DISAPPOINTED. That’s the word used in several video reviews to describe how you may feel about certain aspects of the Ford Ranger Raptor. Disappointed that the diesel-powered European Raptor doesn’t feature the same monstrous V6 petrol engine used in the American F-150 Raptor, and disappointed that it only has the load-carrying ability of an asthmatic child. Well, 620kg, which is around half the payload capacity of the standard Ford Ranger.
What’s more, they point out, the Ranger Raptor can only tow up to 2,500kg, whereas the regular Ranger can pull 3,500kg.
The price for this apparent weediness? Nearly 50 grand (£48,784 and 64 pence on the road, to be precise) — a full £10,000 more than the top-specced standard Ranger, the Wildtrak.
Adding insult to injury, and another reason for disappointment, say the video reviewers, is that the sub-one tonne payload means the tax man sees the Raptor as a car, rather than a double cab pick-up, meaning businesses can’t claim back the VAT as company expense.
But pointing these things out is a bit of a waste of time, as the government has it right — this isn’t a commercial vehicle at all. It’s an off-road racer. A plaything. Understand that and it all starts to make sense.
The clues were all there. Ford launched the Raptor at Gamescom, rather than a motor show, making it the first ever vehicle ever revealed at Europe’s largest video gaming event. The Ranger Raptor can also be found in the Forza games for Xbox, and at Goodwood media and visitors to the Ford stand were invited to set lap times on arcade machines.
In other words, the Raptor isn’t for lugging around scaffolding and cement mixers, it’s for blasting through forests and deserts as you would a rally car on a games console.
It has a sort of hyper-real aesthetic, too — much more imposing than the standard Ranger, with the unique FORD grille, protruding wheel arches, front aluminium skid plate, 17in black alloys with specially-created BF Goodrich off-road tyres, stepped headlight covers and full-width black bumper – all inspired by the F-150 Raptor. There’s also the garish RAPTOR decal on the rear haunches (which, as the only option available, can be left off).
The Ranger Raptor is no F-150 in terms of size, of course, but that’s a vehicle so large it simply doesn’t work in the UK. One journalist from another publication, who shall remain nameless, told me he once managed to get an imported F-150 stuck in the centre of a village in West Sussex, much to the frustration of the locals.
But although the Ranger Raptor is a much more sensibly-proportioned machine, it is larger than the Ranger Wildtrak: 4mm longer, 51mm wider (17mm with the mirrors unfolded) and 25mm taller. Ground clearance actually increases on the Raptor, up from 230mm to 283mm, which means increased wading depth: from 800mm to 850mm. The wheelbase is the same but the Raptor has a much wider track – a full 150mm between the centre of the wheels, at both the front and rear. All the better for stability off-road.
When you take the Raptor on the rough stuff it is sensational, too, but the extra width is not the main contributing factor; praise has to go to the stunningly-effective custom coil spring suspension with Fox Racing 2.5 PSD dampers, in all four corners (since you asked: independent at the front but at the rear they’re connected by the solid rear axle with a Watt’s Link set-up).
Rather than having to creep along green lanes and across rutted fields, as you would in a traditional pick-up, in the Raptor you can put your foot down and hit mind-boggling speeds. It’s hilarious. Do that in a Wildtrack or any other pick-up, especially those with leaf springs at the rear, and your tools would be catapulted all over the British Isles.
Ford’s product man told us he’s coined the term ‘engine displacement anxiety’, as he’s having a devil of a time convincing people that it’s not the size that counts
Out on the road, the Fox shocks work their magic, too: the Raptor is by far the most car-like pick-up to drive, offering a comfortable ride in all conditions but also (fairly) rewarding handling when pushed hard. It’s not sports car by any means but it’s also not a rabbiting old van. If there’s an antidote to our road hump-strewn British roads, this is it – you’ll barely notice hitting a sleeping policeman.
Now let’s address the engine issue. No, it doesn’t have the 444bhp, 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine found in the Ford F-150 Raptor in the States; as mentioned above, it doesn’t even have the 3.2-litre Duratorq diesel available in the Wildtrak. Instead the European Raptor comes with a 2.0 EcoBlue diesel under the bonnet.
But the new 2-litre motor is more potent than the 3.2, producing 210bhp and 359 lb ft of torque instead of 197bhp and 347 lb ft. Ford’s product man told us he’s coined the term “displacement anxiety”, as he’s having a devil of a time convincing people that it’s not the size that counts (we’ve all been there, chap), as the 3.2 is phased out (it’ll be discontinued before the end of the year). The fact is that the 2.0 EcoBlue is the most powerful engine in the Euro Ranger line-up.
It’s more fuel efficient, too, offering 31mpg on the WLTP test cycle, a 9.2% improvement on the 3.2 engine’s 28mpg. And although the Raptor doesn’t qualify for VAT relief, it is still homologated as a light goods vehicle for VED purposes, so you’re not hit with a £1,815 first year road tax bill followed by £465 for the next five years, as you would were it a classed as a car; instead you pay just £260 per year.
Power goes through an automatic gearbox to either the rear wheels or all four wheels, with an electrically-controlled “shift-on-the-fly” 4×4 transfer case. There’s low range 4×4 setting, too, should the going get really tough.
In normal running the high range gearbox proves smooth, whether in two- or four-wheel drive, and shifts cogs quickly and efficiently. If there’s a criticism here, it’s that there are just too many gears – a whopping 10 in total – meaning the paddle shifts behind the wheel are largely redundant, because clicking up and down in manual mode becomes tiresome very quickly.
It’s bordering on ridiculous to have a manual mode, actually, as shifting so many gears by hand was a nuisance in every situation – much better to let the Raptor’s electronic brain do the work for you, particularly as it can drop several gears in one go, without having to do it sequentially.
There are six different “terrain modes” that help the four-wheel drive system cope with different conditions: Normal, Sport, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud, Rocks and, for the ultimate off-road performance experience, Baja mode. Each of these adjust the throttle response, steering weight and feel, torque distribution and so on.
Stick it in Baja mode and the Raptor feels quite potent enough, with surges of power coming from low in the rev range. Switch off the traction control and put it in rear-wheel drive and it’s quite possible to cut big muddy circles into your local farmer’s field (with apologies to the land owners near Goodwood).
It’s not a rattly engine, either, with a smooth power delivery from idle up to 3,750rpm – the EcoBlue’s peak power level.
Which contributes to the fact that, even when barrelling from furrow to furrow, inside the cabin the experience is impressively serene. Thanks to the trick suspension, comfort levels are good (and in fact the ride improves the faster you go, as the vehicle glides over the potholes and ruts), while wind and tyre noise are kept surprisingly low. We could have done without the piped-in synthetic engine noise, which sounds a little like a V8 (but not a lot).
The bespoke Raptor suede front seats are supportive and comfortable (heated, too, with electric adjustment), and there’s good amounts of space in the rear for passenger well over six foot (I’m 6ft 5in and had head and kneeroom to spare. Grab handles feature in all four corners of the cabin and the Ford SYNC 3 8in touchscreen is pretty decent, if not the slickest system out there.
So, who would buy a vehicle like this? Not someone who needs a commercial vehicle workhorse, that’s for sure. The Raptor is partly for show – we can see business owners, rather than labourers, peacocking about in them. You certainly need a wedge of cash to afford one, particularly as the VAT can’t be recovered from the tax man.
But the Raptor is not just a rich man’s bauble – it’s a seriously capable off-road machine. If I were a farmer, this is the car I’d want. You can go anywhere in Raptor, and you can get there very, very quickly indeed. What’s more, when you arrive you have a whacking great smile on your face. And how many cars can do that these days?