Ford Ranger Raptor 2023MY Review
It’s no ordinary pickup, that’s for sure, and when the original Raptor was launched to the UK press in 2019 Ford was at pains to point this out. From its conception, the rule book for pickups was discarded, none more so than the 1000kg payload required in the UK for the truck to be considered as a commercial vehicle by the taxman. It had soon become clear that the concept behind Raptor would have been almost completely compromised in making the vehicle light enough to carry the payload required.
Despite the taxation issue, Raptor sold relatively well and encouraged by this, Ford has gone even further with Raptor in its latest incarnation, based on the all new Ranger. With a further emphasis on off road performance there’s a new line up of engines and the new Ranger’s chassis has been further developed to deliver more control over rough terrain at speed.
Under the skin…
Probably the biggest single change from the outgoing Raptor is in power unit availability. Whilst a 2.0 litre diesel engine producing a very healthy 210PS is available, most Raptor customers are likely to opt for the 3.0 litre V6 petrol unit offering a colossal 292PS through the standard 10-speed automatic gearbox, the truck supplied by Ford for this review having this engine.
The original suspension has been subjected to a redesign and FOX Live Valve dampers are fitted. Ford claim that ‘Everything from adjusting the spring rates to setting the ride height, valve tuning and honing the ride zones was performed to create the perfect balance between comfort, control, stability and traction on- and off-road’. The full time 4WD system has an electronically controlled on demand 2-speed transfer case combined with front and rear locking differentials.
The Raptor boasts a number of selectable drive modes which apply changes to gearchange, steering, suspension, ABS sensitivity, throttle response and transmission:
- Normal – designed for comfort and fuel efficiency
- Sport – more responsive for spirited on-road driving
- Slippery – for more confident driving on slippery or uneven surfaces
- Rock crawl – for optimum control in very low speed driving over extreme rocky and uneven terrain
- Sand – optimises gearchanges and power delivery for progress in sand and deep snow
- Mud/Ruts – for maximum grip during launch and maintaining vehicle momentum
- Baja – sets all systems to maximum attack for peak high-speed off-road performance
There are also 4 modes for the exhaust sound, from quiet (a term which should be taken loosely) through to Baja, designed to imitate a straight through system but intended for off road use only.
In the cab
With its leather, bucket styled seats allegedly inspired by the Raptor fighter jet and the bright orange trim stitching and other highlights, the cab really does look good. The dash is dominated by a 12” centrally mounted portrait, Tesla style screen which provides access to all the usual functions plus some others. In front of the driver is an electronic instrument panel providing the more important information, also displaying some clever animation both on start up and when changing drive modes, which are scrolled through when turning the outer ring on the centrally mounted drive selector. Basic ventilation controls remain mechanical, a good move as trying to change these settings on a touchscreen isn’t easy and can distract the driver. Cab storage is fair, something that manufacturers often struggle with on pickups.
This cab reeks of quality, in design, construction and in the materials used. It’s by far the best environment found in any commercial vehicle (in my opinion!).
On the outside
It’s certainly bold – not on a par with the Isuzu D-Max AT35 but Raptor isn’t shy. At the front there’s the new Ranger grille, but with F O R D being shouted from the rooftops in huge letters. The C shaped LED daytime running lights envelop the headlights and on the test truck at least, Raptor vinyls are displayed on the load deck sides and the rear tailgate (these are available as an option). 17” black alloy wheels are complimented by black side steps and wheelarch extensions.
At the rear, there’s the Ranger lettering on the tailgate, and, giving a hint to what’s under the bonnet, twin exhaust tailpipes with chrome finishers.
On a truck with a price tag just shy of £60,000 (and no chance of recovering the VAT) you’d be right to expect a few bells and whistles, and whilst Raptor doesn’t disappoint, it has to be borne in mind that a considerable amount of your financial investment is being taken by the cost of things you can’t necessarily see. You do however get the SYNC4 display with navigation and a 360 degree camera output, dual zone climate control, heated leather seats, a Bang and Olufsen 10 speaker sound system and a very handy 400 watt power inverter. There’s plenty of driver and safety aids too.
On (and off) the road
Even in quiet mode, an early morning departure from home needs to be undertaken gently to avoid waking the neighbours, the V6 ‘burble’ only just being suppressed. Select Baja mode at your peril, as the resulting complaints on the local community Facebook pages won’t be pretty. Whilst Ford’s claim that it replicates a straight through system may be exaggerating things a little, it’s loud, and turns heads when being driven even gently.
On road performance as you’d expect with almost 300HP under your right foot is pretty awesome – set the drive mode to sport (which allows the engine to rev much higher prior to upshifting), select Baja in the exhaust menu, put your foot down and feel yourself getting pushed back into the seats, the acceleration being simply stunning for a pickup. At this point, you’ll probably have drawn the attention of the local constabulary so it might be an idea to get your excuses and apologies prepared…
Once you’ve got your licence back, you’ll find that with general driving the Raptor is a quiet beast, the only noticeable noise being the engine although, when not being pushed, the intrusion into the cab is acceptable. Otherwise road and wind noise are barely noticeable and there are absolutely no rattles, squeaks or bumps. There’s an air of refinement and class that you’d be excused for not expecting from a pickup with such an extreme specification and capabilities. The Raptor handles nicely on the road, there’s little drama even when driven hard (although the rear is understandably twitchy in damp conditions) and in normal mode the steering is light but remains positive.
Offroading isn’t encouraged with press vehicles but I took the Raptor down a local lane which consists of potholes, rubble, stone and not much else. Baja mode selected and the truck skimmed over some very rough surfaces at speed with zero drama, and with little discomfort being felt in the cab. This demonstrated perfectly how well the Ford Performance engineers have got the suspension and intelligent dampers working in harmony – there really is nothing like it on the market and those buying a Raptor to use on private, challenging tracks (or even away from tracks) will not be disappointed by their purchase. It’s really, really good.
Just one thing to bear in mind though – you’ll be a frequent visitor to the fuel station. The WLTP Combined fuel consumption figure is just 20.5mpg, and the best I could manage was 18.7. Maybe it was the way I was driving it…
Some may accuse Ford of creating the Raptor as a halo model, a truck that might only sell in small numbers but that will draw attention to (and enhance the image of) the Ranger. There’s no doubt that if it was the plan, it would have the desired effect but, Raptor is clearly more than that. The rule book was discarded at the design stage. It’s not tax friendly. It’s not environmentally friendly either, but Ford has come up with something pretty special, and without a true rival. The Isuzu D-Max AT35 comes closest (and, to be fair is VAT friendly with its 1000kg+ payload) but with a fairly weak power unit it’ll be left standing by the Raptor. The platform sharing Volkswagen Amarok has, within its range the Aventura, but this is little competition to the Ford, not having the power units or suspension improvements and still failing to make the magic 1000kgs.
It’s not cheap, it’s not green but it’s loud, and it’s bloody brilliant.