Raptor owners get one of the toughest-looking utes around but are more likely to test it in traffic than desert racing ng
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.
The Ranger Raptor is an awesome sports ute in desperate need of more grunt.