Due to arrive in the UK in around June 2019, the Ford Ranger Raptor is the first ever factory-built extreme off-road pickup to be offered in Europe. We got exclusive access to test it ahead of the first European drives on the unforgiving, mountainous terrain of Thailand’s Surat Thani province.
The Ford Ranger Raptor set hearts pumping around the world when pictures were released early in 2018, however it would take Ford of Britain until the end of the year to confirm that it would be hitting UK dealerships.
European models will go into production at the Ranger factory in South Africa this March and the UK press launch is scheduled for May 2019 in Morocco (to which we’ve also been invited). However, Asia-Pacific models have been rolling off the production line since November 2018, and we got chance to put one to the test in Thailand.
How about that look?
Ford has added quite a lot of kit to achieve the more macho and aggressive look. The Raptor is instantly recognisable with its Raptor grille, 150mm wider track, bulging 168mm wider wheelarches, and 285/70R17 BF Goodrich KO2 tyres – which raises the chassis 30mm to give around 283mm of ground clearance.
The standard bumpers have been replaced by specialist off-road versions for better approach and departure angles. The leaf springs will also go, to be replaced by independent coil-springs with FOX 2.5 shock absorbers and Watt’s linkage to minimise lateral movement and increase travel by 22% to 290mm.
There are number of styling cues, like ‘Raptor’ embossed on the body, standard LED lights and a distinctive black tailgate. There are also ‘magnesium’ side steps which double as skid plates made from a tough aluminium alloy and Ford has stiffened the chassis and upgraded the brakes to all-round ventilated discs.
And the inside?
While the amendments aren’t as extravagant on the inside, it’s enough to give it a subtle edge over anything else on the market. The part-suede/part-leather upholstery with ‘Raptor’ stitched into the seat backs, leather touches on the dashboard and blue stitching affirm the premium feel.
There are also more ‘aggressive’ graphics in the instrument panel, a chunkier steering wheel with perforated leather, and body-colour surrounds on the air vents.
Ford Ranger Raptor engine and driveline
What would you expect to see under the bonnet of a brute of this size? A 3.0- or 4.0-litre turbo-diesel? Well no, Ford has ditched the 2.2- and 3.2-litre TDCi engines on the Ranger in favour of the slightly meagre-sounding 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine from the Transit and Transit Custom.
The Raptor comes with the largest output available on the unit; 210bhp and 500Nm. Achieving 62mph in 10.5 seconds from standstill, the new engine is punchier – but only just – than the previous 3.2TDCi but it lags a country mile behind the Amarok V6 and X-Class V6 ‘X350D’. Needless to say, we were expecting more.
We did, however, really rate the 10-speed automatic box, which was developed with rival maker General Motors. It’s almost seamless and the swift gearchanges no doubt improves the acceleration but overtaking still requires a lot of ‘build-up’ time and anticipation. It’s very good at anticipating the best gear, but there’s also a manual model with paddle shifts.
Like the X-Class V6, the Ford Ranger Raptor is available with a number of driving modes (two of on-road, four for off-road), which alter the traction control, stability control, transmission and engine performance depending on the driving environment.
These include ‘normal’, which emphasises a mixture of comfort, fuel economy and driveability, and ‘sport’, which increases the responsiveness of the throttle. For off-road, there are four settings: grass/gravel/snow, mud/sand mode, rock and ‘Baja’, named after the desert where the F150 Raptor was developed which tunes the engine for high-speed off-road performance.
Ride and handling
There’s no faulting the Ford Ranger Raptor for handling though, on or off the road, and its not even in the same ballpark as other pickups. The soft suspension soaked up the potholes and divots on Ko Samui’s mountain dirt tracks with ease and, despite the high side walls and raised ride height on the tyres, the steering is very accurate, and it feels very connected to the roads.
The longer suspension travel allows the Raptor to maintain better contact with the ground which, combined with the 150mm wider track, gives greater stability and control. Meanwhile, having the lengthy 283mm ground clearance provides an overwhelming feeling of assurance when traveling over uneven ground.
Even on tarmacked roads, the tyres are surprisingly quiet and they hug the road tight. You can throw the Raptor into corner at speeds you wouldn’t dream of in a standard pickup, and its without the associated ‘yaw’.
The engine is also quiet, although there’s an artificial synthesiser to emphasise the engine growl during heavy acceleration. Unlike standard variants, there’s disc brakes at the back too so stopping distances are shorter and there isn’t the ‘nose dive’ when slamming on.
Weights and loads
The load bed is the same size as the other double-cabs (1,549mm long by 1,560mm wide), but it’s nowhere near as practical. While the new suspension arrangement caters well to hostile terrain, it can’t cope with a decent load. The engineers calculated that the softer coil-springs could handle 1,008kg over the rear axle without hitting the suspension bump stops.
They decided for a payload of 758kg and a towing capacity of 2,500kg (manufacturers use 10% of the towing capacity for the pin weight as a rule of thumb). This 758kg and 250kg meets the maximum rear axle weight of 1,008kg.
Ford Ranger Raptor price and availability
The Ford Ranger Raptor is expected to be priced around £40,000, but VAT will not be able to be reclaimed because of the sub-1t payload. The first models will be arriving into UK dealerships in the summer of 2019, although European specs are expected to differ slightly from Asia-Pacific models. The Raptor will be backed by Ford’s 3-year, 60,000 mile warranty.
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