Car reviews - Ford - Ranger - Raptor
Tough local engineering, best-in-class steering and handling, appealing dash, car-like comfort, striking design differentiation, true 4x4 workhorse capabilities, five-year warranty
Room for improvement
No AEB (yet), no adaptive cruise, no steering reach adjustment, not cheap
The Ford Ranger Raptor takes medium-sized pick-ups to a whole new level
29 Apr 2019
IN the absence of the F-Series truck in Australia – which is the world’s best-selling vehicle, by the way – Ford is offering us the next best thing in the form of the Raptor, a range-topping Ranger with an all-new 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel, 10-speed auto, widened guards, an uprated cabin and the coil-sprung rear end from the closely-related Everest SUV.
The result ought to push the newcomer to the forefront of the medium pick-up class, but with no driver-assist tech at launch and much-gutsier V6 diesels in key rivals, does the Raptor have the claws it requires?
Price and equipment
Like some kid’s dream of a truck and dinosaur morphing into one, the $74,990 (plus on-road costs) Ford Ranger Raptor is here. Finally.
Flagship of the Blue Oval’s ultra-successful one-tonne pick-up range, the Raptor represents more than just a cosmetic upgrade from the Wildtrak 4x4 variant of which it sprung from.
For starters, an all-new, 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine outs the hoary old 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-pot turbo, channelling torque to all four wheels via an equally box-fresh 10-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.
Then there’s a variation of the Everest SUV wagon’s Watts link rear axle, complete with unique long-travel outboard coil-over dampers, that steps in for the regular pickup’s Jurassic-era leaf springs.
They’re part of wholesale suspension mods that also include Fox Racing Internal Bypass twin-tube shock absorbers with position0sensitive damping across both axles, as well as forged-alloy upper and cast-alloy lower controls arms to cut excess kilos.
There’s also an altered 4x4 system with six modes – Normal, Sport and Weather (2WD), Mud/Sand and Baja (4WD), and Rock/Gravel (4WD Low) – that work in conjunction with the transmission and traction/stability controls according to conditions.
Uprated brakes see stronger front discs and rear vented discs replacing the regular Ranger’s drum scenario out back.
You’ll spot the Raptor from its aggressively flared body kit featuring black wheel-arch extensions, a redesigned grille, a sculpted bonnet, a different chassis-mounted front bumper, a steel bash plate, sheet-moulded front guards, a revised rear bumper, four tow hooks, heavy-duty skid plates, shaded 17-inch alloy wheels wearing BF Goodrich KO2 285/70 all-terrain tyres, a tub-liner, a godsend ‘Ezy-lift’ tailgate strut (with remote locking), underbody protection, auto HID headlights and LED daytime running lights and foglights.
The result is 330mm extra girth, due in part to 150mm-wider front and rear tracks, while height rises 25mm taller and overall length increases 9mm. Still, on dimensions, approach, departure and breakover angles are now 32.5, 24 and 24 degrees respectively, while ground clearance is a handy 283mm. Water wading depth is 850mm. The Raptor’s bespoke tub is 1743mm long, 1560mm wide and 964mm tall. A bit less than normal, but still eminently useable.
Like Wildtrak, there’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen with SYNC3 infotainment multimedia supporting Apple CarPlay, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and keyless entry and start feature, along with Raptor-specific power-adjustable sport seats, a sports steering wheel, ‘Technical Suede’ trim, special instrumentation and scuff plates.
On the safety front you’ll find front, side and curtain airbags; stability control, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock brakes, lane-keep assist, traction control, trailer-sway control, brake assist, hill-descent control and traffic sign recognition.
Note, however, that the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) available in some other MY19 Rangers will be introduced in an MY20 update due in June this year, but adaptive cruise control will inexplicably remain absent from Raptor.
Also, there’s 1000kg less braked towing capacity (at 2500kg) and reduced maximum payload (at 758kg).
So, a bit less usefulness at the altar of in-your-face attitude. Buyers are already clamouring for their share of Raptor mania.
The difference between the interiors of the Ranger Wildtrak and Raptor is like the difference between a work boot and a beefy high-top trainer. Looks are different but outcomes are similar.
Unique sports seats, darker dashboard hues, a blue-stitched vinyl dash top, transmission gate/handbrake boot and door trim treatments; different instrument markings and black headlining all help convey a sense of occasion. That’s a bonus.
That said, the things that help make the Ranger such as strong one-tonne contender remain inside, from comfortable and supportive seating front and back, effective ventilation, heaps of storage, great all-around vision and lots of 12V charge outlets, to the very useful SYNC3-based multimedia system, a large central touchscreen (complete with a massive reversing camera) and very comprehensive and clear instrumentation. Unlike some exxy rivals, the latter includes turn-by-turn GPS info.
What’s weird, though, is how you get a digital auxiliary speedo (in mph as well as km/h), or a small tacho and temperature gauge, but not at the same time.
Other niggles include no front passenger seat height adjuster (in an $80k vehicle, c’mon!), though there is lumbar support. The driver can change the steering column’s height but not reach (though there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the ergonomics here). And, as with all these types of trucks, entry and egress are tricky for smaller-statured people.
Still, the Raptor is fancy, yet tough and everyday work-ready with acres of space, practicality and utility – such as a rear backrest and cushion that fold down or upwards respectively to accommodate additional loads.
So, with 1.2 less litres and one fewer cylinder, is there both the muscle and refinement required for this work-cum-plaything?
