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Ford Ranger Raptor review - high-performance off-road pickup driven in Morocco

  • Wild new off-road racing pickup for the road tested to the max
  • Every driving mode explored, all the suspension upgrades explained
  • 213hp bi-turbo and 10-speed auto as standard - does it justify the cost?

We have now driven the Ford Ranger Raptor, extensively, on and off road in Morocco. Prepare to bend your brain around a pickup truck that makes no rational sense whatsoever, but still has us looking at our bank statements, trying to find the large amount of necessary cash.

Keep reading for our full Ranger Raptor review.

What is the Ford Ranger Raptor?

The Ranger Raptor is a unique proposition in the UK pickup truck market. Designed and engineered by Ford Performance – the same section of the Blue Oval responsible for the Ford GT supercar and the most potent Mustangs – the Raptor is built to do one thing: go as fast as possible off-road.

It’s almost impossible to over-stress what a serious piece of kit this is as a result.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - front view, on rocks, Performance Blue

The flagship model for the 2019 Ford Ranger line-up, as the name suggests, it’s heavily influenced by the F-150 Raptor that’s been a great success for Ford in the USA – but proved just a little too bonkers for the UK when we tried one here in 2018.

The Ranger Raptor is that bit more sensible. It’s smaller (just), so will actually fit down British roads for starters, and instead of a 450hp V6 petrol engine it’s powered by a 213hp four-cylinder diesel – though both use the same 10-speed automatic transmission.

The underlying philosophy between the two Raptors is very much the same, however. Which means Ford has pretty much ripped up the standard Ranger’s chassis and suspension and started again.

What’s so special about the Ford Ranger Raptor?

To say the Raptor is based on the regular Ranger is at once true but also an immense understatement. This is not simply a case of bolting on a bodykit and some raised suspension. At all.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - rear top down view, driving on road, Performance Blue

The list of modifications is, frankly, mad.

Get a load of all the Ford Ranger Raptor upgrades:

  • Front and rear Fox Racing Shox shock absorbers
  • Rear coilover spring conversion (instead of the usual leaf springs) with new Watts linkage to stabilise the suspension movement in extreme off-road driving and sharper on-road dynamics
  • Uniquely modified chassis frame (!)  for increased strength and revised suspension geometry to suit raised ride height
  • New forged aluminium upper front suspension arms and cast aluminium lower suspension arms for increased suspension travel, replacing heavier steel items
  • Front brake calipers with 20% larger pistons
  • Rear disc brakes in place of the the standard drums
  • High-performance off-road seats with dual hardness cushioning and technical suede finish
  • New interior styling with blue stitching, leather accents and Ceramic trim
  • Raptor steering wheel, with lightweight magnesium (!) paddleshifters
  • New instrument cluster with twin dials (speedometer and rev counter) and central information screen
  • Six-mode Terrain Management System
  • New FORD grille modelled after F-150 Raptor
  • Raised and frame-mounted front bumper
  • Front LED foglights with functional air-curtain ducts to reduce air resistance
  • Composite front wing panels to better resist off-road damage from flying debris
  • Flared wheel arches to accommodate extra suspension travel and 150mm (!) increase in track width 
  • Diecast aluminium alloy side steps, designed to protect the rear bodywork from flying debris
  • New rear bumper with flush-mounted sensor bezels
  • Twin front tow hooks rated to 4,635kg
  • Twin rear recovery tow hooks rated to 3,863kg, plus an integrated rear tow bar rated to 2,500kg (2.5 tonnes)
  • Specially developed 33-inch BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres with tough sidewalls
  • New front bash plate made from 2.3mm high-strength steel

It's so far from the standard Ranger it’s almost like an entirely new vehicle.

What's different about the Ford Ranger Raptor suspension and chassis?

Ford Performance has converted the rear suspension to a 'coil-over' spring and shock absorber set-up, featuring Fox Racing Shox suspension dampers - also fitted at the front - that use Position Sensitive Damping. This allows them to deliver good cruising comfort on the road in addition to exceptional impact performance when being worked to their limit at high speeds off road.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - front view, smashing through sand at speed, Performance Blue

The new chassis frame, meanwhile, uses multiple grades of steel to maximise strength, and includes stiffened side rails and strengthened suspension mounts, including protruding shock absorber towers at the front to cope with the Raptor’s extra width and suspension travel.

The whole thing has been designed and tested to cope with extended periods of off-road driving at speeds up to 105mph.

You may want to read that sentence again...

How big is the Ford Ranger Raptor?

