The inspiration for Ford Australia's 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor was a car that has arguably dominated the US truck scene for almost a decade, the Ford F-150 Raptor.
Built to blend a mix of off-road with on-road performance, the F-150 Raptor takes the dual-cab truck to the next level with a strong focus on extreme off-road ability, with a cracking turbocharged petrol engine to boot.
The 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor is available in two body styles – SuperCab and SuperCrew, with the former offering five seats in a four-door configuration (two doors are 'suicide' style doors), while the latter presents in a traditional dual-cab configuration with five seats and four doors.
Pricing starts from AU$75,650 (US$54,350) for the SuperCab and AU$79,800 (US$57,335) for the bigger SuperCrew.
How big is big? Well... it's bigger than you think. The SuperCrew we tested measures in at 5891mm long, which is 331mm longer than our local Ford Ranger Raptor, while width is an impressive 2459mm wide (with wing mirrors) against 2180mm wide (with wing mirrors) for Ranger Raptor – a whopping 279mm wider than it's American sibling.
Just on these numbers alone you get a better understanding of just how big this thing is.
You may be wondering why we're bothering reviewing the F-150 Raptor if we can't buy one through Ford in Australia. Truth be told we genuinely wanted to see what this truck was like and how much inspiration the Ranger Raptor drew from its bigger, brawnier US cousin.
Plus, you can also buy the F-150 Raptor in Australia through a number of local converters, with most asking well north of $100,000 for the import and conversion.
From the outside, it's impossible to mistake the F-150 Raptor for anything else. The front end features rugged highlights with a metal lower front bumper bar that exposes the lower suspension control arms.
The aluminium-alloy body teams with aluminium side steps (or running boards) and aggressively flared wheel arches to really accentuate the F-150's outer haunches.
Around the rear, the Raptor proudly wears a Ford badge, while the spring-loaded cargo tray door can be optioned (like in our case) with a slide-out step that helps you climb into the high-riding tray.
Just like the Ranger Raptor, the F-150 Raptor rides on BF Goodrich KO2 tyres measuring 315mm wide on 70 profile tyres on all four corners. Our car featured the optional 17-inch bead-lock capable forged alloy wheels, as opposed to the polished look 17-inch high gloss alloy wheels that come standard.
Speaking of options – there's a stack of them for the F-150 Raptor. While the list is too long to run through, you can easily nudge the price of a Raptor up to a little over US$70,000 if you go nuts.
Crazy options aside, we'd run with option group 801A, which includes 10-way power heated driver and front passenger seats, leather trim, power adjustable pedals and a power sliding rear window. It all adds up to an extra $3105.
We'd also tick the option box for the 4.10 front axle with Torsen differential. This kit will ensure the Raptor will go virtually anywhere if you head off the beaten track. This can be added as part of an option pack that includes everything in 801A, plus the front differential, 360-degree camera and a cracking Bang and Olufsen sound system, amongst other things, for an additional $9365.
Before you step into the cabin, you'll notice a number pad mounted to the driver's door. This nifty feature allows you to leave the keys locked in the car while you're out surfing, hiking, shooting... or any other Raptor related activity without needing to lug them with you while you're gone.
Crack the door open, use the side step to hop in and you're greeted with a huge cabin. The extra width in comparison to Australian trucks immediately shows, with cavernous storage areas strewn throughout.
In front of the driver is a huge steering wheel flanked by magnesium paddle shifters and a red strap across the centre of the steering wheel to help with opportune drifting opportunities.
The steering wheel itself features a number of buttons that control everything from drive mode through to radar cruise control, while some functions are dedicated to changing the trip computer ahead of the driver.
The colour LCD screen sits in between the tachometer and speedometer, featuring everything from off-road mode status through to the trail assist function.
Infotainment comes in the form of the 8.0-inch Sync3 system that features digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with inbuilt satellite navigation with voice recognition.
Off-roading has never been easier thanks to driver-selected four-wheel drive controls and drive modes. The car normally drives in high-range two-wheel drive, but can be readily switched to an automatic four-wheel drive mode, a high-range four-wheel drive mode and finally a low-range four-wheel drive mode, with the rear differential lockable at any point.
The adjustable drive modes include Normal, Sport, Weather, Mud/Sand, Rock Crawl and Baja. The Rock Crawl mode shifts the vehicle into two-wheel drive low-range and disables all traction aids, while Baja mode switches to four-wheel drive high range and increases the amount of slip allowed during faster off-road driving.
Unlike the Ranger Raptor, which uses coil-sprung rear suspension with a Watt's linkage, the F-150 Raptor runs with independent double-wishbone front suspension with coil-over shock and cast aluminum lower control arm, while the rear does away with leaf springs on a solid axle. But, its party trick is a set of high-output, on/off-road position-sensitive gas-pressurised Fox Racing Shox suspension.
Much like the Ranger Raptor, this suspension totally smoothes out the ride to ensure you can hit corrugated roads and stupid speeds without it unsettling the car. It also gives you supreme wheel control off-road.
Before we hit the road, it's worth pointing out how well the rest of the cabin is presented. There are acres of leg and head room in the second row, with the split-folding seat base folding upwards to offer extra storage space beneath.
Up front there's an equally extensive amount of leg and head room with an array of storage options to lose your odds and ends in.
The only downside to the cabin is how cheap some parts of it feel. While it feels solidly assembled, elements of the cabin feature harsh plastics and scratchy surfaces.
