DAILY GRINDER

Rap­tor own­ers get one of the tough­est-look­ing utes around but are more likely to test it in traf­fic than desert rac­ing ng

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - COVER STORY - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

H ere’s proof Aussies can’t spend enough on utes: a Ford ute that’s pricier than a Mercedes, the $75,000 Ranger Rap­tor. Think that’s crazy money? The first thou­sand are al­ready sold. If you or­der one to­day, don’t ex­pect de­liv­ery un­til early next year.

Those at the head of the queue will get theirs be­tween Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber, when the first ship­ments of the up­dated Ranger line-up ar­rive.

Why the an­tic­i­pa­tion? The Ranger Rap­tor is a ute like no other.

It’s in­spired by US desert rac­ers, hence the bold body­work, high-rid­ing sus­pen­sion and nob­bly tyres.

Its big­ger brother, the F150 Rap­tor, is now in its sec­ond in­car­na­tion in the US — where deal­ers there are still sell­ing them for $10,000 over the rec­om­mended re­tail price.

As with its name­sake (and our cover pic­ture), ex­pect to see im­ages of the Ranger Rap­tor leap­ing into the air and tear­ing up gravel trails, dirt bike-style.

Few Ranger Rap­tors, though, will be driven as the maker in­tended.

Cus­tomer Greg O’Shanassy, 55, is trad­ing in his Ranger WildTrak to buy the Rap­tor. He’s pre­vi­ously owned per­for­mance SUVs such as the Jeep SRT8 and BMW X6M but put money down on a Rap­tor as soon as he saw the pho­tos a few months ago.

“I love cars and I just love the look of it,” says the western Syd­ney busi­ness owner. “Plus utes don’t at­tract fringe ben­e­fits tax.”

The Rap­tor will be his daily driver even though the off-road ca­pa­bil­ity is pro­found.

Race-bred shock ab­sorbers take a beat­ing so your body doesn’t. The tyres per­form an amaz­ing double act, with sur­pris­ing lev­els of grip on dirt and tar­mac alike.

Four-wheel disc brakes in a mar­ket dom­i­nated by old-school rear drums help pull up this 2.4-tonne mon­ster truck, which is heav­ier than most in its class.

The Rap­tor isn’t just a high-rise pick-up — Ford has built a be­spoke chas­sis for this ve­hi­cle, giv­ing it a big­ger foot­print and unique rear sus­pen­sion lay­out. Copy­cats will strug­gle to match the ap­pear­ance and ca­pa­bil­ity of a real Rap­tor.

On the road, the Rap­tor feels as com­fort­able as a Ranger Wildtrak de­spite rid­ing on more ag­gres­sive off-road tyres. For such a rau­cous­look­ing ve­hi­cle, it’s also sur­pris­ingly quiet.

Off-road it skips over bumps with­out los­ing its foot­ing. From the show­room floor, it’s as close as you’re go­ing to get to a rally car.

Heav­ily bol­stered seats hug you when the go­ing gets rough and the elec­tri­cally as­sisted power steer­ing has a bit more weight to it, for a more nat­u­ral feel.

The cabin gets a lift cour­tesy of Rap­tor lo­gos stitched into the suede and leather seats, a chunky leather steer­ing wheel with pad­dleshifters, blue stitch­ing on the dash, unique in­stru­ments and scuff plates.

A pre­view drive in the desert south of Dar­win un­der­scores the engi­neer­ing knowhow needed to put such a ve­hi­cle to­gether and the fi­nan­cial risk Ford has taken.

It has staked mil­lions of dol­lars in devel­op­ment money — and three years of engi­neer­ing re­sources, much of it in Aus­tralia — in the hope there are enough peo­ple who want a four-wheel drive ute built for car en­thu­si­asts.

Given Aus­tralia’s love of cars and the outdoors, the Rap­tor should be a no-brainer.

How­ever, it’s not quite the com­plete pack­age many will be ex­pect­ing. De­spite its sporty ap­pear­ance the Rap­tor lacks grunt.

It pumps out 157kW of power and 500Nm of torque — more than the 147kW and 470Nm out­put from the 3.2-litre five-cylin­der in the reg­u­lar Ranger — but it’s slow com­pared to its peers, de­spite the 10-speed auto.

With a claimed 0-100km/h time of 10.5 sec­onds, it’s only half a sec­ond quicker than

a Ranger WildTrak, about one sec­ond slower than a Holden Colorado and more than 2.5 sec­onds slower than a VW Amarok TDV6. This may not sound like much but it’s day­light in per­for­mance terms.

Fans who lamented this on so­cial me­dia be­fore the Ranger Rap­tor was re­leased may have had a point. Over­tak­ing was a con­cern even on long, straight stretches of the Stu­art High­way.

Ford says any­one who is fo­cused on en­gine per­for­mance doesn’t un­der­stand what the Rap­tor is all about.

Asked about en­gine op­tions — up­ping per­for­mance, find­ing an­other or ad­ding the turbo petrol from the US Rap­tor — ex­ec­u­tives offer other so­lu­tions. “You need to put it in sport mode, use the pad­dle shifters to tap down a gear,” says one of the chief en­gi­neers.

The re­al­ity for the Rap­tor is that Ford had no other en­gine avail­able. It started talks with Volk­swa­gen for a fu­ture joint ven­ture, be­cause a Rap­tor with the V6 from the Amarok would be­come the hot hatch of utes. That’s only a pipedream at this point.

The 2.0-litre has a de­cent note, even if it’s pumped into the cabin via a sound syn­the­siser. In gen­eral use it is rel­a­tively quiet and re­fined.

The Rap­tor’s tow­ing ca­pac­ity is 2500kg when most in the class can haul 3500kg and the pay­load is 758kg ver­sus about 1000kg for most ri­vals.

The Rap­tor also misses out on au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and radar cruise con­trol, both avail­able on the up­dated Ranger. Ford says these safety aids will be added to the Rap­tor by this time next year.

Many buy­ers may not care for these but it’s un­usual for a flag­ship to lack tech­nol­ogy avail­able on cheaper mod­els in the range.

VER­DICT

The Ranger Rap­tor is an awe­some sports ute in des­per­ate need of more grunt.

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