How do you improve on something which, in many territories, is a market leader? How do you raise the profile so that the vehicle turns heads in a way that the current one, probably due to familiarity, does not? And, how do you make it perform better, without just putting a more powerful engine under the bonnet? These and other challenges were faced when Ford Performance designers (the same people responsible for the Mustang) were briefed to make a ‘special’ Ranger. It had to be more than some additional graphics, new colours, perhaps different wheels and some bling. And so, unveiled in 2019 were the fruits of their labour, the Ranger Raptor.

As per the design brief, It’s turned out to be much more than a Ranger with a few toys. With the intention of making the truck go as fast as possible off-road, it has had major revisions to the suspension. Rear leaves have been replaced by coilover springs together with a linkage which is designed to stabilise suspension travel when driving in tough off-road environments.  Fox racing shock absorbers are fitted and the ride height has been raised and chassis modified to suit. The track (the distance between the left and right wheels) has been widened by 150mm and the truck has 33 inch specially designed tyres with strengthened sidewalls. Bigger front brake calipers and rear discs in lieu of drums have been fitted, and the list goes on…

Externally, you’ll find a new, bold FORD grille, flared arches to accommodate the wider track, aluminium side steps, and a new rear and raised front bumper. Raptor graphics are evident at the rear of the truck.

Internally, new seats more suited to off road use have been fitted, and interior styling generally has been given a flourish with blue stitching and other embellishments. A Raptor steering wheel greets the driver and the vehicle benefits from the new dash and SYNC3 media unit fitted to the other, recently refreshed Rangers.

Under the bonnet, and perhaps a disappointment to some, the Raptor retains the 2.0 litre EcoBlue engine, now found across the Ranger range and in other commercial vehicles in the Ford line up. It does however have a very respectable output of 213hp and 500nm of torque. A 10 speed automatic transmission is fitted as standard.

Ford sources have told me that it became clear early on in the design programme that to achieve a 1000kg payload (and therefore make it a commercial vehicle for VAT purposes) the compromises in specification would have to be considerable. The decision was made that the priority would be for the Raptor to be engineered to perform, and for payload to take a back seat.

On the Road

Despite being engineered for optimum off road performance, the Raptor excels on road too. Although not having quite the grunt of the V6 units which have been offered by Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, there is more than enough power for almost all situations and the 10 speed auto box is an absolute dream, with almost imperceptible changes timed perfectly. There is a bit of noise under hard acceleration, but nothing out of the ordinary and, when up to cruising speed there is little intrusion into the cab, even from the somewhat ‘chunky’ tread on the huge tyres. Overall, there is an air of presence (you do feel particularly high up) and refinement, not dissimilar to that you would expect to find in a premium car. Like other Ford CV’s, Raptor has that indefinable quality of just ‘feeling right’. Even pushed hard on country lanes, the Raptor inspired confidence with sure footedness, a lack of roll, fantastic braking and perfectly geared steering.

Off road

Raptor has a Terrain Management System, with six off-road modes selectable from a switch on the steering wheel – Normal, Sport, Grass / Gravel / Snow, Mud/ /Sand, Rock and, for ultimate fast driving, Baja mode.

Although off road opportunities were few and far between in my week with the Raptor, I have previously spent some time driving the vehicle on some relatively challenging tracks away from the highway.  What is outstanding is the way the truck copes with lumps, bumps, jumps, ruts and potholes –it’s possible to drive over these at speeds previously only achievable at the risk of vehicle damage and possibly minor injury to a driver and passengers. Gliding over them is perhaps an exaggeration, but Raptor is in a different league to any other vehicle I have driven off-road (every pickup on the UK market), and that includes the Arctic Trucks version of the very capable Isuzu D-Max. It works, and the design team at Ford Performance must be ecstatic at the result of their development efforts.

Conclusion

It’s easy to run out of superlatives when describing the Raptor – fantastic on road, brilliant off it, and with outstanding build quality and a good cab specification. The only question that needs to be asked is the identity of the target market. With a list price of over £40,000 + the VAT that cannot be reclaimed by a business, justifying this premium over a conventional pickup with a better payload and the tax advantage may prove tricky to some. For enthusiasts with deep pockets though, this really is a no brainer.