It’s Ford in the blue corner with the Ranger Raptor as the competition hots up.

With Ford well aware that its Ranger is starting to lose out in terms of sophistication and specification against some of the newcomers, the next step for the well-healed ute buyer is to embrace the blue oval in the form of the Ranger Raptor.

Gone is the rugged, reliable, but equally solid sprung semi-elliptical rear spring suspension on the standard Ranger, replaced by an all-new Watt’s linkage rear suspension with coil over rear springs that helps ensure rear axle lateral stability off-road while also improving ride and handling. To this is added standard front and rear Fox Racing Shox shock absorbers to help travel at high speeds off-road.

The involvement of the Ford Performance Team is to thank for the suspension upgrade, which results in an increased ride height, wider track and improved approach and departure angles that ensure extreme off-road capability and stability .

Under the bonnet there’s also a substantial change, with the five-cylinder 3.2-litre turbo diesel from the Puma family put back on the shelf and replaced by a new powertrain combination of a 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel engine and 10-speed torque converter automatic transmission.

Despite the apparent excitement of Jamal Hameedi, chief engineer of Ford Performance, there’s going to be an obvious push back from Australian buyers that don’t see a 2.0-litre four-cylinder as being capable of providing the right level of “grunt factor”.

To be fair to the 2.0-litre, with its bi-turbo technology it delivers (on paper) to the tune of 157 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque – a more impressive outcome than the 3.2-litre five-cylinder can produce of 147 kW at 3000 rpm and 470 Nm from 1750 to 2500 rpm, achieved with a single turbo.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of a twin-turbo installation, a smaller, high-pressure (HP) turbo is connected in a sequence to the larger, low-pressure (LP) turbo and is controlled with by-pass valves that determine the operating mode depending on engine speed. At lower engine speeds, the two turbos work in series, enhancing torque and responsiveness, while, at higher engine speeds, the small HP turbo is bypassed, and the higher LP turbo provides boost to deliver more power.

Because the smaller turbo takes the lead role in getting the Ranger Raptor off the line from stationary, it is water-cooled for extra durability, and consequently can cope better with the higher heat stress that can develop when working hard.

The Ford-designed and Ford-built 10-speed automatic transmission is shared with the F-150 Raptor and has been created with high-strength steel, aluminium alloys and composites to optimise durability and weight. Resorting to more gear ratios than the standard six-speed is sometimes the result of a lack of flexibility with a particular engine, where instead of the engine hanging on to provide high torque output across a broad rev range it uses additional gear ratios to mask the restrictions of the engine. Ford has not yet made any examples of the Ranger Raptor available to the press for analysis, and this is obviously something that Delivery will evaluate with interest when vehicles are available in this country.

Having ten ratios available means that the option of a low-range/high-range transfer case is basically redundant. The all-new electronic system incorporated by Ford in the new transmission features real-time adaptive shift-scheduling algorithms engineered to help ensure the right gear is selected at the right time. A unique transmission calibration also includes a ‘Live in Drive’ function, meaning that the paddle shifters are always available for manual gear selection override. The electronic control system for the Ranger Raptor also contains off-road specific calibrations for engine, transmission, driveline, steering, brakes and electronic stability control (ESC) system.

Compared to the standard Aussie spec Ranger, the Ranger Raptor stance is noticeably bigger from every angle, with a height of 1873 mm, a width of 2180 mm and a length of 5398 mm. The front and rear track measurements are set at 1710 mm, with ground clearance increased to 283 mm. For serious off-roaders, the approach, rampover and departure angles are 32.5°, 24° and 24° respectively. The tray dimensions are 1560 mm x 1743 mm and the maximum braked trailer towing ability is 2500 kg.

The frame design incorporates new geometry for the large suspension, increased track and wheel travel, with added strength built in to the front shock absorber towers.
With tyre sizing that utilises 17-inch Raptor rims, the tyre fitment includes all-terrain BF Goodrich 285/70 R17 tyres of 838 mm in diameter and 285 mm in width. The braking system features twin-piston callipers at the front that have been increased by 9.5 mm in diameter, with ventilated rotors of 332 mm. The rear-mounted ventilated disc brakes have rotors of 332 x 24 mm with a new 54 mm calliper.

With the incoming tougher competition for buyers in the upper level of the ute market that will become evident with the launch of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, Ford is obviously endeavouring to provide a significant lift in performance, ride comfort, safety and handling.

As Ford’s Damien Ross, chief programme engineer for Ranger Raptor, told Delivery Magazine:

“Everything about the Ranger Raptor builds on the already outstanding sophisticated feel and functional capability of the Ranger, and then goes further. From a driving dynamic fun standpoint, it is really an exceptionally special vehicle”.

Raptor’s race-bred suspension has been specifically crafted to tackle undulating terrain at high-speed while remaining in complete control and comfort. The position sensitive damping (PSD) shock absorbers provide higher damping forces at full jounce and rebound to enable better off-road capabilities, and lower damping forces in the mid-travel zone for a class-leading plush ride during on-road trips, with settings calibrated for the best of both worlds.

The dampers are exclusively manufactured by Fox Racing Shox with 46.6 mm piston for front and rear. Designed for off-road endurance terrain, the dampers, coupled with the long-travel suspension, allow for an unsurpassed damping performance off-road and the plushest of rides on-road thanks to Internal Bypass technology.

Holding them in place are the forged aluminium upper arms and cast aluminium lower arms to facilitate greater suspension travel and optimised for performance and extreme off-road durability.

Other major specification changes for the Ranger Raptor include electric power assisted steering (EPAS) and a terrain management system (TMS) offering six modes for various driving experiences. These can be selected via a dedicated five-button switch located on the steering wheel. Each mode has been calibrated to offer the best possible combination of technologies working in unison to tackle the chosen terrain or driving style with aplomb.

There are two on-road modes, such as Normal for fuel economy and comfort and Sport mode for spirited on-road driving with faster gear shifts at higher engine speeds to aid throttle response. The mapping reacts to increased demand inputs from the driver by holding gears longer and downshifting more aggressively.

Four off-road modes are based on providing alternative power and torque modulation to benefit traction on (1) grass, gravel and snow, (2) mud and sand, (3) traversing over rocks and (4) Baja mode. This latter selection increases vehicle responsiveness for high-speed off-road performance. It’s here that vehicle systems like traction control are pared back in terms of intervention to allow spirited off-road driving without fighting the vehicle’s on-board systems. Gear selection is optimised for maximum performance, and the mapping will hold gears longer and downshift more aggressively.

With a price structure that is said to head north from $80,000, the Ranger Raptor comes with a host of advanced driver assist technologies (DATs) at the push of a button.
For connectivity, the SYNCÒ 3 system is a fully integrated, voice activation system. The satellite navigation system comes into its own when off-roading in remote areas, even offering a ‘breadcrumb’ feature to leave a trail when entering unchartered areas.

Ford’s comprehensive electronic stability control (ESC) system incorporates roll mitigation function and the technology suite includes trailer sway control (TSC), hill start assist (HSA), hill-descent control (HDC) and load adaptive control (LAC).

The rear-mounted camera can be viewed through the eight-inch colour LCD screen and matches with information from the rear parking sensors gives.

For convenient access, an EZ Lift Tailgate uses a new rod assembly to give the owner a 66 percent reduction in initial lift force. Intelligent Access, also known as passive entry, allows the owner to unlock, lock and start the vehicle without having to reach for their keys. Using a radio frequency signal, the key fob allows the owner to start the vehicle with a press of a button and is able to activate central locking for the doors and the tailgate. In the case of a depleted battery, a mechanical key blade is incorporated into the fob design.

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