As a result of all the chassis and suspension modification, the Ranger Raptor stands 1,873mm tall, 2,180mm wide and runs to 5,398mm in length. The track width (the distance between the wheels across the axles) is up to 1,710mm, while ground clearance increases to 283mm.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - side view, driving along a beach, Performance Blue

It will also wade 850mm of water, has 30% extra front suspension travel, an 18% increase in rear suspension travel, and raised front and rear bumpers that help to boost the approach and departure angles - to 32.5 degrees and up to 27 degrees, respectively; it's 24 degrees if the removable rear tow hook is fitted. The breakover angle is also 24 degrees.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - front bash plate

That bash plate is 60% thicker than the standard item, too. Which is handy when you start crashing into rocks at the desert-smashing speeds this machine is capable of reaching.

What does the Ford Ranger Raptor Terrain Management System do?

The Terrain Management System modifies the responses of the engine, the 10-speed gearbox, and the electronic traction and stability control to suit different types of driving and surfaces.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - Terrain Management System display in instrument cluster, Baja mode selected

The TMS has six modes, selected easily on the move via a dedicated button on the steering wheel, so you don't even need to stop driving before charging onto the next set of obstacles:

  • Normal mode - for comfort, fuel economy and ease of driving
  • Sport mode - sharpens responses for on-road shenanigans
  • Grass/Gravel/Snow mode - sure-footed on slippery surfaces
  • Mud/Sand mode - maximum traction and momentum for surfaces that you might otherwise sink into (handy in Morocco)
  • Rock mode - smooth, low speed control for rock crawling
  • Baja mode - for FAST off-road driving; automatically reduces electronic intevention

The TMS works in partnership with the Ranger's part-time four-wheel drive system, which has three settings:

  • 2H two-wheel drive - for on-road efficiency and off-road hooliganism
  • 4H four-wheel drive - for faster off-road work
  • 4L low-range four-wheel drive - for maximum off-road grip

There's also a diff-lock for even trickier low-grip situations.

We've been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to test all of the above, and you can be confident that they all work very well.

So, the Ranger Raptor is good off road?

The Ranger Raptor is incredible off-road – with one proviso we’ll come back to in a minute.

The upgraded suspension and chassis are absolutely everything you’d want them to be. The Raptor will take huge impacts – whether that’s sudden bumps or dips – and just keeps going, generally without mashing your head in to the ceiling in the process.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - front view, driving sideways along a sand dune, Performance Blue

Sure, you will still get thrown about, but the seat fabric stops you sliding as you would on leather, and most heavy hot shots are dealt with in a single suspension movement. Extended sections of heavily rutted sand are jarring, but the dampers soak up the repeated jouncing entirely enough to allow you to keep on carrying speed that would simply shake most other pickups to death.

Following another Raptor in these circumstances, it’s breath-taking to see just how much the wheels go up and down compared to the relatively smooth trajectory of the frame and body. Even if it doesn’t feel quite that effortless inside.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - rear view, heading down rocks, Performance Blue

The BF Goodrich tyres are mega for grip, and even if you do get stuck – as we did, when a slower vehicle in front prevented us from keeping up enough momentum over some particularly soft sand – the Raptor will usually be able to dig itself out (unless you’ve managed to bury it up to the chassis or something – then you’re on your own).

What’s the Ranger Raptor like on road?

Also verging on the exceptional. Those trick new dampers are satisfyingly soft in the middle of their travel – which is where you’ll be most of the time on the road – and this together with ditching the rear leaf springs means it is way more comfortable than a regular Ranger, if still not on a par with a proper passenger car.

Yet it also leans less in corners, allowing you to carry more speed. Naturally, lumpy tarmac isn’t much of a challenge, either.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - front view low, driving on road, Performance Blue

The off-road tread pattern of those big tyres means there’s occasionally a little bit of squirm beneath you, but refinement is more than acceptable – thanks in part to the Ranger’s new noise-cancelling system, which also pipes artificial engine noises into the cabin.

Fortunately, this is reasonably tastefully done, so avoids becoming overly annoying.

How fast is the Ford Ranger Raptor?

This is where things get slightly awkward. While the new 213hp 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine is the most powerful motor that’s been made available in the current Ranger – with 500Nm, it’s even more torquey than the old 3.2-litre five-cylinder – it doesn’t quite give you the performance we feel a truck like this really deserves.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - rear view, driving on road, Performance Blue

On the plus side, it uses sequential turbocharging – one small turbo for instant response that feeds into a large turbo for top end power – which makes it very quick to spool up and get moving.

