The Raptor specification takes an already capable pick-up - in the shape of the new-for-2023 Ford Ranger - and dials up the performance a few more notches. Inspired by the gruelling Baja desert races, the new Ranger Raptor employs a brawny V6 petrol engine, trick suspension from Fox and an array of drive modes to give it a breadth of capability that few other pick-ups can match.
In the metal
Visual differences between the regular Ford Ranger and this Raptor model are considerable and go beyond the addition of rugged tyres and a few stickers. Its 'C-Clamp' LED daytime running lights frame a broad grille, which carries the F-O-R-D name spelled out big and bold across it - the regular Ranger sticks with the usual Blue Oval badge for a less in-you-face look. Ford also uses matrix LED headlights that feature automatic dynamic levelling to provide better light dispersal and be kinder to other road users.
Affirming its off-road capabilities, Ford fits a bespoke front bumper to optimise the Raptor's approach angle, which has also been improved by the front axle line moving forward by 50mm. That still leaves plenty of room for the 17-inch alloy wheels within the flared arches. A rugged skid plate runs underneath to protect the engine. Vents are affixed to the bonnet and front wings, though they are present for purely cosmetic reasons. A running ground clearance of 265mm with approach and departure angles of 32- and 24 degrees, respectively, means that few obstacles should get in the Raptor's way when going off-road.
This pick-up is all about being a go-anywhere and do (almost) anything vehicle that is as much about satisfying the demands of serious off-road enthusiasts as it is about being an all-round workhorse. At just over 5.3 metres in length, it's a sizeable machine, the same length as the new BMW 7 Series, but the Ford couldn't be more different. The fitment of three-way adjustable Fox Live Valve shocks and the use of a multi-link rear axle means that the load-carrying ability of the Raptor is limited to 652kg, which creates practical and, in certain markets, financial implications for the Ford. It's not all bad, though, as the rear bed gets Ford's useful Pro Power Onboard system that provides electrical power output for anything from power tools to charging e-bikes.
This new generation of Ranger sees a big step forward on the inside where layout and quality move up a notch. The Raptor gets some added features to set it apart from the standard Ranger, including "Code Orange" inserts around the air vents and on the twelve o'clock marker on the steering wheel. Ford's designers apparently took influence from the F22 Raptor fighter jet when designing the seats, which feature side bolstering, Alcantara inserts and more flashes of that Code Orange colour.
The most significant improvement or change within the Ranger Raptor over its predecessor is the inclusion of a new 12.4-inch digital instrument display and a 12-inch vertical touchscreen for the latest "SYNC 4A" infotainment system. Both look impressive and bring the Ford's cabin into the modern era, though thankfully Ford has also seen sense to retain some physical controls for temperature and ventilation settings - in addition to having them on the display screen. Changes to the rear give more of a 'two-plus-two' layout to the seating; the rear can accommodate three passengers, but the middle pew is on the small side.
The prospect of a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol motor under that decorated bonnet is promising. However, it doesn't offer as much as it could due to stringent European emissions regulations. Maximum outputs of 292hp and 491Nm are still enough to make the Raptor feel brisk on the road, but perhaps not as rapid as its looks suggest it will. Adding to the V6 experience, however, is an active exhaust that has numerous modes from 'Quiet' to keep the neighbours happy to 'Baja' (officially for off-road only) on the other extreme. The latter opens up more of the system to give a more sonorous soundtrack, pumping out the decibels at a similar rate to its CO2 emissions.
The previous Raptor was a pick-up that was as impressive off-road as it was on tarmac and that continues in this new model. Even running on three-ply BF Goodrich off-road tyres, how it behaves on the road is nothing short of wonderful. It will tend to race up through the ten-speed automatic transmission in a bid to optimise the engine's torque curve while minimising fuel consumption, though the ratio swapping goes largely unnoticed. You can, should you wish, revert to manual shifting and use the lovely magnesium paddles behind the steering wheel for changing gears. The auto is so good though that you'll be happy to leave it to do its thing for the day-to-day stuff.
An array of drive modes is available, with Sport mode dialling up the engine's responsiveness and adding a supporting soundtrack. Even on damp, greasy roads, the Ford holds its line well, and body control is quite decent, especially given how it is geared towards performing off-road. The only area where the tyres let it down is in braking performance, as there isn't as much rubber in contact with the road as with a conventional tyre. It is not a safety concern, just something that drivers need to remain conscious of in poorer conditions. We also found the seats lacking side support when cornering, which is a pity given how good they look.
Get the Raptor into more challenging situations and it begins to impress on a whole other level. Key to the breadth of its abilities is the Fox suspension that continually monitors every aspect of the Raptor's movements - up to 500 times per second. Helping the suspension travel is a progressive damping setup that maintains control even as it reaches full compression. With the Baja mode enabled the Raptor is primed to exploit its full potential for fast off-road driving. The new suspension and chassis geometry improve handling and turn-in on the loose stuff.
On a fast, flowing off-road section we line the Raptor up for an approaching jump. The audible click as we get airborne is the suspension extending in full as we sail momentarily through the air. It's at this point that the specially developed software algorithm developed by Ford gets to work, recognising that the car is off the ground. It sends a signal to each of the four corners to tell the shocks to prepare for landing. As we touch down, the suspension has already switched to its highest damping mode providing us with the kind of smooth and controlled landing that Ryanair passengers could only dream of experiencing.
Not everyone will be tackling a fast desert rally stage, though, and in the more technical terrain the hardware impresses just as much. Ford equips the Raptor with a locking differentials for each axle. Engaging the Rock Crawl mode allows the Ford to take on almost anything. Seemingly impossible terrain disappears beneath the car and in perfect view of the nose-mounted camera, so even when you're angled skywards, you can still see what's in front of you. The low-range transmission makes excellent use of the V6's torque, pulling the Raptor up slippery and broken rock faces with ease.
What you get for your money
With a starting price in Ireland of €77,355, the Ford Ranger Raptor isn't cheap, but for that money you get almost everything included, so you won't need to tick a heap more boxes. For now, only one engine is available, a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol unit, though Ford does plan to add a more economical 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel to the offering from March 2023. That engine will get 205hp and 500Nm outputs and will be a more appealing prospect for those looking to run a Ranger Raptor as a company vehicle.
Of the options that you can add to the Raptor, paint colours start at €904 for anything other than the standard Arctic White, but the Code Orange colour costs a little more than the others at €1,033. Just one interior specification is available. Additional exterior styling options include a Raptor Splash Decal pack at €676 and an Exterior Dress Up Pack, which costs €2,244. This group of items consists of a plastic cab roll-over bar and a powered roll-top tonneau cover that drivers can activate via the key or a button on the dashboard.
On one hand the Ford Ranger Raptor will be seen as total overkill, something bought by people that like to grab attention. But time behind the wheel reveals this is much more than a prinked pick-up; it walks the walk when it comes to going off-road and that ability is galvanised by performance on the tarmac to make this one of the most complete vehicles in its segment.