FORD RANGER RAPTOR
Ford could well be onto another winner with its all-new Trophy Truck-style Ranger Raptor. NZ4WD’s Damien O’Carroll explains why
It was the SVT Lightning, a powered- up road- focussed version of the F-150 that was all about straight line speed and, yes, good handling. By American truck standards, that is. The Lightning was dropped in 1995, but came back again in the 1999 model year with even more power ( thanks to a supercharger bolted to its 5.4- litre petrol V8) and cemented the legend of the fast Ford road truck. The Lightning was again dropped from the line up when the new F-150 appeared in 2004, but Ford was determined to do another performance F-150. However, it wouldn’t be what anyone expected.
Way to go!
That is where a bloke called Jamal Hameedi comes into the picture. Hameedi was the chief engineer at SVT ( Special Vehicle Team) when it came time to think about a replacement for the Lightning in the new F-150 line- up. But instead of a road- going hot F-150, Hameedi was convinced an off- roader was the way to go.
Hameedi had a passion for off-road racing. American off-road racing, that is – you know, where huge pick ups fly across deserts spending more time in the air than on the ground? Yeah, that’s it. So he turned to that for inspiration. During his time working with a Fordsponsored SCORE Trophy Truck team as a race engineer he was responsible for developing the 5.4-litre Triton V8 that won three Baja 1000 titles, so he did know a bit about it. All of this led Hameedi to develop the idea of the F-150 Raptor, a pure off-road racing version of the standard truck, something built to hammer across sand dunes, rather than simply go fast on the road. Or sit in front of a cafe somewhere. Following the success of the poweredup Lightning, Ford management was understandably reluctant to go in a totally different direction. “The Lightning was a straight line, on-road handling focussed pickup truck, and when we first said we were going to do Raptor – an off-road performance pickup truck – everyone said “Hell no, we’re not going to do that. That’s the worst idea ever!” Hameedi laughs when asked about it.
But he was proved to be very right indeed, as the F-150 Raptor has gone on to be a massive success and a much-loved model in Ford’s truck line up, despite doing what is essentially a mortal sin in the world of American trucks – moving from a big V8 to a ( more powerful) turbocharged V6. But then the Raptor has never been about power, like the Lightning was, and it has only ever had relatively modest power increases over the standard F-150 in all of its guises. Nope, what the Raptor has always been about is the suspension, at least it is according to the man who created it. “If you think that a Raptor is all about power, then you are completely missing the point,” said Hameedi. “If you’re focussed on the power and talking about the engine, then you don’t get the Raptor. The Raptor is all about the most advanced suspension, chassis and design. You spend every single penny you have on the chassis.”
Which is exactly what Hameedi did with the F-150 Raptor. And now it is our turn, as Hameedi and his Ford Performance team have now turned their attention to New Zealand’s best-selling vehicle ( yeah, that’s not a typo – the Ranger sells more than any other passenger vehicle in New Zealand, including the venerable Toyota Corolla). We talked to Hameedi and some of his Ford Performance team at the reveal of the Ford Ranger Raptor in Bangkok, Thailand, recently. But more importantly, we got our first look at the beast itself at the lavish and full-flight event. Yeah, it flew… “The F-150 isn’t available around the world, so there were a lot of customers missing out on a Raptor,” Hameedi said. “The Raptor experience was only in America and the Middle East, so now we’ve got a solution for the rest of the world.”
Diesel ‘n dust
“We knew we wanted a diesel engine for Asia and other markets, and this was the best diesel we could find.” The particular diesel engine that Hameedi is referring to is also the source of anxiety to some. Why? Because of its size… Hopes were ( misguidedly) high for a turbo V6 in the Ranger Raptor, but instead Ford went with a hi-tech new bi-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 157kW of power and 500Nm of torque. Not a massive increase over the standard Ranger’s 147kW/ 470Nm 3.2-litre inline five-cylinder turbo diesel, but then the F-150 Raptor never got massive increases over the standard truck either. Ford aren’t talking about exactly where that power and torque feature in the rev range just yet, but rest assured that the
Raptor will equipped to make the most of it wherever it lurks thanks to one of the features that makes it across from the F – 150 RaptorFord’s all-new ten-speed automatic transmission.
Longer, wider, taller
The Raptor is larger than a standard Ranger in every dimension, with an increase in length of 39mm and height of 58mm, but the biggest increase in in the Raptor’s width, which is a whopping 331mm wider than the standard Ranger ( the Raptor is 2,180mm wide), due to the massively increased track, which is now 1710mm. The front and rear guards are made from composite materials to allow for the massive increase in track and the suspension travel, but are also more resistant to dents. Handy in an off-road situation. Of course, ground clearance is also up to 283mm, while the approach angle of 32.5 degrees, ramp over angle of 24 degrees, and departure angle of 24 degrees are also improved over the standard ute.
Coils all round
Ford has also seriously upgraded and reinforced the Ranger’s chassis for the Raptor, and incorporates new geometry for the larger suspension to allow for greater wheel travel, while the Raptor ditches the Ranger’s leaf spring set up for a bespoke version of the Everest SUV’s coilover rear suspension with an integrated Watt’s linkage ( and, yes, Ford engineers will privately admit to an Everest Raptor being a possibility). The Ranger Raptor will launch in New Zealand in the latter half of this year, but no price has been finalised yet. Expect it to easily exceed the Wildtrak’s $ 64,640, most likely by quite a bit too. Yes, it will be expensive, but there will literally be nothing like it you can buy straight off the showroom floor either. We can’t wait.
New model optimised for performance off the road.