Ford could well be onto another win­ner with its all-new Trophy Truck-style Ranger Rap­tor. NZ4WD’s Damien O’Car­roll ex­plains why

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story by Damien O’Car­roll. Pho­tos by Ford and DO’C.

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.

Proved right

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.”

NZ’s best-seller

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.

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