Motor (Australia)

RANGER ANXIETY

Ford Performanc­e’s most controvers­ial vehicle gets a second chance

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“I THINK I’VE made a terrible mistake.” As an opening impression to a new long termer, that’s not fantastic. I had a moment to consider my opinion having driven the Ford Ranger Raptor X just 50 metres. I’d spent the previous few days in a Porsche Taycan Turbo S, so I’d had my expectatio­ns of meaningful accelerati­on somewhat realigned. Such as it was, I pulled out across three lanes of traffic from Ford’s Broadmeado­ws plant, at a velocity that would have seemingly seen me in danger of being rammed up the chuff by a perky tectonic plate. Slow didn’t even cover it.

A friend called me that evening to ask if I was keen to join him on a drive into the hills that weekend and I had to admit that I didn’t have a vehicle that could keep up with the group. I looked at the huge blue truck and wondered how the hell I was about to sell the benefits of a vehicle with a powerto-weight ratio of 66kW per tonne to the readers of MOTOR.

The next morning dawned wet, so I headed on a solo excursion

into the hills. Even with a powerto-weight figure monstered by a Kia Picanto GT, the Ranger is surprising­ly immersive, largely because the rear tyres and damp bitumen offer a modest coefficien­t of grip. In four months with a GR Yaris Rallye, I experience­d sealed surface oversteer once. After half an hour in the wet in the Raptor X, you’re in danger of wearing out the stability control warning light.

I swap the blacktop for the vast network of deserted logging tracks that spear off into the hidden folds of the Yarra Ranges, engage four-wheel drive, Baja Mode and let rip. Suddenly, the dozy standard gearbox calibratio­n and clumsiness is expunged and on wide, well-sighted corners, it’s possible to shuck off all that weight and let the big pick-up get up on its toes, albeit at a speed of maybe 25km/h. I have to say, it’s about as much fun as I’ve had in a day of driving for a long time and it’s a fascinatin­g exercise in honing car control skills. No police, no cameras, no other traffic, nobody to disturb; just you and a few bemused kookaburra­s for company. It feels like a particular­ly Australian recipe for pure driving fun, albeit in a way that you may not at first expect.

I recall Scott Newman claiming much the same when he drove the Raptor for a comparison versus the Holden SportsCat in the December 2018 issue of MOTOR, only to be subsequent­ly buried in an avalanche of hate mail for even featuring pick-ups in the magazine. I’m opening myself up to being tarred and feathered again here. I can, to a certain extent, appreciate some of the readers’ concerns. The Raptor is a vast lug of a thing that’s conspicuou­s and, with its welldocume­nted payload and towing limitation­s, doesn’t always bring a significan­t practicali­ty payoff by way of recompense.

It is huge fun in the right circumstan­ces though, and the key to getting the best out of the Raptor is to weave enough of those occurrence­s into your driving. I’m fortunate enough to live within minutes of a huge network of dirt roads, so I’ve found a way for it to work for me. Emerging back onto the blacktop after a long gravel drive then feels as if you’ve got superhuman levels of grip. Unless it’s wet, that is.

Is it a MOTOR sort of car? On road, not really. Get it in its element and it delivers a huge dynamic payback. That’ll do for me. – AE

GET THE RAPTOR X UP ON ITS TOES ON DIRT AND IT’S A FASCINATIN­G EXERCISE IN HONING CAR CONTROL SKILLS

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Cast Iron Point. A fine view and a ripping long gravel hairpin to exploit in Baja Mode
TOP Cast Iron Point. A fine view and a ripping long gravel hairpin to exploit in Baja Mode
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 ?? ?? ABOVE RIGHT BF Goodrich tyres are surprising­ly quiet on the road
ABOVE RIGHT BF Goodrich tyres are surprising­ly quiet on the road
 ?? ?? TOP There’s certainly no shortage of decals. Adaptive headlights are excellent
TOP There’s certainly no shortage of decals. Adaptive headlights are excellent
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