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.
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 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.
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.