Dusty Aussie trails reveal if the Ford Ranger Raptor is the Focus RS of pick-upsVerdict3.5The Ford Ranger Raptor takes the concept of a sporty pick-up to new extremes. It’s sharper to drive than near enough any rival on the market, with sweet steering and a compliant ride. It doesn’t sacrifice off-road ability in the pursuit of performance on the road, either. But ultimately, the engine disappoints; fitting a torquey V6 diesel could’ve made a good truck a really great one.
Meet the Focus RS of the pick-up world. The Ford Ranger Raptor is the most extreme vehicle in the one-tonne truck class, with a body and stance that makes it look as if it’s ready for the a run in the Dakar Rally.
It’s designed to broaden the appeal of pick-ups in Europe – where vans rule supreme. And as we reported last month, it’s coming to the UK in 2019.
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The aim is to transform the big-selling Ranger into what marketing types call a ‘lifestyle vehicle’. The Raptor is a pick-up that can’t carry or tow as much as its workhorse counterparts, switching versatility for power and performance.
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Inside, the standard instrument cluster is replaced by a sportier dash display, while the steering wheel is thicker and features a new red centre stripe. Furthermore, the sports seats have thicker side bolsters and Raptor logos stitched into the fabric.
Under the skin, Ford has created a bespoke chassis set-up with coil springs at the rear (rather than leaf springs). There’s a wider track, too, and rally-inspired heavy-duty shock absorbers matched with off-road tyres.
The bulging front wings are made of high-strength plastic, but the matching bulges at the rear are stamped out of metal. The bumpers are tapered for improved clearance off road, and the side steps are made from magnesium in a vain attempt to trim weight.
It’s still a hefty vehicle, however. At 2,404kg, the Raptor is up to 200kg heavier than a standard Ranger. Thankfully, four-wheel disc brakes provide decent stopping power.
The performance of the chassis is profound, too, whether on or off the road. On rough tracks, the Fox shocks smooth out most bumps, and provide almost serene comfort on the highway.
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The tyres produce surprisingly little road noise, and the steering has a precision rarely seen in the pick-up class. Just be careful when parking around town; there’s a massive 12.9-metre turning circle. The shorter front and rear overhangs and taller ride height mean the Ranger Raptor can negotiate most off-road obstacles with ease, however.
There is just one sizeable caveat in this otherwise impressive overall package: the engine is a little bit underdone. It’s a new twin-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, and falls just short of where it needs to be.
Despite having more power and torque than the Ranger’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel – and the extra gear ratios for brisker acceleration – the Raptor hasn’t made the gains you might expect given its bold appearance.
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While vehicles like this aren’t meant to accelerate like supercars, the latest V6-powered Volkswagen Amarok and Mercedes X 350 d show there’s appetite for powerful (and ultimately expensive) pick-ups. But Ford says the Raptor is not about straight-line speed and more about its next-level off-road capability.
And that’s a shame. There’s no denying it’s an awesome-looking truck, but we can’t help thinking it could have been better.
Here’s hoping the upcoming joint venture between Ford and Volkswagen’s commercial vehicle divisions might one day see the Amarok’s V6 under the bonnet of the Raptor. Only then would we truly have the hot Focus RS-inspired pick-up we’ve long been waiting for.
- Model: Ford Ranger Raptor
- Price: £42,500 (est)
- Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel
- Power/torque: 210bhp/500Nm
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
- Top speed: 106mph
- Economy/CO2: 34.5mpg/212g/km
- On sale: Early 2019
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