Trouble is, once this opening salvo is delivered, it just never feels especially fast. The chassis means you can still make plenty of progress on the road, since you no longer have to slow down so much in the turns; but off-road – especially on sand – there are occasions where you really want some more muscle, and the Raptor doesn’t have it.

And that’s despite the generous spread of gear ratios available in that 10-speed gearbox, which shifts quickly and smoothly in both automatic and manual modes.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - dead-on front view, driving on road, Performance Blue

To put this performance issue into context, the most potent 258hp V6-powered VW Amarok and Mercedes X-Class totally monster the Raptor for raw speed. The Ford needs 10.5 seconds to go 0-62mph, while those premium Germans (which actually cost slightly less than the Raptor) make the same sprint in seven. Ouch.

Making things worse, this exact same engine and gearbox combo is also available in lesser Rangers. There’s nothing special about the Raptor’s powertrain at all (including the claimed 31.7mpg fuel economy).

What's the Ford Ranger Raptor like on the inside?

The Raptor's interior is designed to look good but last well, with lots of blue stitching and leather accents.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - cab interior, dashboard, steering wheel

The Raptor's seats are heavily contoured for off-road support, and feature dual-firmness cushions plus that suede-effect material, which really does grip you well, even when the truck is moving around exceedingly violently.

Aside from these great chairs, our favourite bits about the Raptor's cabin are the new instrument cluster - which adds a proper rev-counter alongside the speedo, with a mutlifunction display in the middle - and the use of a cool Ceramic finish on areas of trim that are more often chrome in other Rangers.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - front seats with technical suede fabric

The icing on the cake are the magnesium gearshift paddles and a multifuntion sports steering wheel with centre marking point (genuinely helpful off road when the way the front wheels are pointing and the direction of travel can go their separate ways). 

The Ford Sync 3 infotainment system is the firm's very latest 8.0-inch touchcreen multimedia solution, complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. As mentioned above, built-in sat-nav offers the option to lay 'breadcrumbs', which you can then use to find your way back, even if you're travelling somewhere there aren't any roads.

When does the Ford Ranger Raptor go on sale and what’s the price?

UK pricing for the Ranger Raptor was confirmed in the April 2019 price list, and it starts at a not inconsiderable £40,706 - that's on the road but excluding VAT.

With the VAT we're dealing with a £48,785 pickup truck here. Yowzers.

You can order one now.

Does the VAT matter? Is the Ranger Raptor taxed as a commercial vehicle like other pickups?

Alongside the engine, this may prove to be the other thorn in the Raptor's steroidal sides - it doesn't qualify as a light commercial vehicle (LCV) for taxation purposes.

Ford Ranger Raptor review  - front view, Performance Blue, parked in desert with camel

The heavily reinforced and upgraded nature of this pickup has driven the minimum kerbweight up to 2,510kg. With a gross vehicle mass (that's Ford-speak for gross vehicle weight or GVW) of 3,130kg, this means maximum payload of just 620kg.

To be considered a light commercial vehicle, a pickup has to be able to carry over a tonne - that's 1,000kg.

Because the Ranger Raptor can't do this, you'll not only have to pay VAT on it but also much higher rates of road tax and company car tax, rather than the cheaper fixed rate of both available to LCV drivers.

>> Van and pickup tax explained

Ford Ranger Raptor verdict: should I buy one?

The Ford Ranger Raptor is an extraordinary pickup truck, from the way it drives to the amount it costs.

With its outstanding off-road ability and wildly enhanced appearance, it makes the Mercedes X-Class and VW Amarok look cute, and the various Arctic Trucks conversions available from other manufacturers seem clumsy and archaic.

It's also once of the best behaved pickups on the road as well, another direct repercussion of all those suspension modifications.

The price is a pickle. Given the extent of the changes over a standard Ranger, you can easily understand where the money has been spent. But that it costs over £10,000 more than a Ranger Wildtrak with the same engine and gearbox combo (when you include the VAT) is still surely going to be a tough pill for many potential buyers to swallow.

Especially since that engine doesn't give the Raptor the performance edge we feel it truely deserves.

Want to see the Ranger Raptor in action? Then check out this official Ford promo video:

Also read:

>> Ford Ranger full review

>> 2019 Ford Ranger facelift and upgrade full details

>> Ford F-150 Raptor UK review

>> Ford Ranger MS-RT VR46 review

>> New pickups coming soon – and recent launch round up