Ford Ranger Raptor thrashed in the Outback

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Words: Kyle Cassidy
25 Jul 2018

After a drawn out launch campaign we have finally driven the new Ranger Raptor, the latest offering from Ford Performance vehicles, and we can tell you it’s exceptionally capable.

This was to be expected given the Ranger Raptor’s strengthened chassis, its Watt’s link rear end, tuned Fox shockers and specially developed BF Goodrich all-terrain treads. But the question is: how does the powertrain perform? Since announcing the Raptor’s only engine option as a twin turbo diesel, some were wondering, would a 2.0-litre do the business?

On the recent international launch in Australia’s Northern Territories, Ford representatives were keen to impress the Ranger Raptor’s overall performance package, one tuned to deliver exceptional off-road capability, which it duly delivers. Along dirt roads the Raptor’s ride is unsurpassed. The long travel suspension and massively capable Fox shockers take it all in their stride. But it’s when you up the ante over rough, rutted tracks that this thing goes next level.

Experiencing the ultimate off-road performance of both the tyres and the immensely capable Fox shockers at speed is probably something most owners will never get the chance to check out. Unless, perhaps, you have access to an off-road wonderland like the Tipperary Station, a 210,000 hectare cattle ranch with all manner of dirt trails to allow the Ranger Raptor to express its true character.

Just how fast you can attack rough trails is eye opening. It managed to glide over the bumps, with no floating or bouncing to suffer. Even when seated beside the hotshoes jumping the Raptor off dirt ramps, your spine suffers no compression as the suspension is quick to let the wheels drop in the air, allowing maximum travel for the landing, where the compression stroke soaks up the impact but then the shocks have instantly settled the truck, ready for it to tackle the next obstacle rather than wallowing about.

The on-road ride is sorted too and the five-link rear end is utterly planted. Along with a 150mm track increase, the rear gains upper and lower trailing arms and a Watt’s link to deliver the necessary vertical movements for off-road antics but with much better control of the lateral movements. On road this delivers more stability in the bends which allows that wonderfully linear and progressive Ranger steering to work even more sweetly.

The BF Goodrich ATs not only work in the soft dirt and dust but also on tarmac, gripping well and building towards the limits before gradually breaking away. They really bite into the dirt. A regular Ranger would be all bounce and understeer on the course we threaded the Raptor along, and its quick response to the steering, for a 2400kg ute, was noteworthy as it turns sharply in the soft terrain.

And what about the 2.0 diesel? Ford quotes 157kW, with 500Nm available from 1750rpm to 2000. The 0-100km/h run is said to take 10.5 sec, slower than a Colorado Z71 but faster than the Wildtrak. It makes good torque at low revs, and the throttle response is keen, while it manages to conjure a growl under the pump, so from the cabin at least you can’t hear the clatter.

In conjunction with the 10-speed auto, this powertrain does go well. It gets underway smartly, no yawning lag to suffer and in the Normal mode, it makes its way up through the gears in a silky fashion.

In Sport, the 10R80 keeps the turbodiesel spinning along in the 3000 - 4000rpm range to good effect, making use of its willingness to rev. The Raptor is fitted with shift paddles but they are superfluous, the quick-acting box always ready with a gear for the task. The Raptor’s not exceptionally rapid, as its kilowatt count and weight would suggest, but it builds speed effectively. It’s rated at 8.2L/100km on average while the truck we drove was registering in the 12s.

Yeah, we would probably have preferred to see the option of the 2.3-litre Ecoboost, or better yet Ford’s 2.7 twin-turbo V6, but on the subject of other engine options, Ford is remaining mum. It’s saying the Ranger Raptor is only confirmed for the Asia Pacific market, and the 2.0-litre diesel is the only engine on offer. And as an overall package, this is very compelling.

It might not have the squirt of a V6 Amarok but it rides better, is more interesting dynamically, and has a genuine 4x4 with low range setting, including a locking rear diff. It’s better on- and off-road too than HSV’s SportsCat. The $85k ask is steep for a ute, but we feel the $15k premium over a Wildtrak is well justified. We look forward to another meeting with the Ranger Raptor on home soil.

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