I consider myself in a very lucky position to be jumping into a fair number of vehicles every week working at CarAdvice. You soon learn that first impressions are pretty important, and the relationship you have with a car can take a few different twists and turns during the experience. Some cars can be naturally exciting and engaging, while others feel more pedestrian. More banal.
The Ford Ranger Raptor is definitely in the first category here, and that’s one of the main reasons I chose it as my favourite of 2018. It feels special.
Blind Freddy can tell you how good the Raptor looks, he’s probably heard people talking about it. But it’s not just an exercise in aesthetics.
It looks good because the driveline has been significantly revamped, with an additional 150mm of wheel track. This helps accommodate 33-inch BF Goodrich all terrains. They’re a good off-road tyre, with light truck construction.
There’s extra room for some serious suspension as well, the pièce de résistance of the Ranger Raptor. Fox 2.5-inch monotube shocks with internal bypassing does the major legwork in transforming the Raptor from crude ute to high-speed slayer, giving you a remarkable amount of control from the driver’s seat over very rough terrain.
Leaf springs and drum brakes are hanging out with Dodos and Tassie Tigers (unless you’re into conspiracies, I guess): Coil-over struts and piggyback reservoirs complete the picture at the rear, while the front has some very nice aluminium control arms.
The end product is a 4WD ute that much more capable, fun and engaging than any other 4WD ute, whether you’re bombing along at high speed or crawling in low range.
There’s one main negative with the Raptor, and that’s the engine. The 2.0 litre ‘BiTurbo’ four-cylinder engine makes 157kW and 500Nm, and is shared between the Ranger, Everest and Raptor. Whilst it’s got sufficient poke nine times out of 10, you’d love to just have a little more sometimes. Something in reserve. This isn’t helped by the higher weight and taller tyres that the Raptor has.
No vehicle is judged on its engine alone, however. And the Raptor does feel like more than just the sum of its parts. It’s the next evolution of Australia’s 4WD, signalling a very exciting future to come. Let’s just hope they stick a few different (and more powerful) engines under the bonnet.