Engine and transmission
Despite the downsized engine, technology steps in and up thanks to variable geometry twin turbos and 10 forward speeds to help shuffle all that torque as effectively as possible.
Ford’s figures tell us that the Raptor needs 10.5 seconds to hit 100 (almost a second better than the ageing 3.2L five-pot turbo) on the way to a 170km/h top speed – all while also being capable of returning 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres. All represent significant improvements, with the latter aided by stop/start fuel-saving tech.
Unladen, in everyday urban or freeway driving conditions, the 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel’s performance is more than adequate, backed up by a well-tuned 10-speed torque-converter auto that does a great job being in the right gear at the right time.
The Raptor is eager off the mark, stepping forward with real conviction, for it to feel quite speedy for a 2332kg truck. The gearbox is fast as well as effortless responding to inputs, too, and almost imperceptibly bypasses as many ratios as it needs to for the correct gear.
It’s also quieter and smoother than the larger engine, so there’s a whole new and very welcome level of refinement. No more ear-assaulting mechanical wailing under hard acceleration.
Our trip computer was displaying 11.2L/100km during our time behind the wheel of the frisky Ford pick-up, and that was with it driven in the enthusiastic style that it seems to crave.
That all said, the new heart has a fairly short torque bandwidth, and one that it reaches easily, and so it’s out on the open road where drivers may all-too-quickly find themselves flooring the accelerator searching for more thrust, but to no avail. It just isn’t there.
Certainly, the Mercedes X-Class V6 is much gutsier, while the creamy-smooth VW Amarok V6 provides nothing short unrivalled civility to go with its formidable muscle.
What we’re saying is the Raptor looks like it would burn rubber, but there just isn’t enough engine to match the aggressive styling.
Ride and handling
There are cars and there are trucks. Due to the body-on-frame construction of the latter, they will never quite drive or feel like a car, but the gap between the two has never been smaller than it is in the Raptor.
As with the Ranger, it displays refreshingly direct, interactive and communicative steering for light, controllable handling and roadholding that puts it at the forefront of light-truck dynamics.
Even with very Tonka Truck-style off-road tyres, more praise is deserved for the way the Ford deals so effortlessly with bumps of all shapes and sizes, while keeping an unladen back end firmly in place. The result is really quite astonishing initially.
There’s also real finesse in the way the Raptor responds to changes in direction as well as road-surface condition, further revealing how suited it behaves on Australian roads. Firm but contained sums it up.
Like we said earlier, first-time drivers won’t instantly forget they’re in a near-2.5-tonne pickup, but nor should they feel intimidated or unable to manoeuvre the Raptor in tight spaces or big city streets thanks to how user-friendly the whole thing feels. Commanding confidence, no doubt aided by all that great vision out.
That a car enthusiast can find fun in the way this can be thrown around at higher speeds or on gravel brings additional bandwidth to this (sole) Australian engineering marvel. Great work, Ford.
Safety and servicing
As with the Ranger, the Raptor is one of the safest vehicles of its type in the world, relying on the former’s five-star rating achieved in the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) back in 2015.
However, no AEB would surely see that fall a peg or two, so if you want this important driver-assist tech, then it might be best to wait for the MY20 Raptor to appear or buy a Wildtrak or XLT fitted with it.
Ford now offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with intervals at 15,000km or one year. And while there is no fixed-price servicing, a servicing calculator can work estimate the cost online, while a free loan car is part of the service at participating dealers.
In the world of pickups, the Ranger’s Australian design and engineering makes it truly unique (though the same applies to its current Mazda BT-50 cousin, too).
The Raptor, however, is an altogether better proposition, chiefly because of the added refinement, dynamics, comfort and features that it brings.
The lack of AEB (for now) and adaptive cruise is a disappointment, and the 2.0-litre twin-turbo doesn’t have the mid-range torque to respond as effortlessly (or quickly) as, say, the German V6 rivals, but the Ford does much with what it has, and does so with attitude and panache. Faults are surprisingly few and far between.
Given the depth of engineering change that has been undertaken to transform Ranger into Raptor, the $11K-odd premium isn’t unreasonable, either, so if you must, live out your childhood dinosaur fantasies with what is a truly capable and likeable sports truck.
Volkswagen Amarok TDI580 Ultimate (from $72,790 plus on-road costs)
Flagship Amarok stands tallest for car-like smoothness and velvety punch thanks to an unbeatable 200kW/580Nm 3.0-litre V6 diesel, while the Golf-style cabin and full-time AWD dynamics add further refinement. But no AEB, rear curtain airbags and adaptive cruise betray the VW’s advancing years.
Mercedes-Benz X350d Power (from $79,415 plus on-road costs)
The Germans have really turned the Nissan D23 Navara into a silk purse, especially with the addition of the Benz-sourced V6 diesel and fine 7G-tronic auto. AEB is standard, too. But the ride is noticeably firm, the engine a tad uncouth and the Nissan/Mercedes parts-bin cabin confluence patchy. Still strong, though.
HSV Colorado SportsCat+ (from $68,990 plus on-road costs)
Essentially a bodywork and suspension upgrade over the regular Holden Colorado, the SportsCat+ looks great, offers real workhorse capabilities, has a pleasantly contemporary dash and is spacious. But the powertrain is coarse and the dynamics more truck-like in this company. No AEB, either.
Model release date: 1 October 2018
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