, while a sound synthesiser pumps artificial engine growl inside when you’re on the throttle. I’m not normally a fan of such trickery, but this is a fair execution.

The race-bred Fox shocks have been finely tuned to provide the best blend of on and off-road performance. In sweeping bends, you can feel the weight subtly shift from the front to the rear as you drive out of the corners. There’s minimal nose dive when you slam on the disc brakes (most pick-ups in this class still have old-school drums at the rear). It’s always sure-footed and composed.

The Raptor’s rear end doesn’t skip over bumps and expansion joints as much as the leaf-spring versions of the Ford Ranger. The steering is remarkably accurate on Tarmac, despite the off-road rubber having tall sidewalls and nobbly tread. It’s an engineering marvel and also remarkable that Ford has put such a sophisticated set-up into a production vehicle.

In terms of handling the rough stuff, it’s as close to a rally car as a pick-up can be. The Ranger Raptor truly shines off-road, whether it’s ironing out corrugations on dusty trails or clambering over obstacles with relative ease thanks to its excellent approach (32.5deg), departure (24deg) and ramp over (24deg) angles - important numbers to hardcore off-roaders.

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On a makeshift off-road test track - in the hands of Ford engineering test drivers who helped develop the vehicle over the past three years - the Raptor landed on all fours without bouncing off-course or breaking anyone’s back, time after time.

3 Ford ranger raptor 2018 fd cabin


Should I buy one?

With its gross dimensions and epic 12.9-metre turning circle, the Ranger Raptor isn't for everyone.

However, it will appeal to buyers who want a desert-racer-style truck powered by a diesel engine designed to be less of a burden at fuel bowsers across Europe.

Unfortunately, few owners will exploit the Raptor’s true potential. But then again, few Ferrari drivers take their cars to a race track.

Joshua Dowling

Ford Ranger Raptor specification

Where Northern Territory, Australia Price tbc On sale late 2018 Engine 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, twin-turbo, diesel Power 210bhp at 3750rpm Torque 369lb ft at 1750-2000rpm Gearbox 10-speed automatic Kerb weight 2404kg Top speed 106mph 0-62mph 10.5sec Fuel economy 34.4mpg CO2 212g/km Rivals Volkswagen Amarok, Mercedes-Benz X-Class

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5 Ford ranger raptor 2018 fd

Join the debate

Add a comment…
backrooms 9 March 2023

I can't believe they didn't see it before they got started. 


cekk2123 13 June 2019

My cousin has a range roger

My cousin has a range roger. Its powerful engine and nice design pixel gun 3d

Guy08 30 July 2018

3.0 V6

Wait for the 3.0 V6 disel-engined Ranger coming in 2020 or thereabouts.