All of the cabin controls, along with the infotainment system are easy to use and intuitive for the average driver. It really is a slam dunk of form, function and practicality.
So, what's it like to drive? In a word – awesome.
Turn the engine over and the F-150 Raptor idles with raspy intent. It's not as loud as the outgoing V8 Raptor, but it makes enough noise to realise there's power lurking beneath the bonnet.
Under the bonnet is a 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine that uses a set of Garrett turbochargers providing up to 11psi of pressure to achieve a power output of 336kW and 692Nm of torque, with drive sent through a 10-speed automatic gearbox.
Stab the throttle from a standing start and the Raptor will squeal the tyres until it manages to find traction. From there it keeps hauling hard all the way through to the time you let off the throttle.
While 10 gears is probably a couple too many for most applications, Ford engineers have done a commendable job with Raptor, ensuring the engine can lean on its torque band without having to row through gears.
The only time it becomes tiresome is if you decide to start shifting manually and need to move back through five or six gears before you're in the desired rev band.
On-road there's a fair bit of body roll and if you push too hard, the KO2 tyres will begin to complain long before you're carrying enough speed to get yourself into trouble.
It's quite a predictable chassis and that's what makes the driveline and tyre combination so fun – there's never a point where you're unsure what it's about to do.
Hit an off-road track and that combination changes to the Raptor's favour. Where most cars will struggle with mid-corner ruts and bumps or extreme corrugations on a gravel road, the Raptor's Fox Racing suspension smooths out the road and allows each wheel to settle.
As an example, switch all the traction aids off, find a windy gravel road and the KO2 tyres dig in deep as the car slides around the corner. Where mid-corner bumps would normally send a moving car well wide of its track, the suspension soaks up the hits and allows you to keep adding throttle, simply pointing the front end where it needs to go.
That supreme control is exacerbated when you select Baja mode and the vehicle switches to four-wheel drive. This mode keeps the traction and stability control on, but very distantly in the background. It allows you to have an incredible amount of fun without landing yourself into trouble.
In terms of driver technology, you'll find a 360-degree camera, radar cruise control with stop and go, lane-keeping assistant, rain sensing wipers, central locking, automatic and fading wing mirrors, auto dimming rear vision mirror, rear parking sensors, interior and exterior AC power points, USB connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming, Sirius digital radio, overhead auxiliary switches and heated steering wheel.
Just like the Ranger Raptor, we wanted to make sure the marketing material matched what a customer could potentially do with the car. So, we lined up a jump, added some throttle and sent it over a few times.
And, just like the Ranger Raptor, the Fox Racing Shox provide an unexpectedly smooth landing after a full wheel extension.
The key to the added smoothness on offer from the Fox Racing Shox comes in the form of front and rear shock absorbers that measure 3.0-inch or 76.2mm in diameter.
Both front and rear shock absorbers feature a base valve piston that aims to lower gas pressure to help with on-road ride comfort. But, an internal bypass in both shock absorbers features nine stops that progressively manage the level of resistance from the shock absorber.
The latter of those nine zones acts like a bump stop that sends fluid to the top of the piston during full compression. This prevents the Raptor from using its front or leaf sprung rear suspension elements during a full bottom out event – such as when hitting a jump.
It also allows 330.2mm of suspension travel on the front axle and 353mm of travel at the rear axle for ultimate off-road control.
We drove a 2018 model which features the set up above. The updated 2019 F-150 Raptor comes with adaptive suspension, which mimics the 2018 Raptor's suspension set up, but allows electronically controlled damping.
Ride-height sensors at each front corner feed information through to an onboard computer that then adaptively varies suspension firmness, which is said to improve body control on road. The coolest part? There's a jump mode built in, which aims to round off the last bit of suspension travel to prevent any bottom-out events.
Once we had the jumping out of our system, we went off-road to see how the Raptor would perform on rougher terrain. It did surprisingly well with the four-wheel drive system working to help deliver traction where it was required.
With 292mm of ground clearance, 30.2-degree approach and 23.0-degree departure angle, this really is a go anywhere truck.
We found some steep hills and scrabbly off-road terrain that were little match for the Raptor. In low range the EcoBoost engine offers enough punch and control to keep the package moving.
The optional Torsen front differential then ensures torque is being appropriately distributed across the front axle under load conditions.
To be honest, we would need to find some seriously rugged terrain to really upset the Raptor. It's built for this stuff and showed no signs of letting off regardless of the terrain thrown at it.
Back on the black top, the F-150 Raptor is surprisingly easy to drive in and around the streets of North America. We spent a chunk of our time in the Los Angeles area and it managed to fit into our apartment complex without any dramas.
It will struggle with tiny car parks, but you don't find many of those in the USA.
Could you like with this truck in Australia? Sure. You wouldn't use it for daily trips to work in the CBD, but out on the open road and off the road, it would be an absolutely epic machine to own.
It barely puts a wheel wrong and is the prime example of the type of car a kid would build if they had no restrictions on size, practicality and emissions.
The Ford F-150 Raptor really is a beast – Ford has done an epic job with creating a big truck that can be driven daily and turns heads when doing so.
Here's hoping that one day Ford comes to its senses and imports these to Australia as factory right-hand drive. Until then, you'll need to fork out a huge sum of money to call one your own in Australia.