The creation of a desert racing-inspired performance version of the T6 Ranger in 2018 was a logical development, given that Ford first built a similar derivative of the F-150 for the US market in 2010.
The Americans called it the Raptor, and, given Steven Spielberg’s steroid-fed interpretation of this fearsome predator in Jurassic Park, it certainly lived up to the name, with its tougher frame, pumped-out mudguards, supple long-travel suspension and the bite of some big petrol V8s (and now a 335kW twin-turbo 3.5 litre V6 with 10-speed auto).
Our Ranger Raptor is smaller in all key dimensions, including the engine, but like the US version is designed to be driven over vast terrain at speeds much higher than you would normally expect to travel. However, unless you had to cross the Simpson before the pub closed, this capability would rarely be required by Aussies venturing far beyond the beaten track.
And it’s in this more relevant-to-Australia context that we approached our recent test of the US-inspired Ranger Raptor, specifically to see what it’s like to live with as a weekday worker and weekend escape machine.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
It comes in only one specification, for $74,990. By comparison, the MY19 Wildtrak premium variant of the standard Ranger, which shares the same twin-turbo engine and 10-speed transmission, is a comparative steal at $63,990.
However, that extra $11K buys unique chassis, body and coil-spring suspension engineering developed by Ford Performance, plus exclusive interior appointments. Raptor also has other useful features, like SYNC 3 voice activated infotainment with touchscreen, sat-nav, HID headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights and keyless entry/start, to name a few.
You have to see it in the skin to appreciate how much wider and more aggressive it is from all angles. The grille with its bold FORD lettering takes its styling cues from the F-150 Raptor, along with the pumped-out front and rear mudguards and wheel flares to shroud the oversized tyres and long-travel suspension.
The front bumper is chassis-mounted and equipped with a pair of recovery hooks rated to 4.6 tonnes. The rear bumper is also mounted to the chassis, with an integrated tow-bar and two more recovery hooks with 3.8-tonne ratings.
The front bumper is chassis-mounted and equipped with a pair of recovery hooks rated to 4.6 tonnes.
The unique chassis frame is derived from the standard Ranger and it maintains its 3220mm wheelbase, but is re-engineered to withstand high-impact loadings, with a substantial 150mm increase in track width and corresponding 168mm stretch in body width. The rear suspension is derived from the Everest wagon’s coil-spring live axle with Watt’s linkage, while the front-end features strengthened shock towers, forged aluminium upper arms and cast aluminium lowers. There’s also under-body armour to shield the drive-train.
Both ends are equipped with long-travel Fox Racing Shox coil-over dampers, bred in Baja and developed specifically for Raptor, along with the chunky BF Goodrich 285/70 R17 tyres on 17-inch alloys and beefy 332mm ventilated disc brakes on each corner.
Its 236mm of front-wheel travel is a 32 per cent increase over the Wildtrak, while 290mm of rear-wheel travel represents an extra 22 per cent. The Raptor’s also slightly shorter and taller, with a load tub floor that has a wider rear opening and longer load floor.
The rear bumper is also mounted to the chassis, with an integrated tow-bar and two more recovery hooks with 3.8-tonne ratings.
Other impressive off-road credentials compared to Wildtrak include a 46mm increase in ground clearance (283mm), 50mm deeper wading depth (850mm), superior approach angle (32.5 vs 29 degrees) and departure angle (24 vs 21 degrees), but a slightly lower ramp break-over angle (24 vs 25 degrees).
Inside, there’s a thick-rimmed sports steering wheel with paddle shifters and red ‘on-centre’ positional stripe, front seats bolstered for greater lateral support, unique instrument cluster, and contrasting blue trim stitching and leather accents. The Raptor logo is everywhere you look, and there’s also Ford Performance logos on the front door kick plates.
The wheel flares shrouding the oversized tyres take their styling cues from the F-150 Raptor.
Compared to the Ranger Wildtrak, the Raptor’s 2332kg kerb weight is 86kg heavier, and its 3090kg GVM is 110kg lower, which translates to a payload rating of 758kg, or almost 200kg less.
The Raptor’s 2500kg braked towing capacity is a full 1000kg less than Wildtrak, and with its 5350kg GCM (650kg lower than Wildtrak), that leaves a payload limit of 518kg, or just over half a tonne.
The Wildtrak and Raptor load tubs share the same 1560mm load floor width and 1139mm between the wheel arches. However, the Raptor’s load floor is 124mm higher, which is not a plus for heavy hand-loading. There’s also a protective tub liner, four tie-down points and a handy 12-volt socket.
The Wildtrak and Raptor load tubs share the same 1560mm load floor width and 1139mm between the wheel arches.
Beyond the Raptor’s unique cabin detailing, storage options are the same as standard Ranger, including a single glovebox, overhead glasses holder and a storage bin and bottle holder in each front door. The centre console has an open storage bin at the front, two bottle holders in the centre and a lidded box at the rear which doubles as an armrest.
Rear passengers get a storage bin and bottle holder in each door, flexible storage pockets on the rear of each front seat, and the centre armrest folds down to reveal two more cup holders.
