Ford Ranger Raptor. Quite often, it feels underpowered. Yep, it’s true: sometimes it feels like you could really use a bit more motor. And yes, I know, it’s hard to get particularly excited about a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel, regardless of how many turbos it has.
Many have come out in their hordes to deride the Ranger Raptor, purely because of what lies under the bonnet. And I can’t really blame you for doing it, either: I sighed with disappointment when I first read the official specs.
The fact that speculation was rife around high-powered engine options, including V6, diesel and petrol Ecoboost options, didn't help. Ford has a pretty scintillating 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine in its Focus RS (257kW/440Nm), as well as a 2.7-litre Ecoboost V6 (239kW/508Nm) in the F-150. The big Yank ute also gets a 3.0-litre diesel 'Powerstroke' V6 option (190kW/596Nm). Oh well.
4WDers like big stuff, and big engines are amongst their favourite things. They love big surges of torque without a dependence on high revs, and a nice rumble emanating from under the bonnet.
The Ranger Raptor doesn’t do this. The engine is advanced, efficient and refined. It’s smooth and muted, even when you’re throttling hard. And the 500Nm at 1750–2000rpm is handy, if a little narrow. It’s just not an engine that you get immediately enthusiastic about in the traditional sense.
That said, the Bi-Turbo four-banger is an overall nice motor. And regardless, the Ranger Raptor is still a very special vehicle, and one that is very worthy of your appreciation and consideration.
Ford has gone to some serious effort in terms of design and engineering to make the Raptor a much different proposition to a Ranger, or any other 4WD ute for that matter. It’s not just some bolt-on flares, black alloys and a contrived name. Let’s run through the good stuff.
The Ranger Raptor gains an extra 150mm of overall width at the wheels, with bodywork around the wheels bulging out correspondingly as well. That six inches of extra width alone makes a big difference to how the Raptor feels, drives and looks. The centre of gravity is lowered, which is better for on-road and off-road driving.
Aluminium suspension arms
Along with all of the changes to axle and steering components, the increase in track width is accommodated most notably by new aluminium control arms at the front, forged upper and cast lower.
These are strong and lightweight, reducing unsprung mass to let the suspension move more freely. Pressed steel is much cheaper and heavier, but Ford went to the next level with a more expensive and better-performing option.
No conventional, cheap shock absorbers to be seen here; these things are the real deal. Firstly, they are big. It’s a 2.5-inch monotube body, which means it has a bigger piston inside and more oil capacity. They are nitrogen-charged, with a floating piston separating oil and gas. This reduces fading.
They also have internal bypassing; small bypass holes that let the suspension cycle quickly and freely during the middle of the stroke. When maximum travel is reached in either direction, the shock's piston travels past these bypass holes and damping rates get much firmer, slowing down the speed of the suspension travel. The rears have extra capacity as well, with a small piggyback reservoir.
Fitting good all terrain or mud-terrain tyres is the easiest and most effective way of improving your 4WD ute, across many aspects. Ford has beaten you to the punch with the Ranger Raptor by fitting up some BFGoodrich All Terrain KO2 tyres, in place of the fairly ordinary Dunlop Grandtreks that a Ranger normally gets.
These are a good off-road performer, giving you plenty of additional traction without killing the on-road dynamics. They’re in a good 33-inch size (LT285/70R17) that gives you nice height for extra clearance and capability, and a light truck construction means they are also much more robust.
The higher you walk up a spec ladder, two things are normally as inevitable as death and taxes: the price will go up, and so too the wheel diameter. It’s not good news for 4WDs destined for off-roading, however. You can go off-road with 18-inch wheels, but it’s not perfect. Try 19, 20 and beyond, and things get progressively worse. Ford has bucked the trend with the Ranger Raptor by fitting up 17-inch wheels to favour off-road capability.
The Ranger has always been a solid off-road performer, made even better when Ford allowed traction control to stay on when the rear locker was engaged. It’s the same story with the Ranger Raptor: although there is stacks more traction available through the tyres, the traction-control system does a decent job of controlling wheelspin and allowing you to slowly amble up rough tracks.
Terrain Management System is Ford speak for different off-road modes, which let you tailor throttle, ESC and gearbox tuning according to what you’re driving. Although experience and good basic driving techniques negate the need for this, it certainly does help the car to be a little easier to handle off-road.
No leaf springs, no drum brakes
Volkswagen has disc brakes on its V6 Amarok, and Nissan shoved a five-link coil set-up under its Navara. But no other mainstream 4x4 ute has both of these, except if you think the RAM 1500 is mainstream. I don’t. Coil springs and disc brakes are superior in every sense to leaves and drums, except for manufacturing cost.
Not all live axles are the same, and rather than use a more typical five-link rear end set-up like the Navara, X-Class and most 4WD wagons, Ford has employed a more complex Watt's linkage for the Raptor and Everest. It lets the live axle travel up and down between full extension and full compression in a straight line compared to a Panhard rod, relative to the chassis.
It also gives a more even articulation from side to side, and handles bump steering much better. Plus, the Raptor’s Watt's link is set up to handle some articulation quite well.
Ten gears plus a low-range transfer case means there are 20 different ratios to choose from, and you’re able to reverse in low-range when things get a bit gnarly. Low-range reduction is 43:1, which is pretty good. Kudos to Ford for not thinking it could get away without a transfer case, regardless of how many ratios are in the gearbox.
It’s a 2.3mm high-strength steel bash plate, well mounted to protect the vulnerable IFS underbody. If you’re going to push the Raptor hard off-road, a bit of a belly rub here and there will be inevitable. This is an improvement over the standard offerings of other utes, and will give valiant service against damage.
To a degree, the Raptor is made to jump. Just don’t go claiming a warranty because you jumped yours to death. Ford has already gone on the record to say it won’t be honouring such things. However, that doesn’t mean Ford hasn’t thought about it.
To help accommodate the upgraded suspension, as well as deal with the stresses that come with high-speed driving, the Raptor’s chassis has been reinforced. Particular stress points have been beefed up, especially around the suspension mounting points.
It’s an awesome car, in my opinion, and a great 4WD. Let’s just hope Ford looks at a few different engine options in the next generation.