FLIGHT OF FANCY | UTE Review -Raptor – A dromaeosaurid dinosaur, or an intriguing option from the Blue Oval?

Raptor – A dromaeosaurid dinosaur, or an intriguing option from the Blue Oval? Words by Stuart Martin.

 For tradies who don’t find a Ranger aggressive enough, Ford has the model for you. If you need to get to a cross-country job in a hurry, the Ranger Raptor can handle the terrain and look good while doing it. 

Just don’t expect it to growl like its American cousins – the exhaust note from this import is sadly more rattle than rumble, with a soundtrack that doesn’t match the looks inherited from its Stateside kin. 

Whereas the US-spec F-150 Raptor currently runs a 336 kW, 691 Nm turbo V6 and was previously endowed with meaty 6.2-litre V8s (something to which it will reportedly return), our Ranger Raptor gets … a 2.0-litre, twin-turbo-diesel four-cylinder. 

Driving the rear or all four wheels via the same 10-speed automatic transmission (with a dual-range transfer case) that’s bolted to the twin-turbo V6, the 2.0-litre twin-turbo-diesel offers 157 kW and 500 Nm of torque – identical to the rest of the range. 

While the power plant offers more than ample output for the mundane working life of a run-of-the-mill Ranger, and enough grunt to cope with towing and haulage duties, the Raptor just looks like it deserves better. Rumours of the Mustang GT500’s powerplant being retasked for a return to Raptor duties whets the appetite, and could still be the only official way the powerplant makes it here. 

Our time in the big ute spanned almost 700 km. With an average speed in the mid-30 km/h bracket encompassing plenty of suburban running, the trip computer was showing 12 litres per 100 km, with the longer-term read-out displaying 10.7 over several thousand kilometres of media testing.

The features list includes the SYNC3 infotainment system with satellite navigation that gets annual map updates for up to seven years. Scheduled servicing is required every 15,000 km or 12 months. 

It’s well specified with two USB ports, two 12-volt outlets, a 230-volt rear domestic plug, front seat heaters, digital radio reception, heated and power-folding exterior mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic Xenon headlights and puddle lamps. Available with the Wildtrak model, but missing from the Raptor spec, is the Wi-Fi hotspot and ambient cabin lighting. 

Front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags are standard, as are an auto-dimming centre mirror, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera; but missing are the Wildtrak’s front sensors, automatic high beam system, tyre pressure monitoring and the ability to park itself. 

For the extra $10,900 spend, the $75,390 Raptor is 86 kg heavier than a $64,490 Wildtrak with the same drivetrain, yet loses a tonne of braked towing capacity, dropping to 2.5 tonnes. 

Payload falls by 196 kg to 758 kg, which also puts a dent in what can be put in the lined tray, although the 12-volt outlet is retained and the rear tailgate does get lift assistance, which helps when it’s 964 mm (up 124 mm) from the ground. Also missing are some of the autonomous emergency braking and active cruise control functions and automatic high beam, but additional features timed from a June on-sale update will include AEB with pedestrian detection.

The most obvious competitor, HSV’s SportsCat, sits in the $60,000 realm; but the Raptor’s pricing puts it up against the new output leaders in the segment. 

The 3.0-litre V6 TDI580 Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate (with 190 kW and 580 Nm) and the Mercedes-Benz X 350d range (190 kW/550 Nm) both run in the $70,000 bracket; while a base RAM 1500 V8 sneaks into that price range as well, although dimensionally it dwarfs ‘normal’ dual cabs. 

At 1873 mm tall, 2180 mm wide (with its mirrors) and 5398 mm long, the Raptor is 25 mm taller, 17 mm wider but 28 mm shorter than a standard Wildtrak. Ground clearance has increased to 283 mm from 237 mm and the turning circle has grown by 0.2 to 12.9 metres.

Clambering up into the cabin, the driver is confronted by dark trim and model-specific leather with suede sports seats, which offer good comfort and lateral support for the inevitable off-road exploits.

The instrument panel is a two-barrel set-up, which offers less of an information-overload than the mainstream Ranger dash and is easier to read at a glance – the centre display offering up speed, consumption and other details, although the gear indicator is a little hard to read. 

The driver also gets large magnesium paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, which are nice to touch but poorly positioned, sitting uncomfortably close to the pre-existing stalks and the steering wheel rim. 

In some terrain the paddles are useful, but for the most part, opting for the Sport mode on the six-mode Terrain Management System before getting underway keeps the 10-speed auto interested in getting up and about. 

In motion, there’s much to like about the Raptor, sitting on a model-specific frame onto which its clever suspension is bolted. 

Gone are the rear leaf springs, replaced with a new coil-over rear suspension that features a Watts link setup with solid rear axle and what Ford calls Position Sensitive Damping that’s designed to deliver higher damping forces for better off-road response, and lower damping forces in the mid-travel zone for improved ride during on-road work. 

Manufactured by Fox Racing Shox, the units are equipped with internal bypass systems to allow for the off-road endurance work, with forged aluminium upper arms and cast aluminium lower arms within the long-travel suspension. 

The body rolls laterally a little more than the rest of the range, as you’d expect from suspension set-up offering an extra 30 per cent of travel, but there’s a controlled nature to it. It all adds up to good ride quality around town, with speed bumps barely a pimple beneath the enormous rubber. It can still jump and jiggle a little, but the upgrade has had a solid impact on the driveability of the vehicle if not its overall cargo capacity. 

There’s very little that bothers this chassis in terms of road imperfections, small or large, thanks to the suspension system and the wheel and tyre package. 

The Raptor sits on a 17-inch alloy wheel (the Wildtrak has 18s) but is wrapped in a bigger, more-aggressive tyre beneath the bulging wheel arches – an all-terrain BF Goodrich 285/70 tyre specifically developed for this model. 

The chunky rubber is surprisingly quiet on sealed surfaces, with decent levels of grip and an absence of droning at highway speeds on bitumen. Dirt road grip is good, and it bites nicely on unsealed bends.

Only on greasy bitumen dampened with the first rain of the year did it become squirmy, waking the stability control system up for something other than an oversupply of torque to the rear wheels. 

Braking has been beefed up over the standard vehicle, with bigger front calipers and the addition of rear discs of a similar size to the front, although slightly skinnier. 

Off-road fans will also like the front and rear integrated tow hooks, as well as the very wide and solid non-slip side steps, which shorter folk will appreciate when climbing up into the towering cabin. 

There’s much to like about the Raptor’s aggressive stance and general capability albeit that unchanged outputs over the mainstream model fly in the butched-up face of what should be the range’s unquestionable flagship.

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