Beyond the Raptor’s unique cabin detailing, storage options are the same as standard Ranger.
Rear passengers get a storage bin and bottle holder in each door.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The Raptor shares the same EcoBlue 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel found in higher grades of Ranger and Everest. Although this engine can meet the latest Euro 6 emission standards, in the Raptor it’s Euro 5-compliant which avoids the need for AdBlue.
Its sequential turbochargers contribute to a power output of 157kW at 3750rpm and 500Nm of torque, which peaks within a very narrow 250rpm band between 1750-2000rpm. It has 10kW more power and 30Nm more torque than the Ranger’s venerable 3.2 litre five-cylinder diesel, even though it doesn’t feel like it, which is probably due to the Raptor’s extra weight.
The Raptor shares the same EcoBlue 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel found in higher grades of Ranger and Everest.
The 10-speed torque converter automatic is shared with the F-150 Raptor and Mustang GT. Its broad spread of closely-spaced ratios and unique-to-Raptor calibrations allow quick shifts with minimal rpm drops between them in either full auto mode, or manual mode using the sequential paddle shifters.
The 4x4 drivetrain is part-time dual-range with a lockable rear diff and 'Terrain Management System' (TMS) offering six driving modes, including a Baja mode specifically for ‘spirited’ off-road driving with reduced intervention of traction control, more aggressive shift mapping, etc.
Ford’s official combined figure is 8.2L/100km. However, at the end of our 513km test, which included a variety of roads and loads up to the maximum GVM rating, the instrument display was showing 10.7. That was still optimistic given our figure crunched from trip meter and fuel bowser readings was 12.7. So, based on our figures, you could expect a driving range of about 630km from the 80-litre tank.
Practising for the Finke desert race was not on our to-do list, because we mainly wanted see how Raptor performed in the dual-purpose weekday worker/weekend escape machine role at more conventional speeds.
The handling, braking and ride quality is in a class of its own. The Fox shocks are calibrated for the best of both worlds, with higher damping forces on bump and rebound but less in mid-travel, which is what makes it such a plush-riding adventure machine.
Venturing off the highway is where the Raptor reigns supreme, with its cushioned ride combined with disciplined handling, nicely weighted steering and excellent stopping power. It sailed across the top of potholed and heavily-patched back roads with such ease it felt like it was laying its own road, although we did find the big BF Goodrich tyres a bit short on grip at times on wet bitumen.
The handling, braking and ride quality is in a class of its own.
On the highway, the 2.0-litre twin-turbo fairly loafs along in top (10th!) gear, with only 1600rpm at 100km/h and 1700rpm at 110km/h. Cabin noise is low despite the faint howl from the aggressive tyre treads and some minor wind noise around the large door mirrors.
The engine is a smooth and refined unit and performed better when we drove it manually with the paddle shifters. Even so, there’s not the shove in the back or neck-straining surge you expect in what is marketed as a performance vehicle. It feels constrained when you floor the throttle, and it emits a dull and unsatisfying drone. It’s competent but underwhelming in this role.
In work-truck mode, though, the Raptor performed well with a full payload. We fork-lifted 650kg into the load tub, which with driver and a full tank of diesel was right on the 758kg payload limit. The rear springs compressed a substantial 112mm, yet the nose only rose 10mm, resulting in a more level ride height than the coil-sprung Navara or X-Class can manage.
And although more than 100mm of rear wheel travel was being used up just supporting the payload, it still had almost 200mm to play with, and it handled any roads and tracks we tackled with great composure. Given this performance, we have every confidence that it would also tow up to its maximum 2500kg of braked trailer with equal aplomb.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
There's no ANCAP rating as yet, but given the Raptor is not equipped with AEB, we are unlikely to see one crash-tested before this vital feature is available in 2019. Even so, there is lots of other five-star Ranger safety tech, including driver and passenger front and seat-side airbags, plus full-length side-curtain airbags, three-point lap-sash belts and head rests for all passengers, plus ISOFIX child seat restraints on the two outer rear seating positions.
Active safety features include lane departure warning, lane keep assist, hill start assist, hill descent control, trailer sway control, load adaptive control, roll stability control and roll over mitigation, plus rear parking sensors and a rear view camera, which is also handy for lining up tow-balls with trailers.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
It's a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, with service intervals at 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. Capped-price servicing costs between $360 and $555 for the first five years, and there's 24/7 roadside assistance available for up to seven years, if the vehicle is serviced at participating Ford dealers.
As a multi-role weekday worker and weekend escape machine, the Raptor is a superb package. And as an outback cruiser, capable of covering vast distances in great comfort, it would be hard to top.
However, it also seems to be a miscalculation on Ford’s behalf in meeting widespread expectations of what a vehicle named after such a ferocious and cunning predator should deliver. While we can’t fault its tough Baja-bred appearance and chassis tuning, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel shared with the mainstream Ranger and Everest is not consistent with the Ford Performance image, no matter how many turbos or gears it has. Particularly when it offers no power or torque increases.
We can see aftermarket tuners doing brisk business in performance packages, because this is a brilliant high-performance chassis in need of more bite under the bonnet.
Part plaything, part workhorse, is the Raptor right for you? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.